Margaret Gettle Washburn, P.C.
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Georgia Family Law Blog

To Have and then to Have Not? Reversal of an Award of Attorney's Fees The BOLEY v. MIERA Case; A18A1334; August 3, 2018

In this very interesting case, arising out of Gwinnett County Superior Court, the Father petitioned the Court to reduce his child support obligation and the Mother counterclaimed for an increase in child support. The Father's child support obligation was reduced, however, the Court awarded attorney's fees to the Mother. The Father appealed. Presiding Judge Chris McFadden, authored the Opinion for the Court of Appeals, finding that the Father was the prevailing party and the Mother could not be awarded attorney's fees pursuant to OCGA § 19-6-15 (k) (5).

HOLMES-BRACY v. BRACY. S17A1682; 808 S.E.2d 669; December 11, 2017

In this recent case, the Superior Court of Houston County denied the former Wife's (hereinafter referred to as Wife) motion to hold the former Husband (hereinafter referred to as Husband) in contempt of their 1995 divorce decree. The Wife filed her application for discretionary appeal with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, Justice Harold Melton, granted Wife's application, finding that, as "a matter of current law, the Court of Appeals, rather than this Court, has subject matter jurisdiction over "[a]ll divorce and alimony cases" in which a notice of appeal or application to appeal is filed on or after January 1, 2017. Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act of 2016, Ga. L. 2016, p. 883, §§ 3-1 (codified at OCGA § 15-3-3.1 (a) (5)), 6-1 (c); Merrill v. Lee, 301 Ga. 34, 36 (1) n.1, 799 S.E.2d 169 (2017). Because Wife filed her application to appeal before January 1, 2017, we have jurisdiction over this case.

How getting divorced can negatively impact credit

Georgia couples who are considering divorce might want to be aware of how a separation can affect credit scores. With a little bit of planning, it is possible for spouses to take steps to minimize the negative financial repercussions.

A spouse who wants to keep the family home might be required to refinance the mortgage in their own name. This will help make payments more manageable and less likely to seriously hurt one's credit score. Credit can also be impacted when one ex agrees to take on a higher percentage of the debt burden in a divorce. Similarly, a spouse might suffer credit issues if the ex does not disclose all of their debts. One might want to run credit reports to make certain that they know about all the debts their spouses might have taken out in their names.

The implications of divorce on new stepfamilies

Divorced Georgia residents who are thinking about getting married again might be interested in finding out how divorce is affecting new step-families, as divorce and remarriage continue to increase. In fact, a University of Massachusetts study found that one-third of the households headed by adults younger than 55 include one stepparent. Similarly, in families with parents who are older than 55 and who have adult children, there is a stepchild in 33 percent of the cases.

The end of a marriage often means a new beginning and a blended family for many. A major positive of larger, blended families include an increase in the number of adult children that elderly parents can depend on. However, these blended families often can also mean weakened familial bonds and questions can arise as to the stepparent and stepchild responsibilities within the family.

Holidays, children and divorce

When Georgia couples get a divorce, the holidays can be particularly hard if there are young children involved. Parents should try to focus on their children and family during this time to ease the transition for everyone. It might be hard for children to move back and forth between homes during the holidays. Even though they may know that both their parents still love them, they still might struggle during this time.

In some cases, parents might be spending the holidays without their children, and if this is the case, they may want to visit family or friends for support. Parents who do have their children for all or part of the holidays should resist any temptation to punish the ex by refusing to be flexible about holiday arrangements. This ultimately only harms the children.

What parents can do about parental alienation

Parental alienation may be a problem for some parents and children in Georgia, particularly if one parent has been diagnosed with a personality disorder. With parental alienation, one parent manipulates the children so they begin to reject the other parent. However, parents can be watchful about signs of it and take steps to stop it.

Parental alienation might be occurring if a child suddenly seems to turn on a parent. This could include requesting that the parent stop attending extracurricular activities or meetings with teachers at school. A child who has never displayed oppositional behavior before might suddenly start to do so. The child might display a sense of entitlement regarding gifts. Despite a warning sign such as using the same language to attack the targeted parent as the other parent did in the past, the child may insist that the opposition does not originate with that parent. The child may also fail to acknowledge positive experiences with the targeted parent.

Dealing with the holidays after a divorce

The holidays can be especially hard for Georgia families going through a divorce. For separated spouses who have children, it is important to be civil throughout the Christmas season. In many cases, this means being as flexible as possible with an ex spouse.

When the holidays are approaching, the parents might want to think about how they have previously celebrated and decide whether they want to continue those traditions or make new ones. For example, if certain relatives only come into town one time per year for a holiday, the children might want to spend time with that parent so that they can see their extended family.

Reasons to consider a prenuptial agreement

Some people in Georgia who are getting married might want to create a prenuptial agreement. This can have a number of advantages in case people divorce or one person dies. For example, for people who own a portion of a family business, a prenuptial agreement can help ensure it stays in that family. People who enter the marriage with other significant premarital assets may also want a prenuptial agreement so that if they divorce, those assets are not considered shared marital assets.

A prenup can prevent a person from having to pay a spouse's debts acquired before the marriage in a divorce. It can also protect a couple if they move from Georgia to a community property state such as California and get a divorce there. In a community property state, most property acquired after marriage is considered shared marital property and may be divided equally.

Divorce can end a business partnership as well as a marriage

When a marriage in Georgia comes to an end, both spouses may experience emotional and financial challenges. These challenges can be exacerbated when a high-value family or personal business is also involved in the divorce. A business is not only a significant financial asset but also a center of emotional and professional development for one or both spouses.

In fact, the business may be the most valuable asset brought to the table during divorce negotiations and settlement. In a high-value divorce that involves a successful business, the practical realities, as well as the high emotions around dividing up the business and its assets, can be one of the most challenging aspects of the property division process. One of the first steps in assuring as smooth a process as possible is developing a full understanding of the correct valuation of the business.

When parents postpone divorce for the children

Georgia parents who are considering ending their marriage might be concerned about how the divorce will affect their children. While it can be stressful for children, there are pros and cons about staying together for their sake.

Some couples may not have exhausted the possibilities for saving their marriage. They might still be in counseling or have other ways to repair the relationship. When there are young children involved, the parents may want to wait until they have examined the real problems in the relationship to see if they can be repaired. Some couples might also be better off together than apart. It is important to look at the financial and other costs of a divorce. It is also important for parents to realize that divorce can have an adverse affect on their children including increasing the likelihood that the kids will go on to divorce at some point as well. However, parents must weigh this knowledge with their ability to give up on having a fulfilling marriage for the sake of family stability.

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Margaret Gettle Washburn, P.C.
4799 Sugarloaf Pkwy
Building J
Lawrenceville, GA 30044

Phone: 770-676-1191
Fax: 770-963-2828
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