DE KLERK LAW & MEDIATION has a tough, no-nonsense, but personal and caring approach to the practice of Family Law. Family Law matters involve much more than legal issues, and the utmost goal of everyone involved in your case should be to make sure that the best interests of the children are protected. Whether it is a child custody issue, child support, parenting time, spousal support or other Family Law matter, we recognize that your case is important. While we appreciate the needs of the family and understand the effect litigation can have on the family, we know when to stand firm to protect your best interests and those of your children. We zealously represent our clients to achieve the best resolution possible in every legal matter.
There are many misconceptions among the general public regarding the rights of a spouse and parents in the area of domestic relations. Divorce is the termination of marriage and a judicial determination of the parties’ resulting rights and responsibilities including the division of marital property and a determination regarding child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support and attorney’s fees awards, if any. The divorce laws of each state are different. Terms such as “abandonment”, “legal separation” and “no-fault” are defined differently in many states. Divorce is a very serious step which should not be entered into lightly. You should not attempt to enter into a resolution of the issues in your case until you have been informed of your rights and legal entitlements. You may schedule a consultation with this firm at any time to discuss the protections you are afforded by the law.
In addition to divorce, Family Law includes the mediation process, Guardian ad Litem (GAL) representation, legal separation, child custody, modification of child custody, parenting time, child support, legitimation, and paternity actions.
The mediation process is a non-adversarial process. The purpose of the mediation is to attempt to find a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute through cooperative attempts to solve the problems that presently separate them. The mediator’s role is to aid the parties in seeking an equitable agreement in accordance with their respective interests. To achieve a mutually acceptable resolution, the mediator, the parties, and their counsel will work to ensure that each party understands the facts asserted and the contentions of all parties. The mediator does not offer legal advice in this mediation and is not functioning as an attorney, whether or not the mediator is in fact an attorney.
Guardian ad Litem Representation
While other attorneys may represent the mother, father, relative (plaintiff/movant or defendant/respondent), a Guardian ad Litem represents the best interests of a minor child or the minor children involved in a Family Law matter. A Guardian ad Litem will make several assessments and, based on their observation of all parties involved, will make recommendations to the Court to assist the Court in its ruling regarding matter such as child custody or parenting time. A Guardian ad Litem is a keystone element of the Family Law process, as they are boots on the ground in that they perform home visits, school visits, speak to educational and medical providers outside of the courtroom setting. The appointment of a Guardian ad Litem is a tool that Court can use in protecting children from the trauma and long-lasting negative effects of divorce.
In Georgia, married couples seeking a divorce are not required to enter into a court-ordered “legal separation” as a prerequisite to obtaining the divorce. However, in some cases, the parties may choose to seek a separate maintenance agreement instead of a divorce. Some reasons that a couple may choose to enter into a separate maintenance agreement through the courts instead of a divorce include a religious objection to divorce or a feeling that reconciliation of the marriage may be possible following a period of being apart. Additionally, for a Separate Maintenance action a party is not required to have been a Georgia residence for six months as is a requirement for a Georgia divorce.
Child Custody and Support
In seeking legal representation, you want to ensure that your attorney is keenly aware of legislative guidelines for awarding custody and support of minor children. Courts must ensure that the best interests of the child have been considered in awarding custody. In Georgia, child support is determined in considering the gross income of both parents. The Georgia legislature has developed guidelines based on shared income model of both parents, parties’ income and considerations of other child rearing expenses, and certain deviations when appropriate.
Once a divorce decree, custody or support order is entered by the court, it is binding and enforceable as against both parties. However, where certain conditions are met, a modification action may be pursued. Where sufficient “changed circumstances” exist, alimony and child support obligations or child custody may be modified through court action.
Legitimation and Paternity Actions
A child born out-of-wedlock may be declared the legal child of the biological father by either parent through appropriate court action. Certain rights and privileges may be gained through the courts which otherwise would not apply. Fathers who have children born out of wedlock must legitimate the child before they are entitled to parenting time and custody rights. A mother desiring to have her child declared “legitimate” may file a paternity action. Additionally, child support can be established through a Legitimation and/or Paternity action.