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Articles under Family Law

Step-Parent Adoption

Published by: Farnaz Ghaffarisaravi • On: 06-11-2018 • Under: Family Law

step-parent adoption tipsWhile adoptions are an exciting time for families, it may also feel overwhelming.  We receive many questions from step-parents seeking to adopt their step-children. Below are some frequently asked questions and issues about the adoption process:

As the Parenting Seeking to Adopt, what should I bring to my initial consultation?

  • A copy of the Marriage Certificate
  • A copy of the Divorce Decree if you have been divorced and your spouse’s Divorce Decree
  • A copy of the child’s birth certificate
  • Proof of citizenship

Prior to beginning the adoption process, it is important to understand that once the adoption is finalized, there is a new parent-child relationship created by law.  This means that the new adoptive parent will be recognized as the legal parent.  In the event that there is a divorce or death, that parent will be legally and financially responsible for the child, which includes child support in the event of a divorce.  While we certainly hope it never happens, it is something to consider.   However, if you do not adopt, you will have no legal rights to a stepchild in the event of divorce.   If you have developed a parental bond with a stepchild, you may want to strongly consider adoption.

Termination of Parental Rights 

Prior to filing the Petition for Adoption or as part of the adoption, it is important to take the appropriate steps to terminate the parental rights of the other (surviving) parent of the child you are seeking to adopt.  Termination of parental rights can be very tricky and must be done properly.  If every step is not done properly, the adoption will not be successful, or worse, may be set aside.  Termination of parental rights is not something the courts take lightly and it can be a difficult process.  Even if you are not sure about the whereabouts of the other parent or if they have completely abandoned the child, there is a very strict process for terminating rights.

Am I Eligible to Adopt?

There are certain legal requirements to be eligible to adopt.   Per Georgia law, an adult person to adopt a child if:

  1. The petitioner is at least 25 years of age;
  2. The petitioner must be at least ten years or older than the child to be adopted;
  3. The petitioner must be a resident of Georgia for at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition; and
  4. The petitioner must be financially, physically, and mentally able to have permanent custody of the child to be adopted.

There are other requirements that may be required by the county where the adoption is taking place.   This may include a background check, a home visit, or other similar requirements.

Adopting a stepchild and providing that child with a caring, loving, legal parent is an incredibly happy occasion.  However, if the adoption is not handled properly it may lead to delays and legal problems for you and your loved ones.  If you are considering adoptions, contact us at (678) 231-0607 to schedule a consultation to meet with one of our experienced attorneys.

Don’t Let Your Case Become a Mariah Carey New Year’s Eve Disaster

Published by: Scott Spooner • On: 01-11-2017 • Under: Family Law

mariah-carey-needed-preparationYes, it was painful to watch. For those of you that did not see it, Mariah Carey turned in one of the most embarrassing performances of the year on New Year’s Eve. The music was wrong, the back-up singers were late, and her earpiece was not working, among many other issues. Was it a disaster because Mariah Carey is not talented? Because money was not spent on the performance? Because the songs were not good? Not likely. The most rational explanation for the poor showing is lack of preparation. In fact, it was reported that they conducted only one short walk-through before it was shown live to millions of people.

While lack of preparation simply made Mariah look foolish, it can be life altering in a divorce or other legal matter. Like Mariah, an attorney may have talent. You can spend tens of thousands on an attorney’s “performance.” The facts of your case may be excellent. However, an unprepared attorney can cause even the best case to be a disaster. I have witnessed opposing counsel destroy a perfectly good case because they failed to properly prepare themselves and their clients. Don’t let it happen to you.

Proper case preparation should start at the very beginning of your work with an attorney (and NOT the night prior to your trial). Your attorney should get a detailed account of the issues in the case from you. Your attorney should request that you gather initial information that is important to your case. For example, in a divorce issue, the attorney should ask for financial information, relevant text messages and emails, contact information for potential witnesses, social media information, and much more (depending on the situation). Your attorney should provide you with regular updates on your case and you should be properly advised for any deposition, hearing, or trial.

At Spooner & Associates, we take pride in how we prepare our clients and our cases throughout the legal process. Our attorneys take a very active role in advocating for our clients and keeping them informed. We have a reputation of being prepared and can help you solve your legal problems. Don’t let an attorney turn your case into a “lip-sync” disaster by thinking he or she can win by just showing up and winging it. Be prepared when protecting your rights and contact us or call (678) 714-1131.

Who Gets Physical Custody of the Children After Divorce?

Published by: Scott Spooner • On: 10-03-2016 • Under: Divorce, Family Law

physical custody after divorceWhen Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt in a California court recently, she reportedly requested sole physical custody of their six children. If she is successful, Brad’s rights and access to the children could be very limited. While we cannot speculate on the California court’s eventual decision, it is important for divorcing parents to understand their rights in a Georgia divorce involving children.

In Georgia, there are two main parts to “custody,” legal custody and physical custody.  Legal custody, in a nutshell, simply provides for certain legal rights to the children.   For example, will both parents have access to medical records and school records? In the vast majority of divorces, joint legal custody is awarded. Again, this means that both parents retain legal rights to the child. Typically, the only portion of legal custody that is debated by the parties involves decision making for the children. Most courts divide the areas of decision making into four categories (religion, extracurricular, schooling, and medical). While most parents agree, and most courts order, that the parties need to discuss these issues, someone has to make the final decision.  These categories can be divided between the parents, or it may be that one parent is the final decision maker in all areas.

When most people think of “custody,” they mean physical custody. Physical custody is the determination of where the children will live the majority of the time. While there may be numerous terms describing physical custody (sole, primary, joint, secondary), it is more important to look at actual parenting time. In nearly every divorce case with minor children, the Court will require a full schedule for the children to be submitted. The parties, or the court, will need to determine a schedule of when the children will be with each parent. It may be that the children spend alternating weekends with one parent and the majority of the rest of the time with the other parent. Special dates such as holidays, religious days, birthdays, and summer vacation must be considered.

If the parents can work out a reasonable schedule that is acceptable to both sides, in most cases, it will be accepted by the Court. If the parties can work together, it is almost always better for the children. Also, even though there is schedule in the divorce order, the parents can agree to deviate from it. For example, if the parents want to switch weekends with the children, and they both agree, they can switch weekends. The custody and visitation order is there for the times when the parents cannot agree.

When the parents cannot agree to the physical custody terms in the divorce, the custody battle begins. To protect the children’s interests, the courts may assign the children a lawyer. This guardian ad litem (from Latin, meaning guardian “for the lawsuit”) will speak with the children, visit both parents in their homes, and speak with the children’s counselors or teachers. Also, the parties may involve older children who may want their voices heard. While a custody battle is seldom recommended, there are cases when it is necessary. This can be a lengthy and expensive process, but there are few things more important than the proper determination of custody and visitation for a child.

The attorneys of Spooner & Associates can help you with a custody arrangement that is in the best interests of you and your children. While finalizing a bitter custody dispute could take many months, we can help with a temporary custody agreement and protect your right to spend time with your children in the upcoming holiday season. Call our office at (678) 714-1131 to speak with an attorney.

A Do-It-Yourself Divorce Can be a Costly Mistake

Published by: Scott Spooner • On: 07-21-2016 • Under: Divorce, Family Law

costly divorce mistakes spooner and associates imageSeveral times a week, I am contacted by people who did not hire an attorney for representation in their divorce proceedings.  These people represented themselves in court (known as appearing pro se) and had their final divorce hearing. Now, AFTER their final hearing, they are not happy with the final divorce order.  They want to hire an attorney to help them “appeal” the court’s decision and have their divorce case re-tried.

Avoiding Costly Divorce Mistakes

I wish they had contacted me for legal counsel and representation BEFORE their final divorce hearing (especially when children, property, or businesses were involved.)  Hiring an attorney for legal advice in a divorce may seem expensive; but with a do-it-yourself divorce, your long-term costs may be even greater! Learn more about the long-term costs of do-it-yourself divorces below.

Too Much or Too Little Child Support and/or Alimony

This situation is an unfortunate matter of “save now, but pay later.” Pro se parties may initially save a little on their divorce; however, without the counsel of a family law attorney, pro se parties may be paying too much money (or receiving too little) after the divorce. But the long term cost is measured in more than just dollars. There is also an emotional price tag to the continued disruption and disharmony in the life of your family after a divorce.

Divorce Modification Not Guaranteed

Don’t count on modifying a bad final divorce order later. In some situations, you can go through the legal process of filing for a modification to an existing order. Unless you can prove to the courts there has been a “substantial change of condition” (i.e., job loss, significant income increase or decrease, relocation, etc.), you will likely not be successful in getting a modification.  In addition, many terms of a divorce order (such as property division, college payments for children, etc.) cannot be modified by the court, except with the agreement of both parties. You could be stuck with a very bad result.

Get Your Divorce Agreement Right the First Time

Don’t count on a “do-over” with your divorce order. Many times I have heard, “I settled on that term just to get my divorce done” or “I agreed to that custody arrangement because I thought I could change it later.”  In many instances, we can change the original order with a modification, but at a greater cost (in money and time) than if the issues had been handled correctly during the divorce. However, in some cases, there is nothing that can be done. For instance, there was a gentleman who did not have an attorney for his divorce.  The man agreed to LIFETIME alimony payments in order to get his divorce completed. However, his wife’s attorney included language in the divorce agreement that did not allow for future modification of the alimony payments. The man did not comprehend the unfair alimony terms.  He never had an attorney review the divorce agreement before he signed it.  So the agreement became a court order. Now this gentleman will have to live with the mistake (regardless of his future income) for the rest of his life.  He saved money on his do-it-yourself divorce by not hiring an attorney, but that frugality will cost him thousands of dollars over his lifetime.

Avoid Costly Consequences with a Family Law Attorney

Would you design and build your own house? Install and adjust your child’s orthodontic appliances? Rebuild your car engine? Probably not.  When you retain the professional legal services of a Spooner & Associates family law attorney, the many pieces and parts to a divorce can be anticipated and handled BEFORE the divorce agreement becomes a court order. A skilled family law attorney will help you avoid costly consequences. Call (678) 714-1131 to meet with an attorney and start solving your legal problems today.

Alimony in Georgia

Published by: Scott Spooner • On: 12-10-2015 • Under: Divorce, Family Law • Tagged: , ,

Alimony in Georgia - Spooner & AssociatesWhen a celebrity couple gets divorced, the details of their settlement often make headlines. Take Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, for example. You may have heard through the grapevine that Mr. Banderas will be paying Ms. Griffith $65,000 per month in alimony, also known as “spousal support”. You may be wondering where on earth that number came from and, certainly if you are contemplating divorce yourself, you are probably wondering what you may be entitled to or required to pay.

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Collecting Child Support

Published by: Scott Spooner • On: 01-28-2015 • Under: Divorce, Family Law • Tagged:

Child holding parents hand - parent giving child support.Most parents financially support their children, through child support or other means. Unfortunately, there are some parents who do not take their obligations seriously and fail to provide for their children. Despite media reports about “deadbeat dads”, both parents can be guilty of neglecting their financial responsibilities.  If you find yourself in a situation where you are left as the sole supporter of your child or children, the attorneys of Spooner & Associates can help.  

We find that the failure to provide support typically occurs in two situations: 1) when there is no court order requiring support or 2) the non-supporting parent is violating a court’s order of support (a divorce order or other support order).

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Divorce Mediation Checklist

Published by: Scott Spooner • On: 10-10-2014 • Under: Divorce, Family Law, Mediation • Tagged: , ,

Person drafting a mediation checklist. Mediating a divorce settlement can be an effective and efficient way to resolve your divorce action.  For a mediation to be successful, it helps to put aside emotional and personal issues in order to come to terms with your spouse.  Reaching a mediated settlement can speed up an otherwise lengthy litigation process. When both parties make an effort to give full disclosure and act cordially despite differences, mediation can be a helpful way to resolve your case. If a case does not get settled, a divorce litigation can turn into a boxing match with punches being thrown from both sides due to raw and unsettled feelings. In addition, it can hurt family members indirectly involved in the process.

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Child Support Modification

Published by: Scott Spooner • On: 09-03-2014 • Under: Divorce, Family Law • Tagged: , ,

Child support modifications in Georgia.When child support is set after a divorce, the court typically considers the incomes and financial situations of the parents at that time.  In many instances, circumstances change as the children get older.  For example, the children’s financial needs increase, the parents’ incomes change, the amount of time children spend with each parent changes, etc.  When there is a change in any one of these situations, either parent can file for a child support modification.  However, filing for a modification doesn’t necessarily mean the judge’s ruling will be in favor of the modification.  The parent seeking child support modification must petition the court and prove that there has been a material and significant change of financial condition.

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Alimony in Georgia

Published by: Scott Spooner • On: 06-26-2014 • Under: Divorce, Family Law • Tagged: , , ,

june-alimony-blogAlimony, or spousal support, was a concept originally implemented when employment options for women were more limited. After a divorce, men were responsible for their ex-wives support. Now, alimony in Georgia and other states is maintained to protect economic fairness in the event of divorce. Understanding how alimony in Georgia is awarded and what types are available is important when discussing divorce proceedings.

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Post-Divorce Checklist: Documents to Adjust After a Divorce

Published by: Scott Spooner • On: 06-13-2014 • Under: Divorce, Family Law, General • Tagged: ,

Post-divorce checklistA post-divorce checklists offer a way to organize all the to-dos that come after a divorce is finalized. A divorce decree is unfortunately not the last step in your divorce process. There are a number of different agencies that must be contacted with your name changes, insurance policies will likely need to be adjusted, loans, and all other joint efforts must be addressed quickly to save you trouble in the future.

  • Social Security Card: If your name was changed in the process of the divorce you’ll need to contact the Social Security Administration to update your card and file with them.

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The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. This website is designed for general information only.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.