Site Navigation

Legal Articles

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.

Before You Hit Send…

Published by: Scott Spooner • On: 03-28-2018 • Under: Divorce

before you hit sendTechnology has afforded us with new ways to communicate.  Text messages, email, video conference and social media provide us with an immediate way to share information with friends and family.

However, if you are thinking about filing for divorce or modifying a previously entered court order before you hit send, you should seriously think about the ramifications of pushing that send button on a text message or social media post.

In Georgia, all divorce and domestic relations actions allow both parties to conduct what is known as discovery.  Simply put, the parties can request from the other party documents and other tangible things relating to the divorce action.  This includes text messages, email and social media posts, even if you restrict access to these posts.

This means that any text, email or social media post you have sent could be viewed by your spouse, opposing counsel and the judge who is hearing your case.  Your texted or posted words and photographs could end up hurting you in negotiations or at trial.  Before you hit send, you should ask yourself, “is this something that I want to see blown up on a large exhibit at a trial”?  If not, then you should probably refrain from sending it.

If you are contemplating divorce or other legal action, and have concerns over how text messages and social media posts may impact your case, then you should speak to a licensed attorney.  We are here to help you.  Feel free to contact our office to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys.

How the New Federal Tax Law Could Impact Your Divorce

Published by: Farnaz Ghaffarisaravi • On: 03-06-2018 • Under: Divorce

New Federal Tax LawsIf you are considering a divorce, it is important to understand the consequences the new federal tax code may have on alimony. Under the previous tax code, alimony payments are usually tax deductible by payor (the spouse making alimony payments) and taxable income for the recipient (the spouse receiving alimony). However, under the new tax code, beginning in 2019, alimony payments will no longer be tax-deductible or taxable income. In essence, alimony is being treated much like child support.

So what does this mean and how may this impact you? If you are currently paying alimony you will continue to receive the tax benefits. Likewise, if you are contemplating a divorce today and get a final divorce decree entered by the end of 2018, the current tax code will still apply. The new tax code pertaining to alimony will take effect in 2019. This means that divorces that are granted after December 31, 2018, will be impacted by the new tax code.

Depending on if you are the payor or recipient, the new tax provision will have different tax benefits and consequences. If you are the recipient spouse, you will no longer have to pay taxes on alimony. While this may certainly be favorable for the recipient spouse, it is important not to overlook underlying consequences that may result during the divorce and negotiation process.  For instance, a tax deduction for alimony payments makes spousal support more affordable for the payor since it may be considered tax deductible. This is an attractive option during the negotiation process and may result in an increased amount of spousal support for the recipient spouse in need of the financial support.

The circumstances and process of each divorce is different. Contact us today at (678) 714-1131 to speak with an experienced attorney so you can understand your rights, your options and when filing for divorce may be best for you. As always, you should speak with a tax accountant and financial advisor to determine the effects of the tax code on alimony based on you and your spouse’s current financial circumstances.

Published by: Leigh Spooner • On: 02-21-2018 • Under: General

It is with great honor that we announce senior attorney Scott K. Spooner, founder of Spooner & Associates, PC, has been selected for inclusion in the 2018 Georgia Super Lawyers list in the area of family law. The Georgia Super Lawyer recognition is exclusive; the list acknowledges no more than five percent of attorneys in the state.

Super Lawyers, part of Thomson Reuters, is a research-driven, peer influenced rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Attorneys are selected from more than 70 practice areas and all firm sizes.

The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes:

  • Peer nominations
  • Independent research by Super Lawyers
  • Evaluations from a highly credentialed panel of attorneys

For twenty years, Scott K. Spooner has helped people avoid costly missteps when resolving legal disputes. His team of attorneys and staff provides personal attention, efficient problem resolution, resourceful negotiation, and skilled litigation to clients in metro Atlanta and Northeast Georgia. Contact Scott to learn how he and his team can start solving your legal problems today.

Can I Get a Divorce and Still Afford to Retire?

Published by: Scott Spooner • On: 10-18-2017 • Under: Divorce

how to get a divorce and still afford to retireFor many, living comfortably in retirement is the gold at the end of the rainbow. Married couples hope that they have planned appropriately so that they can share in this outcome. However, not all couples stay married up to and through retirement. What happens to the retirement nest egg in divorce?

Typically, retirement accounts are treated like most other marital property. If the contributions were made during the marriage, those contributions, along with the gains or losses, are considered marital property. These funds are taken into account when dividing all the assets and debts of the divorcing couple.

While there are many issues regarding retirement accounts, we have several scenarios and questions come up again and again. One of these common situations is when a spouse has been with their employer for longer than they have been married. Many think that their half of their entire retirement savings is now going to be transferred to their spouse. This, however, is not the norm. The only part of the retirement funds that should be considered marital (to be divided) is the portion saved during the marriage. The amounts contributed prior to the marriage (and the growth of those funds) are typically considered non-marital, and not subject to division.

For example, if you have been contributing to your 401-k for 25 years, but you have only been married for the last 10 years, the first 15 years of contributions would not be marital property. This would include any earnings on that 15 years’ worth of contributions. There can be exceptions, and this figure is typically not simple to determine, but it can make a big difference in the assets to be divided.

At Spooner and Associates, we have handled many cases with all types of retirement accounts and issues. We have the knowledge and expertise to answer your questions and assist you with these difficult financial decisions. We also have access to a team of financial advisors and accountants, if needed, including retirement and pension experts. Call us at (678) 714-1131 for assistance.

 

After The Storm

Published by: Scott Spooner • On: 09-15-2017 • Under: General

Over the past days and weeks, much of the Southeast has experienced record-breaking hurricanes and tropical storms. Many people are faced with clean-up and recovery. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone.

At Spooner & Associates, we often see clients after a different type of storm. There may have been a terrible argument, a spouse leaving the home, a discovery of infidelity, lost time with your children, or any other of a host of personal disasters that face a family or relationship in distress. At the peak of the situation, it might seem that you have nobody to help. You are simply trying to weather the storm.

Afterwards, however, when things begin to calm, you need to assess the issues. Are you going to remain in your situation, waiting for the next incident? Is it possible to rebuild the relationship? Or, is it time to form a plan to try to ensure that you are not in the eye of the storm again? Do you reach out for help in solving your problems?

If you want to rebuild the relationship, we encourage you to seek help, especially for yourself. If, however, you realize that you need to move forward, we are here to help. Our attorneys can help you assess your situation, assist you through the difficult times ahead, and help you move towards a normal, and hopefully calmer, life. Contact us at 678-714-1131 to speak to one of our attorneys.

Divorce Question: Should I Do It Myself?

Published by: M. Ryan Mullis • On: 08-02-2017 • Under: Divorce

do it yourself divorce

Divorce is hard and emotional. It will impact you and your family for years to come, especially if you have children. Decisions must be made about the division of assets and debts, child custody and visitation, child support, dividing real and personal property, and many others. Just as you would hire a realtor to help you buy a home, an accountant to help you file your taxes, or a contractor to help you with home repairs, you should hire an attorney to help you with your divorce. There are ways to file for divorce “pro se” or on your own, without an attorney. We discourage a “do-it-yourself” divorce, as there are many details and issues that can be overlooked without the experience and knowledge of a licensed Georgia attorney. We are often retained to “fix” an agreement where the person represented themselves. In some instances, the agreement cannot be fixed and the person is simply stuck with the Court’s order. In most other instances, the “fix” ends up costing more than if the person had used an attorney in the original case.

Even if your divorce is uncontested, meaning you and your spouse are in agreement on all issues related to your divorce, you still want the help of an experienced Georgia attorney. There may be small issues you have not thought of, such as tax dependency issues or real property tax liability. Further, even though your case may be uncontested, it still must be filed in the appropriate court and be submitted to a Judge for final approval. Filing in the wrong court can get your case thrown out before it even gets to a Judge. Failing to present your case accurately to the Judge can result in needless delays and expenses that could have been avoided with the help of an experienced attorney.

In many instances, parties are really close to a full agreement but think they can’t file an uncontested divorce because of those last remaining disagreements. Sometimes, all it takes is the assistance of an attorney to help the parties reach that full agreement. An attorney can assist with negotiations, keep emotions from boiling over, and work towards the end result. You want a divorce agreement that works for both parties and is in the best interest of the children (if there are any involved). An agreement reached without court involvement usually works better for all involved, and is better at supporting long-term co-parenting arrangements. An attorney can help you achieve an agreement by maintaining focus on your long-term goals and helping you through this difficult process.

Don’t attempt to “go it alone.” We help our clients avoid costly missteps in a divorce. Call us to start solving your legal problems.

Divorce Question: What Am I Entitled To?

Published by: M. Ryan Mullis • On: 07-07-2017 • Under: Divorce

what are you entitled to in a divorceClients ask us all the time: “What am I entitled to in the divorce?”

This is a tricky question. Georgia is an equitable distribution state which means whatever assets and debts are determined to be marital property are subject to “equitable” distribution between the parties upon divorce.

So the first question to answer when it comes to the division of assets and debts is what counts as marital property that is subject to division. There are some major categories that are easily identifiable as NOT marital property such as gifts and inheritances, but other items may not be as clear.

For example, one party may have a significant retirement account that normally would be considered marital property. However, if a large portion was accumulated before the marriage, that portion of the retirement account may be deemed to belong solely to the individual. Trickier questions include the issue of settlement awards, real property, and personal items. Also, while an asset might have originally been non-marital, a change in title or mixing it with marital assets might convert the asset to a marital asset.

Another issue under division during a divorce is the question of debts and who will be responsible for paying the debts upon divorce. It may seem simple if each party has credit card debt in their own names, but things can become complicated if one party used the credit card on behalf of the other, or only used it because one party was the sole bread winner.

An issue that comes up often is student loans. One party may have a large amount student loan debt. Generally, student loans are personal and belong to that individual even during and after divorce. However, some student loan exceptions may include: if there is a co-signor or co-guarantor on the loan, if the parties took the loans out jointly, if one party worked to support the other party while they attended school, or if a portion of the student loan funds was used for marital expenses (rent, car payment, etc.).

Don’t try to answer these questions on your own without legal counsel. Contact the experienced attorneys of Spooner & Associates to avoid costly missteps during a divorce.

Divorce Question: Where Do I File My Case?

Published by: M. Ryan Mullis • On: 06-23-2017 • Under: Divorce

how to file my case in a divorceIn this second of a series of articles reviewing some common divorce questions, we discuss venue and jurisdiction.

One of the first issues that must be addressed in any family law problem is where to file the action. Whether the action is a divorce, modification, contempt, adoption, name change, legitimation, or other family law action, the case has to be filed in the appropriate venue. Venue generally refers to the county court that can properly hear the case per Georgia law.

A closely related issue to venue is jurisdiction, which involves two prongs: personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction refers to the court having the power to hear the case because of the people involved in the case. Subject matter jurisdiction refers to the court having the power to hear the case of what is at issue in the case. Venue, personal jurisdiction, and subject matter jurisdiction are all required for a legal action to properly proceed. Since a Court must have all three to properly hear a case, the appropriate place to file an action can sometimes become very complicated.

For instance, a divorce is generally an easy case for determining where to file, as most of the time both parties live in the same state and county. However, if the parties recently moved to Georgia, recently moved out of Georgia, or if one party recently moved to or from Georgia can affect the location for filing determination. Other cases can be even more complicated. If there are children involved in the issue and there is a prior Court Order involving the children, that prior Court may hold continuing jurisdiction over the children for any further actions.

However, the parties may not live in that county or state anymore. Then, the issue of whether a new Court can acquire jurisdiction becomes relevant. Or, if the parties have a prior Court Order in one state, for example, Florida, but one party now lives in Georgia and the other lives in Tennessee, which state is the appropriate state to hear the case? These venue and jurisdiction questions can be extremely complicated, and if you file in the wrong place, you can potentially damage your case or have to start over.

You need an experienced Georgia family law attorney to help you answer these questions so that you can file your action in the appropriate location. Failing to do so can cost you time, money, and hardship that can be easily avoided with a knowledgeable attorney on your side. The attorneys of Spooner & Associates are experienced in assisting clients with venue and jurisdiction issues. Call (678) 231-0607 to start solving your legal problems.

Divorce Question: Should I Move Out of the House?

Published by: M. Ryan Mullis • On: 06-20-2017 • Under: Divorce

Should I move out?A divorce can be one of the most trying times in a person’s life. There are already many emotions involved, which can only be heightened if there are children. The experienced attorneys of Spooner and Associates want to help you through this trying and difficult time, providing the necessary knowledge and resources to help you navigate it successfully.

Many clients ask us whether or not they should move out of the marital home before a divorce. This can be a very complicated question, with different answers depending on the situation. For example, a major determining factor is whether there are minor children. Moving out of the home while the children remain with the other parent can have a serious impact on the outcomes of child custody, both physical and legal, as well as visitation and child support. Other factors involved in the decision to move out of a marital home include: whether the home is owned or rented, who’s name the home is titled under or leased under, who has been paying the financial obligations on the home (including rent, a mortgage, fees, and taxes, and utilities), as well as what each party wants to do with the marital home after the divorce. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if one party is concerned about domestic violence, leaving the home for safety purposes may supersede all other issues.

This is a difficult time, but don’t feel like you have to figure out all the best steps for you and your family on your own. Contact one of our attorneys at 678-714-1131 today. As your legal advocates, we will guide you through this process and help you make the best decisions for yourself, your children, and your family.

CONNECT WITH US



Disclaimer

Spooner & Associates, P.C. Disclaimer

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.

×