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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Contested Divorce?

Contested divorces most often occur when:

  • You disagree about alimony, the division of assets and/or debts, child custody and/or child support.
  • You do not trust your spouse and want to verify the assets and other information held by him/her.
  • You or your spouse (or his/her attorney) simply will not listen to reason and there’s an unwillingness to agree upon sensible terms.

Unfortunately, contested divorces can be emotionally charged, lengthy, and costly. In a contested divorce, you file a lawsuit and then often engage in discovery, the process by which you learn information and obtain documents from your spouse or a third-party (e.g., a bank or employer) relevant to your case. Many courts require parties to mediate the issues in dispute before trial. We have found that mediation is often successful. However, if a trial is necessary, we will be prepared to present your case and vigorously advocate on your behalf.

What Is an Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is usually the preferred path, as it is typically easier, more affordable and more expedient. We identify the issues to be addressed and provide you with some guidelines. Then, you let us know how you would like to resolve issues and handle situations. We prepare the legal documents accordingly. Discovery is not necessary. Some courts will require you to appear at a short hearing before granting the divorce; however, that’s typically not the case. Usually, you will be divorced within 45 days of filing the paperwork.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is the process by which you and your spouse try to work through your outstanding issues with the help of a mediator. The mediator is a neutral party and does not have the power to make rulings or otherwise decide issues. The mediator’s role is simply to assist you both in reaching agreement. The benefits of a mediation are that you and your spouse, not the court, make the final decisions as to how the issues are decided. The process allows for individually tailored outcomes and overall time and cost savings can be significant. Many courts require you to attempt mediation prior to trying a case. However, by agreement, you and your spouse can mediate prior to filing a lawsuit, and with or without an attorney. Of course, we don’t recommend mediation without legal counsel.

Can You Serve As the Mediator?

David Tannen is a certified domestic mediator, but if he acts as the mediator, he cannot also act as your attorney. He would be the neutral, simply trying to facilitate an agreement between you and your spouse. If the mediation is successful, the agreement reached will be binding and you and your spouse would then take the remaining steps necessary to finalize the divorce on your own. If unsuccessful, Tannen Law Group, as a whole, would be prohibited from representing either you or your spouse in your divorce.

How Is Child Custody Determined?

Child custody is always decided on a best interests of the child standard. If you and your spouse agree to a custody plan, the court will usually accept the arrangement, believing parents know what’s best for their children. If you do not agree, many factors will be considered by the court, including you and your spouse’s work and travel requirements, home environments, ability to provide for the child’s needs, and emotional and physical capacities. Custody disputes are often time consuming, tough and expensive; however, we have found that the process can be somewhat streamlined by having a custody evaluator and/or a guardian ad litem (an investigator acting on behalf of the children) appointed by the court to perform an in depth exploration of family dynamics and make recommendations as to how he/she believes the best interests of the child will be served in terms of custody. The recommendations are often, but not always, adopted by a court. Contrary to popular conception, there is no presumption that custody should be awarded to the mother.

Can Custody Be Modified?

Yes, child custody can be modified, but it will only be modified upon a court first finding that a material change in circumstance affecting the welfare of the child has occurred. Then, the court must further find that the proposed modifications are in the best interest of the child. We always explain to our clients that a material change in circumstance is a high standard and you cannot simply seek a change in custody any time you don’t like what the other parent is doing. It is often a bitter pill to swallow, but the courts are overwhelmed with custody cases and if the standard for changing custody were any lower, the courts would be overrun. Numerous factors will be considered in determining whether a material change of circumstance has occurred, however, these factors must have arisen after the date of the initial custody award. The continuing fitness of a parent will always be considered, and improvements, not just declines, in fitness are relevant.

How Is Child Support Determined?

In Georgia, child support is determined using the Georgia Child Support Worksheet. A link to the worksheet can be found on many court websites. Although you can complete the worksheet yourself, we recommend you consult with an attorney before relying upon your calculations, because there are variables which you may not adequately address otherwise.

How Is Alimony Decided?

Alimony is determined on a case-by-case basis in Georgia. Any numbers of factors will be considered, including the length of the marriage, the job skills, age and education of each party, the likelihood that a party will be able to obtain employment, and the standard of living of the family prior to the divorce. If your financial situation warrants it, we often suggest a certified divorce financial planner be retained, and make a proposed finding as to what is fair under the circumstances.

Can I Receive Child Support/Alimony While My Divorce Is Pending?

Yes, upon request, a court will hold a hearing to address alimony, child support, and other matters, such as child custody and use of the marital home, during the course of the case. We always ask about the need to have a hearing on these issues before filing the initial paperwork. If it’s necessary, then we make this request on your behalf.

Can My Spouse Be Required to Pay My Legal Fees?

As a part of a divorce, a court will consider differences in income between you and your spouse and “level the playing field” by awarding legal fees to the lower earner in certain cases. A court has wide discretion. Thus, you may get all, some percentage or none of your fees paid by the other side. Attorney’s fees can be awarded in other actions, but according to the law and in our experience, the likelihood and amount of recovery is much lower.

What If My Former Spouse Doesn’t Follow Court Rulings?

A contempt action is the basic remedy available if your former spouse fails to comply with the terms of a settlement agreement, parenting plan, or child support order. If your former spouse is found in contempt, the court can impose a variety of sanctions, including but not limited to an income deduction order, payment of your legal fees, license suspension and/or imprisonment.

How Much Will My Legal Fees Be?

We know the cost of representation is always a concern and must be weighed against the life-changing issues to be decided. We make a point of discussing with every client various approaches to situations to determine the most cost-effective strategy, and we continue those discussions throughout the case. We usually charge a flat fee, plus court costs, for an uncontested divorce. Contested divorces, mediations, and other family law proceedings do not usually lend themselves to a set-fee approach. Thus, we typically charge a retainer that we apply monthly against fees and costs incurred. Where a retainer is charged, you will receive monthly statements detailing the time spent, fees incurred, and allocation of the retainer. Credit cards are accepted.

More questions? Call 770-395-9147 or contact us today for a free consultation.