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Augusta Family Law Blog

What is a domestic violence protection order?

When a domestic violence incident takes place in Georgia, police may issue an emergency protection order to the person they believe was the victim in the altercation. An EPO is a temporary order barring the abuser from contacting the victim. Although an EPO cannot physically stop the abuser from coming near the victim, it can allow the victim to have the abuser arrested if they violate the order.

A temporary protective order is usually only valid for about three to seven days. During this time, the victim may decide to seek a long-term protection order. A protection order usually lasts for between one and five years, but there are extreme cases where a judge may decide to issue a lifetime protection order. When the protection order expires, the victim may renew the order if they feel threatened by the abuser.

Can a divorce agreement be modified in Georgia?

Divorce agreements or court judgments in a divorce can be modified, either through appealing the court's decisions to a higher court or by filing a motion to modify an aspect of a court's order with the court that issued it. The process differs depending on whether a person is appealing the court's decisions or if they are moving the local court to change a part of the order due to a change in circumstances.

Appeals of court orders are when a person is seeking to overturn a court's judgment by claiming the court made legal errors in its ruling. When appealing, there are strict statutory deadlines. An appeal is commenced by filing a notice of appeal, obtaining transcripts of the relevant proceedings and writing a legal brief. The appeals process can be lengthy. If the appellate court agrees that the judge made legal errors in arriving at his or her judgment, the case will be sent back down to the lower court. This rarely happens, however.

Where to file for a military divorce

Many military families from Georgia and around the country have unique situations where they were married in one state and currently live in another state. They could even own property in an additional state. This could mean that they have multiple options for where to file for divorce. Since divorce proceedings vary by state, sometimes favoring one spouse over the other, the couple could select the state that best suits their needs.

Another point to consider about the divorce proceedings is transportation. Just because another state may offer more favorable terms does not mean that it is a good idea to file in that state. Traveling back and forth to court can become very costly and even result in lost wages, making the benefits not worth the losses. One party can file for a divorce against a deployed spouse, but some states will simply continue or postpone the case until the spouse returns home.

Choosing where to file a military divorce

Military couples who are seeking a divorce often have a difficult decision to make. Because the military frequently moves families to a new state after only a short period, a couple may not have established residency in their current home state. In other cases, the couple may be eligible to file in several different states because they live in one state and hold property in another.

The decision becomes even more important when there are significant differences in divorce laws between states. For example, some states only allow no-fault divorces while others permit fault-based divorces that award more to one of the spouses. Puerto Rico does not divide military pensions in a divorce, which makes this a poor choice of filing location for the non-military spouse.

Georgia divorce grounds and filing process

Many people in Georgia file for divorces each year. The process can seem daunting for those who have not gone through it before. The law sets out specific grounds and procedures for initiating an action.

The state allows a total of 13 different grounds on which a divorce action can be based. People who file for divorce proceed under one. The first category is that the marriage is irretrievably broken, which is commonly known as a no-fault divorce. The other 12 are fault grounds, and include assertions that the other person did something wrong that caused the breakup. Examples include adultery, imprisonment, drug or alcohol problems, desertion, marriage between too-closely related individuals, impotency, fraud in getting married, the wife being pregnant at the time of marriage without disclosing it to the husband, mental or physical abuse and mental illness.

Unique factors for military divorces

Military couples who have decided to end their marriage will follow many of the same steps that others would in Georgia. However, a military divorce does involve a few differences. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act is a federal law that applies to all military personnel. This law allows Georgia to treat military retirement pay as property instead of income in a divorce.

Spouses of military personnel who were married for at least 10 years might be able to receive retirement payments directly from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. The person in the military must have served for 10 years and the service period must have overlapped with the marriage. Spouses who do not qualify might still get a portion of benefits if included in the divorce agreement. The maximum amount of pension income is 50 percent unless child support is also a factor, in which case an ex-spouse could get up to 65 percent of disposable retirement pay.

Child custody in Georgia

Georgia family court judges carefully consider what is in the best interests of a child when deciding with whom the child will live and which parent will enjoy the ability to make major decisions for the child in regards to his or her educational, religious and health needs. Courts can choose to grant several different types of custody.

Legal custody refers to the ability to make decisions on the child's behalf. Judges may grant sole legal custody, in which one makes all decisions without the need to consult with the other, or joint legal custody. In cases in which the court grants sole legal custody, the noncustodial parent will normally still enjoy parenting time with the child. After an order is issued, the court will not change it unless the noncustodial parent is able to prove a material change in circumstances necessitating such a change has occurred.

Military divorces involving pensions

In a military divorce, a Georgia service member's military pension may be divided much like any other retirement account. In accordance with the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, such an account may be considered to be sole or marital property under state law. The amount of the award, if any, to the other spouse is generally determined by the laws of the state where the divorce takes place.

If there is a 10-year overlap of marriage and military service, the payment of such award would be made directly by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. In some cases, a judge may order direct payments to spouses who were married to a service member for less than 10 years. However, the payment would be made by the party who is in the military as opposed to the DFAS.

Focusing on financial details during divorce negotiations

The stress involved in settlement discussions during a divorce cause some people to make hasty decisions regarding their finances. Residents living in Georgia might be interested in a few tips to consider while negotiating a divorce settlement.

It could be beneficial to consider how much money one must provide for themselves in the short term. Some couples have very valuable assets but are unable to liquidate them quickly. A blend of easy-to-liquidate assets and accounts for long-term investments may work best depending on an individual's needs. Before a divorce finalization, joint liabilities should be paid off, and proof of said payment should be obtained and saved accordingly. If a joint mortgage is not refinanced, a creditor could continue to try to collect any money owed.

Domestic abuse goes beyond physical altercations

In Georgia and other states, domestic violence can be broadly defined as any conflict that goes beyond typical relationship issues. It may take the form of emotional abuse, such as verbal threats, physical abuse, such as hitting or causing other bodily harm, or sexual abuse, such as unwanted touching or intercourse. Often, abusers will use a mixture of these types of abuse.

Signs of domestic violence or abuse typically manifest themselves after a relationship begins. Generally, an abuser comes across as charming or personable in public. However, this person may be abusive in private and take steps to isolate their partner from their friends and family.

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