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Capable of Handling All Types of Family Law Cases

Family Law

We handle all types of family law cases including uncontested divorces, contested divorces, annulments, legal separations, legitimation, child custody and support cases, adoptions, modifications, contempt cases and restraining orders. Whether you need to initiate such an action or defend one, we are equipped to help you.To discuss how to proceed with filing or answering a domestic action, contact our legal team for a free initial consultation.



What is the difference between a divorce, annulment and separate maintenance?

Divorce is a procedure to dissolve a valid marriage. Georgia provides for “no-fault” divorces, as well as many other “fault” grounds for divorce. Through a divorce, the Court will decide issues of property division; spousal support; debt allocation; division of financial assets; child custody, support and visitation. 

Annulment is only applicable where the marriage was invalid from its intended inception for some legal reason, regardless of the length of the marriage.

Separate maintenance is a procedure whereby the Courts can enter orders governing temporary custody and support, temporary allocation of debt and property, without actually dissolving the marriage. There is no requirement that the spouses be separated for a specific period of time; however, the parties must be separated before filing for divorce or action for separate maintenance. It is possible to be separated in the legal sense even if you are living in the same home.

Another important distinction between divorce and separate maintenance is that, in Georgia, there is a six month residency requirement which means that one spouse must have lived in the State of Georgia for six months preceding the filing of the case or Georgia must have been the last domicile of the marriage. This residence requirement does not apply to actions for separate maintenance. If you do not meet the residency requirements for filing divorce but feel that a Court order is necessary during your time of separation, a separate maintenance action may be appropriate for you.

These types of cases are extremely complicated and it is not advisable that you attempt to represent yourself, even if you have no children and think your case is a simple one. 

How does the divorce process start?

A divorce requires the filing of a lawsuit, whether the divorce is by agreement or contested by one of the parties. The filing requires payment of a filing fee and, in some cases, a service fee.

The Courts will require that the parties complete a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit in all cases where financial issues are to be determined. Follow our link to the 9th District ADR website for a sample form of the Affidavit.

If your case is a divorce that involves minor children, you and your spouse will be required to attend a parenting seminar. Our website provides a link to the 9th District ADR website for your convenience in obtaining information and a schedule for the seminar.

How long does the divorce process take?

In Georgia, you may obtain a divorce as quickly as thirty-one days following the service of the complaint. Where there are disagreements on any issue, the case may take many months to complete. Georgia still provides for a jury trial in divorce cases if either party so desires. Upon the filing of the divorce complaint, your case will be assigned to a particular judge. In our area, the judges preside in several different counties. Your case will generally be assigned for hearing only when the judge to whom your case is assigned is sitting in the county in which the action is filed.

Will I have to go to Court?

In most cases, you and/or your spouse will have to appear in Court as part of a divorce action. Even if the case is resolved by agreement, a brief hearing is usually required. This law office will explain to you what will be required in your case so that you will be prepared for any type of hearing. 

Many cases in which the parties are unable to settle the issues between themselves are ordered by the Court to participate in mediation prior to scheduling a final hearing. Mediation is a formal settlement conference which is presided over by a certified mediator. Parties generally participate in mediation with their respective attorneys present. The cost of mediation is in addition to your attorney fees and is usually divided between the parties. Mediation can be an effective process for settlement of family law cases and can save the parties the cost of a complicated Court hearing.

What if my spouse or I do not respond to the divorce complaint that has been served?

While a divorce action may not be “won by default”, you will lose very important rights if you fail to file an answer within thirty days from service, including the right to be notified of Court proceedings. If you receive a complaint for divorce that was filed by your spouse, you should contact the office immediately to schedule an appointment. 

How does the Court decide division of marital property and debt?

In dividing the marital assets and liabilities, the Court will make an equitable division between the parties. This does not necessarily mean an equal division. Certain assets may be considered non-marital or separate property, not subject to division. There is no formula or percentage amount used to divide marital assets and liabilities. While the Court can allocate payment of joint debt between the parties, the Court cannot require that the creditor, who is not a party to your divorce case, release either party from responsibility. It is generally appropriate to suggest to the Court that the assets and liabilities should be distributed in a certain manner. The attorney can assist you in determining how to present your case to obtain a fair division from the Court.

How can I enforce a Court order?

All divorce orders are enforceable by a contempt action. Final orders in family law cases may also be enforced by garnishment. This office can assist you with enforcement cases and, in many cases your legal fees can be recovered from the other party. A contempt action is generally filed in the same Court that issued the original order. Be sure to maintain a copy of all Court orders relating to your case so that enforcement and modification issues can be more readily reviewed at your consultation.

Can the Court order be modified?

Temporary orders may be modified by the Court upon proper request. Only certain aspects of final divorce orders are subject to modification. All property issues are deemed to be final at the time the divorce is granted and are not subject to modification. Child custody, support and visitation, as well as spousal support, are all issues which are subject to modification. Most often, a modification requires a change in circumstances following the entry of the original order. Modification actions are not necessarily filed in the same Court that issued the original order. This office can advise you whether your situation rises to the level that modification may be warranted.

Child Custody and Visitation


What is the difference between joint legal and joint physical custody?

There are several different forms of child custody awards available to parents of children, whether born during a marriage or out of wedlock. Questions of custody and visitation are decided by the judge rather than a jury. The Court may award joint custody instead of sole custody. There are two types of joint custody. Joint “legal” custody allows both parents to have rights and responsibilities for making major decisions concerning the child and provides for a dispute resolution process in the event the parents cannot agree. Joint “physical” custody provides for a more equal sharing of time with the child. 

Sometimes custody cases are handled in the juvenile Court. Whether a custody case is filed in juvenile Court by the Department of Family and Children Services or a private individual, Michelle Vaughan is able to assist you. As a former juvenile Court judge, she is familiar with the law that applies to these cases.

Can my child decide which parent should have custody of him or her?

A child over the age of 14 years can choose which parent will have custody, subject to determination by the Court that the child’s election is in the child’s best interest. The Court can consider testimony from younger children but do not generally inquire of the children which parent they prefer to live with.

What type of parenting time will the Court likely award?

Regardless of which custody arrangement is ordered, the Court considers it important for both parents to maintain a relationship with the children; therefore, visitation rights or “parenting time” will likely be awarded to a parent who is not awarded primary physical custody of a child. Parenting time will vary depending on the ages and needs of the children, and can be tailored to suit your specific needs.

For guidance in determining what schedule is best for your situation, follow our link to the 9th District ADR website and review “What’s Best for Your Child” and “Sample Parenting Schedules”.

How does a custody case start?

A divorce requires the filing of a lawsuit, whether the divorce is by agreement or contested by one of the parties. The filing requires payment of a filing fee and, in some cases, a service fee.

The Courts will require that the parties complete a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit in all cases where financial issues are to be determined. Follow our link to the 9th District ADR website for a sample form of the Affidavit.

Whether your case is a divorce, legitimation or other custody case, you and the other party will be required to attend a parenting seminar if minor children are involved. Our website provides a link to the 9th District ADR website for your convenience in obtaining information and a schedule for the seminar.

Child Support


Will my spouse or I have to pay child support?

In Georgia, both parents are legally required to support their children. Parents can be required to support a child until he or she reaches the age of eighteen, dies, marries, or otherwise becomes emancipated; provided that if a child becomes eighteen years old while enrolled in and attending secondary school on a fulltime basis, then the child support shall continue for the child until the child has graduated from secondary school or reaches twenty years of age, whichever occurs first. The Court cannot order parents to pay for college unless both parties agree. In addition to paying a monthly or weekly sum, child support may also include payment of such items as health insurance and/or medical and dental expenses. Calculation of support is determined through state approved worksheets based upon both parents’ income or earning ability.

Will the Court order child support if one parent isn’t working or doesn’t think he or she can afford it?

Yes. The Court is without authority to allow parents to waive child support and has the burden of insuring that the support awarded or agreed to be appropriate to support the children. Whether a parent is voluntarily or involuntarily unemployed, the Court may impute income to a parent in determining child support.

Contact Us

Schedule a free initial consultation today. We are staffed by certified paralegals who are trained to intake your information and pass it along to our attorney so that your questions may be answered promptly.

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