Initial Choices about your Kids

The Initial Choices are the Toughest Choices. Determining when you will see your kids (custody and visitation) and establishing decision making as it relates to your kids are the two most complex issues to resolve in your divorce. Even if you, as a divorcing couple, are fairly confident that you’ll successfully navigate a “conscious uncoupling” you will need a child custody attorney to craft an agreement that is robust enough to anticipate change. If you are like many couples your split may not be entirely amicable-and you may be trying so hard to get along for the kids’ sake. It’s okay to disagree. My role is to create an agreement that allows you to co-exist without having to continue fight about the basics. We will work very hard to resolve the issues. Ultimately, you may each need your own attorney if you cannot agree about fundamental issues.  That is also okay, and each of your having your own attorney doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be facing a trial and courtroom.

Some of the issues we will discuss at length to determine where you are:

Who will the children live with and for what percentage of the time?

How will you decide how to deal with holidays and vacations?

Who will attend child’s birthdays and other important family events?

How soon will your children’s lives blend with potential new partners and siblings?

Who has the power to make the important decisions such as finding a new school or choosing a doctor? What about guiding your child’s religious education? Do you get a say in these decisions?

How much notice should a parent get if the other parent cannot provide care during a designated visit?

What types extracurricular activities will your child participate in, and how much of those activities will you be responsible for paying for?

Questions around decision making, caretaking and access to children are the toughest you’ll make when children are involved in a divorce, break-up or a major change in the status of parental relationships.

Let’s talk about these issues, and probe where you are to determine what level of assistance you need.  Let’s plan for changes. As is true for well-written software code, your shared goal ought to be a robust agreement. A robust agreement means that you each know your responsibilities from the outset, you have thought about how the agreement will work, and you have and you have a mechanism to hold each other accountable.

Modifications

It is normal that visitation issues arise after a divorce is final. As your circumstances inevitably change and your kids get older, it’s smart to seek an experienced attorney to adjust visitation schedules to suit the best interests of your kids. Though at the outset attorneys try to craft agreements that will anticipate a lot of what will be needed, there are life events that we cannot anticipate or plan for.  An agreed upon modification is the best way to allow parents’ and kids’ lives to evolve.

Kids may take on a time & cost demanding sports or extracurricular activity. Kids may need extra help from tutors.  New siblings may be born or adopted. New spouses and blended families are common.

A parent may need to relocate to another part of the state, to another part of the country, or even just across town outside but to a different school district.  A parent’s job schedule may change making it harder or easier to provide care. New relationships happen-and these change family dynamics in ways that call for adjustments to agreements.

These life-adjustments are to be expected. You will need a new agreement to address these changes. It’s okay that your first agreement didn’t contemplate all unexpected events. Get help from an experienced attorney who will craft the agreement to get your family through your family’s new phase.

Resolve Your Issues Out of Court

Whether it’s the initial order or a modification, it’s always in your best interest to try your best to come up with your own plans and keep your family’s important decisions out of the courtroom. Why? Because in a courtroom you are asking a judge to decide. That means you are giving up control of the outcome.

If you’ve been through a trial, or know someone who has been through one, then you already know how stressful and expensive going to court is.  You have all the more reason to resolve your issues out of court.

The good news is that in many cases, with proper “coaching and crafting” from an experienced attorney former spouses are able to come to an agreement regarding custody and decision making.  If there are issues we cannot resolve, we seek a neutral mediator to work with both sides in an attempt to resolve issues in a way that both sides understand and agree to. Only if there is no resolution would a divorcing couple face a courtroom and judge.

Going to Court is also an option

If it comes to it, we will litigate your case in court. That means we will use all the tools at are disposal and the power of the court. Evidence, discovery, witnesses, depositions, trial testimony–the works.  It is my job to help you try to avoid this and settle your case.  But if we cannot do this, then we will put on your case and let the judge decide.

Child Support

Georgia law states that parents are financially responsible to provide for their kids at least to age 18 and often until the child finishes college/secondary education. Determining how much child support is required by each parent and who receives child support is a critical part of resolving your case.

Child support is determined first by looking at your income and your spouse’s current gross income and the number of kids you share.  This is the “basic support obligation” and seems like figuring this out should be straightforward.  But what if one spouse is getting financial support from a grandparent? What if one parent is still in school, or not working full time? What if one parent owns a business where it’s tricky to figure out income? What if a parent is the beneficiary of a trust? All this to say…What is income?  Should there be a deviation for the amount of time one parent will have the kids? These are very important issues, and you want to be right because the amount money you pay or receive can potentially make your post-split life very livable or very difficult to live.

Once we determine the basic support obligation, we look at costs that each parent is carrying to adjust the relative shares of support. For example, we adjust to show that one parent is paying your child’s health insurance. We adjust to show which parent is paying for daycare, aftercare, summer camps, extracurricular activities, sports, medical expenses like braces–and whatever other expenses we know parents will cover.

Recent changes to our state’s child support guidelines individualize these calculations for each child in a marriage. These calculations take into consideration known changes–for example when your four year starts attending PreK and stops attending daycare the cost of work-related child care will change and current law provides that the child support order will show this-for each child.

The intention here is to help you avoid having to go back to court.  It’s a good thing.  Whether you are paying or receiving child support, we will use this new law to help you provide for your children and protect your income.

First Steps

Let’s talk. I am available for a brief call where you and I will talk about your family and your plans, and if we determine that my office is a good fit for you, we will set up an in-office consultation.

You deserve advice from an experienced family law attorney with integrity, experience, reputation and results.

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If you’re in Georgia and are having a financial problems, I offer a short free call to help sort out what you need and see if we are a fit to work together.

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