All Divorces range from simplistic (with very few, if any, contested issues) to extremely complex (involving child custody, child support, alimony, distinctions between marital and non-marital assets and debts and the division of both marital assets and debts).
Uncontested Divorces are when fault and all custody, visitation, support, asset division and debt division are completely pre-agreed upon. Simple Divorces are when there are no children of the marriage and only minor contested asset and debt division issues. Extremely Complex Divorces are those divorce cases wherein numerous issues are significantly contested such as paternity, child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and/or marital asset and debt division issues.
Child Custody and visitation are generally determined by a combination of the fitness of each of the parents, fault in the marriage, and the parental environment that would be in the best interest of the child(ren).
As of 2007, child support is determined by a fairly complex compilation of many aspects of both parents’ gross income, financial obligations, contributions toward the child(ren)’s expenses, and custodial parenting time. This scheme also allows some deviation based on other miscellaneous factors.
Marital assets may include: the primary marital residence, secondary and vacation residences, residential contents, other personal property, businesses, automobiles, boats, other vehicles, investment real estate, bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and other investments.
Marital debts may include: residential and other real estate mortgages; second mortgages and equity loans; debt on residential contents, businesses, automobiles, boats and other vehicles; other secured loans, unsecured loans and credit card debt; and tax, education and similar debts.
Assets and debts are classified into marital and non-marital. Marital assets and debts are generally those that are accumulated during the marriage. Non-marital assets and debts include those that existed prior to the marriage and are brought into the marriage and assets that are received as an inheritance or a gift. Georgia is an “equitable division” state. That means that marital assets and debts are divided on an equitable (fair) basis. Generally, when there is very little “fault” or fairly equal “fault” in the divorce, an equitable division is fairly close to an equal division. However, if one party is, or is found to be, more at fault for the divorce than the other, it is not unusual for the person more at fault to be awarded less than half of the assets and/or more than half of the debts.
Alimony is not always an issue in every divorce. Generally alimony may be awarded if one party has the capacity to earn significantly more than the other party through no fault of the lower capacity party. Alimony can be permanent or can be for some temporary period (6 months, two years, five years, etc.). There is no formula for determining alimony like there is for child support. The amount of alimony is determined by the financial circumstances of the parties, the potential for the parties to eventually make close to the same earnings and all other circumstances of the parties and the divorce.
A lot of litigation is possible well after the divorce is final. One or both parties may not be doing all that was ordered by the Court in the divorce decree. Depending on the violation, wage garnishment, contempt or numerous other remedies may be available. Often times the parties’ physical, financial or living conditions change. This may effect child support, child custody, visitation and/or alimony. In this event, a modification action may be justified wherein a party files an action in court and asks the court to modify the original decree to account for the change in conditions.
Mr. Brownell has represented clients in Divorce and Child Custody litigation, contempts, modifications, and paternity and legitimation actions – from simple and uncontested cases to complex, “knockdown” cases. He has represented over 250 divorce, custody and family law clients.