Thomas F Tierney, Divorce Attorney


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Divorce Law

Thomas F Tierney, Attorney at Law Bankruptcy Attorney

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Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce

How do I pick an attorney?

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I recommend that you hire an attorney who practices mostly in your county and who does a large volume of cases. A good attorney usually has a great deal of experience in front of the judges in his county and can estimate what a judge is likely to do in certain circumstances. This is useful as you will have an advocate who can advise you of your settlement options, which can lower costs.

You want an attorney who is confident and can present your evidence in an organized way, but is also willing consider reasonable offers. An attorney should return telephone calls within 24 hours and promptly prepare all paperwork.

You should feel that your attorney is your advocate and cares about you and your situation, but that he also will give you a reality check about your chances in court. I have been practicing law since 1990 and have been practicing mostly in Coweta and Fayette County since 1993.

Here is a link to the Fayette County Bar Association.

I'm getting a divorce. What's going to happen?

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Divorces are filed in the Superior Court of either the county where your spouse lives or where you lived with your spouse in the last six (6) months.

If you and your spouse agree about all issues, including child support and property division, a lawyer will prepare uncontested
paperwork. This should including: Divorce Complaint; Agreement; Consent to Try in 31 Days, Acknowledgment of Service, Parenting Plan (if children), Child Support Addendum (if children). There will also need to be prepared a Report of Divorce which is provided to the State of Georgia.

A Divorce Complaint is a lawsuit laying out the issues. An Agreement is a contract with your spouse resolving the issues of your divorce. An Acknowledgment of Service is a proof that the Defendant received the Complaint. A Consent to Try in 31 Days form allows you to get divorce after 31 days after filing of the paperwork. A parenting plan provides your agreement on parenting issues and a child support addendum shows how you determined child support. All of these forms are very complicated and should be prepared by an attorney.

If you don't agree on all issues, typically each side hires an attorney, who requests all pertinent information from the other spouse. A mediation is held, where a mediator helps the party resolve their differences. If this does not work, then a Superior Court Judge will rule on these issues on a temporary and permanent basis. Most Counties require parents to attend a parenting seminar.

A divorce can take as little time as 31 days or may go on for years. In most cases a contested divorce should be resolved in less than a year.

How do we resolve custody of our children?

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Under Georgia law the Court uses a "best interests of the children" standard. This means the Court does what it deems is best for the children. There is basically two (2) types of custody issues. The first is "legal" custody, which regards who makes decisions regarding medical, educational and religious decisions for the children. Usually the Court grants joint legal custody, which each parent having input and access to records and having the right to talk to teachers and doctors. If the parents do not agree, then one parent has final decision making responsibility. Sometimes parents agree that the final decision making responsibility is shared. In other words, Father might have final decision making responsibility for medical decisions and Mother might have it for education.

Physical custody refers to what home the children primarily reside in. Usually one parent is the primary physical custodian. The primary physical custodian receives child support from the other parent and the child attends school in that parents' district. Sometimes parents have joint physical custody, which means that each parent has the child for 1/2 of the time.

Attached is a sample Parenting Plan. You need to prepare a parenting plan for consideration by the Court as part of an uncontested proceeding, or if contested, for the Court's consideration at hearing.

Do not believe that you have to use a cookbook visitation plan. The Courts encourage both parents to be as involved in their children's lives as possible, and will consider any rational parenting plan which is good for the kids.

What if my spouse won't agree to a Divorce?

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To get a divorce, you must have a "grounds" for divorce. Grounds simply means a reason for a divorce. There are 13 grounds for divorce in Georgia, ranging from adultery to abuse. However, nearly every divorce is granted on the grounds that the marriage is "irretrievably broken".

Basically, if one spouse believes the marriage if over, the marriage is over and the divorce is granted. Your spouse cannot bully you into staying married and you are not forced to prove that your spouse is a bad person.

Below is a link to the law regarding grounds for divorce in Georgia.
Grounds for Divorce

How do I calculate Child Support?

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Georgia, like most states, uses a child support calculator which is based on each parents gross income. Gross income is the full paycheck without deductions for taxes and insurance. The child support calculator adds together the parents income to determine the family income, then determines what percentage each parent contributes.

You can access the child support calculator here.

For example, if the Husband makes $3,000.00 per month and the wife makes $6,000.00 per month, the family income would be $9,000.00. Wife would make 2/3rds of the family income and Husband would earn 1/3rd of the family income. The Georgia legislature determines how much a family should spend on a child based on the family income. A family that makes $9,000.00 is presumed to spend $1,150.00 per month on one child. If Wife gets primary custody, then Husband would pay 1/3rd of this amount, or $383.00, per month as child support. If Husband gets primary custody, then Wife would pay 2/3rds of this amount, or $767.00.

The calculator has a great deal of flexibility based on numerous factors. It is recommended that you consult a family law practitioner to make sure the child support is accurate. The most important deviation used by the Court is for daycare expenses and after school expenses. In our proposal above, if afterschool costs $80.00 a week, there would be an additional cost of $344.00. This cost would be split based on the same ratio. Husband would pay 1/3rd of the daycare in addition to the basic child support, and Wife would pay 2/3rds.

Temporary Restraining Order-Family Violence Protective Order

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The Georgia legislature has passed a series of laws to assist battered women and men to remove themselves from a cycle of violence. In practice, however, often these remedies can be used, or misused, to obtain a "leg up" in a divorce or custody case. Often small misunderstandings and arguments are escalated into "family violence" without either party understanding the significant effects of these legal procedures.

What can I get in a Family Violence Order?
Georgia law allows the Court, WITHOUT THE INITIAL INPUT OF THE OTHER PARTY, the following relief:

(1) Direct the respondent to refrain from such acts;

(2) Grant to a party possession of the residence or household of the parties and exclude the other party from the residence or household;

(3) Require a party to provide suitable alternate housing for a spouse, former spouse, or parent and the parties' child or children;

(4) Award temporary custody of minor children and establish temporary visitation rights;

(5) Order the eviction of a party from the residence or household and order assistance to the victim in returning to it, or order assistance in retrieving personal property of the victim if the respondent's eviction has not been ordered;

(6) Order either party to make payments for the support of a minor child as required by law;

(7) Order either party to make payments for the support of a spouse as required by law;

(8) Provide for possession of personal property of the parties;

(9) Order the respondent to refrain from harassing or interfering with the victim;

(10) Award costs and attorney's fees to either party; and

(11) Order the respondent to receive appropriate psychiatric or psychological services as a further measure to prevent the recurrence of family violence.

How long does this order last?
Under Georgia law for one (1) year, however, upon motion the Court can extend the order PERMANENTLY.

What is family violence?
Georgia law defines it as:
(1) Any felony; or
(2) Commission of offenses of battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass.

Who is family?
"Past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same household"

Does this go on my record?
If a restraining order is granted, this order is recorded with a registry available to law enforcement.

If you are subject to family violence, including symbolic acts such as breaking personal property or harassment, you need to protect yourself and your children from these acts from escalating. After an initial ex-parte order, the Court will set up a hearing where the other party can defend themselves. BOTH SIDES OF A FAMILY VIOLENCE PROCEEDING SHOULD BE REPRESENTED BY COUNSEL.

Too often a minor incident between a boyfriend and girlfriend will result is a family violence proceeding. The judge will often ask, do mind staying away from her? Of course not, that's why we broke up!!! Don't make this mistake, as your record will permanently show that you are an abuser. If you are being abused, don't go it alone. An attorney can address financial and custody issues which often are the root core of the abusive relationship. If either side appears before the Court without an attorney they are risking their financial and custody rights.

Here are some forms: Family Violence Forms


Thomas F. Tierney — your personal lawyer, serving Fayette and Coweta Counties: Peachtree City, Tyrone, Fayetteville, Sharpsburg, Senoia, and Newnan


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