Contested Divorce

Compassionate Representation. Aggressive Advocacy. Effective Results.

The legal dissolution of a marriage — divorce — is a multifaceted proceeding because of the number of issues that must or may be resolved.  A divorce always involves property division and debt allocation between the spouses but may also involve alimony (i.e., spousal support payments) and any number of other issues relevant to the dissolution of the marriage, such as attorneys’ fees, tax issues, and health insurance matters.  Where children are born of the marriage, a divorce must also include child custody, visitation, and child support determinations.  For some divorcing spouses, custody and parenting rights may trigger a dispute between spouses.  High asset or high net worth marriages also present challenges to divorcing spouses that may lead to disputes regarding division of marital property.

In a contested divorce, the parties cannot agree on how all or some of these issues related to a divorce will be resolved and must use the procedures of the judicial system to help them resolve those issues (i.e., the parties must litigate the divorce).  Georgia’s laws provide for fact-finding mechanisms that may be employed by knowledgeable counsel to collect and build evidence in a divorce case.  Litigation of a contested divorce may also require involvement of a mediator, court, or a jury to resolve disputed issues.  Experienced and knowledgeable counsel is necessary to navigate the complex judicial system.

The attorneys at Alford & Burkhart provide their divorce clients guidance and advocacy when a contested divorce requires use of the judicial system.  Based upon their experience, knowledge, and understanding of the law, our attorneys use a variety of techniques to help their clients resolve contested divorces.  Oftentimes strategic negotiations and attendance of a mediation prior to a trial can result in a resolution between the parties.  However, other times aggressive representation through litigation and trial is necessary to advocate for and protect our client’s interests in a contested divorce.  Our attorneys’ exceptional knowledge and understanding of the legal tools and techniques for resolving divorces helps us form a unique strategy for each client’s case that fits the particular interests of the client, the complexity of the case, and level of opposition to particular issues related to the divorce.

Issues Determined By Divorce:

Division of Marital Property

Georgia law gives courts or juries authority to award a spouse both real and personal property held in the name of the other spouse, as alimony or as an equitable division of property.  Only the real and personal property and assets acquired by the parties during the marriage are subject to equitable property division.  A property interest brought to the marriage by one of the marital partners is a non-marital asset and it is not subject to equitable division, since it was not generated by the marriage.  Gifts and inheritance may also be excluded from property division even if received during the marriage.

Georgia law does not require that marital property is split equally or “50/50.”  Instead, Georgia law requires a “fair” division of property.  “Fairness” is based upon a myriad of factors.

Alimony

“Alimony” a.k.a. “Spousal Support” may be awarded by a court or jury on a temporary or permanent basis.   The purpose of alimony is often to allow a spouse with less income-earning potential to obtain an education or develop skills, find adequate employment, and/or to continue to enjoy the quality of life enjoyed during the marriage.  Alimony is to be awarded to either spouse in accordance with the needs of the spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay.  Georgia law requires that the principles of liability for alimony apply equally to women as well as to men.  However, alimony is not a right, and the law does not require that alimony is awarded in a divorce.

Child Custody and Visitation

The fundamental concern of Georgia’s legal system in child custody is “what is in the best interest of the minor child.”

There are two aspects to child custody: Legal Custody and Physical Custody.

Developing a custody plan, often referred to as a “Parenting Plan,” can be a challenge for separated or divorcing parents.  Parents naturally have their own parental interests in mind and may also have potentially differing definitions of their child’s best interest.  Parenting Plans demand careful consideration of the needs of a child balanced with the practicalities of parenting.

Child Support

Divorcing parents are obligated both to their child and to society to support their child.  Georgia law mandates the use of a Child Support Worksheet in determining the financial, child support obligations of parents, and divorcing parents must submit Child Support Worksheets to the court in divorces with children.  Child support is calculated based upon parents’ gross monthly income, and adjustments and deviations for other expenses of the child paid by parents.

Other Issues

Issues related to health insurance, taxes, family violence, and attorneys’ fees may also be determined in a divorce action.

The Contested Divorce Process

When divorcing spouses cannot agree upon one or more of the issues that must be determined through the divorce (i.e., the divorce is contested), the parties must use the procedures set out by law and available through Georgia’s court system to resolve their disputes.  This procedure — called litigation — consists of determining the issues, collecting information and evidence, negotiating or mediating the issues, and ultimately may include a trial to have a judge or jury determine a resolution.

It is paramount to have knowledgeable counsel advise you and navigate your divorce case through litigation.

Our Approach

Even in the most contentious of divorces, some issues may be resolved by agreement.  We work with our divorce clients to determine a priority of issues, and then work to narrow the issues of the divorce through aggressive litigation and  sensible negotiations.  Ultimately, we encourage our clients to choose their battles.  Resources are better spent on the most important issues in a divorce.  Throughout the case, we communicate with our clients about the costs/benefits of litigation to ensure we are using our resources most efficiently.

However, there are cases where, to protect our client’s bests interests, we must aggressively litigate the case to the very end — trial.  Our experienced attorneys know how to present your case before a judge or jury to obtain a favorable judgment.

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