Family Law


No court shall grant a divorce to any person who has not been a bona fide resident of this state for six months before the filing of the petition for divorce, provided that any person who has been a resident of any United States army post or military reservation within this state for one year next preceding the filing of the petition may bring an action for divorce in any county adjacent to the United States army post or military reservation; and provided, further, that a nonresident of this state may file a petition for divorce, in the county of residence of the respondent, against any person who has been a resident of this state and of the county in which the action is brought for a period of six months prior to the filing of the petition. O.C.G.A. 19-5-2

A divorce can often times feel like a death. It can also feel like freedom for others. Whatever emotion you may be experiencing at this time in your life, The Barnette Law Firm has the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to effectively represent you from the beginning of the matter to the final order and decree. It is never advisable to tackle a divorce without a competent, licensed attorney. As divorce attorneys, we work with other professionals like forensic accountants to ensure that your marital assets are fairly distributed. More importantly, for divorces involving minor children there are safeguards which should be implemented from the outset to ensure the children’s needs are protected.

No divorce is the same. Divorces are fact driven and have the capacity to be as simple or as complex as the couple desires or their lifestyle dictates. A simple divorce is also known as an uncontested divorce. These type of divorces typically do not involve children of the marriage and/or have little to no marital assets. An uncontested divorce can be granted after 31 days of filing the petition. Contested divorces typically include children of the marriage and may or may not assert a particular ground for divorce. In Georgia, there are 13 grounds for authorizing a court to grant a divorce. Most people, however, file a no fault divorce. A no fault divorce simply means the relationship is irretrievably broken.

Residency requirements for filing a divorce in Georgia:

  • resident of Georgia for 6 months
  • if military service member, must be resident for one year
  • nonresidentscan file for divorce but opposing party must have been a resident of Georgia and the county where action is filed for at least 6 months

If you satisfy the residency requirements and are in immediate need of an experienced divorce attorney, we are here for you! In addition, we offer unbundled legal services for individuals who need legal advice and help with document preparation only. We recommend unbundled legal services for uncontested divorces only.

Legitimation and Paternity Cases

It is the joint and several duty of each parent of a child born out of wedlock to provide for the maintenance, protection, and education of the child until the child reaches the age of 18 or becomes emancipated, except to the extent that the duty of one parent is otherwise or further defined by court order. O.C.G.A. 19-7-24

Legitimation is an opportunity to have the court recognize the bond dads share with their children while a paternity action eliminates any concern an individual may have concerning the relationship of consanguinity (blood relationship) with a minor child. Although a legitimation action may only be initiated by an unmarried male, both legitimation and paternity actions ultimately aim to establish a parent-child relationship. Once legitimation is established, a dad is able to seek some form of visitation, parenting time, or custody if it is in the best interest of the children. An order of the court establishing that a child is the legitimate child of the father also permits both the child and the parent to inherit from each other in the event either of them dies without a Will.

A petition for paternity may be initiated by 1)the child him or herself, 2) the mother of the child, 3) any relative in whose care the child has been placed, 4) Department of Human Services, and 5) one is alleged to be the father. A petition for paternity (commonly known as an DNA case), however, merely establishes that a blood relationship exists between the parent and child and such individual (mother or father) can be ordered to pay child support without any visitation or custodial rights attaching for the father! There are other methods for establishing paternity including signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity prior to the mother and child being discharged from the hospital. Your signature is not an ornament! Such acknowledgment establishes the duty to provide for the minor child. Paternity actions may be initiated prior to the birth of a child also. The genetic tests necessary for determining a blood relationship cannot be administered, however, until after the child is born. These tests are performed by a licensed physician or immunologist.

If you are in need of an experienced attorney for a legitimation or paternity action, we are here to help you. Whether you want to hire us from the filing of the case to the disposition of the case, we will be there for you. If not, we offer unbundled legal services where we will prepare your legal documents for you which allows you to litigate the case in a cost-effective manner.

Child Custody

In all cases in which the custody of any child is at issue between the parents, there shall be no prima-facie right to the custody of the child in the father or mother. O.C.G.A. 19-9-3

Custody decisions in Georgia are decided by the judge when parties are unable to agree. It is never advisable for parties to place such a vital and precious decision in the hands of a judge who would much rather not issue an order on delicate and personal matters. Whenever you place custody decisions in the judges’ hands, other professionals are essential throughout the process including guardians ad litem, child psychologists, and school social workers. These professionals are expected to testify truthfully regarding any observations they may have made while in your child’s presence or the validity of reports they have written concerning your child. Whether the court makes the child custody decision or you and the other parent reach an agreement concerning custody, obviously, you must do what is in the child’s best interest. So does the court. In making its custody determination, the judge may consider the following:

  • The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child
  • The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and his or her siblings, half siblings, and step siblings and the residence of such other children
  • The capacity and disposition of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child
  • Each parent’s knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child’s needs
  • The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, day-to-day needs, and other necessary basic care, with consideration made for the potential payment of child support by the other parent
  • The home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child rather than superficial or material factors
  • The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity
  • The stability of the family unit of each of the parents and the presence or absence of each parent’s support systems within the community to benefit the child
  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • Each parent’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the child’s educational, social, and extracurricular activities
  • Each parent’s employment schedule and the related flexibility or limitations, if any, of a parent to care for the child
  • The home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of the child
  • Each parent’s past performance and relative abilities for future performance of parenting responsibilities
  • The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child
  • Any recommendation by a court appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem
  • Any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse or criminal history of either parent; and
  • Any evidence of substance abuse by either parent

The Barnette Law Firm, LLC is equipped with the knowledge and expertise to advocate on your behalf. For child custody matters concerning two or more states, we are well versed in the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. There are specific issues of jurisdiction that must be addressed expeditiously when handling these type of cases. For initial child custody proceedings, we are able to help you effectively and efficiently by preparing out- of- state witnesses for any hearing or trial. For modification of child custody orders entered in another state, we have experience and are substantially familiar with the intricacies associated with the registration, enforcement, and contesting of an out-of-state order brought before the Georgia courts. Under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects on International Child Abduction or Hague Abduction Convention, we represent parents with the safe return of their children following an abduction to a foreign nation by the other parent. As skilled family law attorneys, we ensure that both the United States and the foreign nation have ratified and are signatories to the treaty under which we seek the safe return of your child. We also seek the assistance of local counsel in the foreign nation in an effort to comply with their specific laws.

Child Support

Gross income of each parent shall be determined in the process of setting the presumptive amount of child support and shall include all income from any source, before deductions for taxes and other deductions such as preexisting orders for child support and credits for other qualified children, whether earned or unearned O.C.G.A. 19-6-15

Who is responsible for paying child support? In the state of Georgia, both parents are responsible for the financial support of the child or children. A duty of child support is presumed owed when parents divorce, legally separate but still remain married (known as separate maintenance in Georgia), an unwed male signs a child’s birth certificate or a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, and when a genetic test determines 97% probability of parentage.

When does the obligation to pay child support begins? The obligation begins when the child is conceived. In Georgia, “the maximum amount of [child] support which the court may impose on the father of an unborn child… shall be the amount of direct medical and pregnancy related expenses of the mother of the unborn child.” O.C.G.A. 19-6-15

From what types of sources can the court determine is income for you and the other parent? The list is very long and the court’s authority to reach these sources of income is vast. Most people think of income being derived from one or two sources like a salary from an employer or self-employment but, in Georgia income can be from any source whether you earned the money or not! Why is there such a liberal view on income in Georgia? The purpose is to safeguard the children which includes being able to adequately care and provide for them. Take a look at the extensive list from which Georgia derives income in child support cases.

  • Salaries
  • Commissions, fees, and tips
  • Income from self-employment
  • Bonuses
  • Overtime payments
  • Severance pay
  • Recurring income from pensions or retirement plans including, but not limited to, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Railroad Retirement Board, Keoghs, and individual retirement accounts
  • Interest income
  • Dividend income
  • Trust income
  • Income from annuities
  • Capital gains
  • Disability or retirement benefits that are received from the Social Security Administration
  • Disability benefits that are received pursuant to the federal Veterans’ Benefits Act
  • Workers’ compensation benefits, whether temporary or permanent
  • Unemployment insurance benefits
  • Judgments recovered for personal injuries and awards from other civil actions
  • Gifts that consist of cash or other liquid instruments, or which can be converted to cash
  • Prizes
  • Lottery winnings
  • Alimony or maintenance received from persons other than parties to the proceeding before the court
  • Assets which are used for the support of the family
  • Other income

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