Couple discussing with gavel on the table

Frequently Asked Family Law Questions

At A.B. Olmos & Associates, P.C. we understand that any legal situation comes with a long list of questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve heard with brief answers meant to provide more insight into family law.

For more detailed information based on your individual situation, you can schedule a consultation at our Atlanta office by calling 678-683-8500.

General Divorce Questions

I don’t want a divorce. Can I stop it?

If your spouse filed for divorce, it’s likely you cannot stop the case. However, if you and your spouse are not in a bona fide separation, you may move to dismiss the action.

My spouse and I were married in another state (or country). We must file for divorce where we were married, right?

No. If you and your spouse have established your marital residence in Georgia and meet the threshold for Georgia to exercise jurisdiction, then Georgia will be the correct place for the divorce.

How long will my divorce case take?

It depends. If you are in a divorce case with contested issues—such as the division of property, parenting issues or child support amount—your case will likely take longer than an uncontested divorce. The best way to determine how long your case may take is to schedule a consultation with a family law attorney who can help assess your situation and provide you with guidance through the divorce process. If you are looking for ways to speed up the process, mediation and arbitration are possible alternative dispute resolution options that may bring you closer to a resolution faster.

Should I move out of my house?

Georgia law generally states that all property acquired during the marriage is subject to equitable division. If your physical, mental, and emotional well-being are at risk, and you do not meet the criteria for a family violence protective order, then you should move. If this is not the case, it’s recommended you do not move out of your marital home before the divorce is finalized.

Can I change the locks on the house?

Unless you have an order granting you exclusive use of the house, your spouse may enter the house. Changing the locks to the house before the court order gives you exclusive use of the house will not keep your spouse out of the house.

How much will my case cost?

By far, this is the most frequently asked question. Divorce can be costly and Georgia law states that a lawyer may not work off of a contingency fee in domestic relations matters. There is no way to know the issues that will arise or the time required to bring your case to finality. When we initially meet, we assess the case based on your representation of the facts. You pay your retainer as initially assessed.

As your case progresses, your retainer will likely exhaust. We then reassess the case and provide an estimate of the phases moving toward finality. Be mindful that your attorney will be paid from the retainer you paid. Your case may require your attorney to obtain additional evidence, review documents, evaluate the application of case law and code sections, and meet with you to explain how the case facts, evidence and legal concepts interrelate. The work required will be billed against your retainer. Once you have exhausted your retainer, it must be replenished to move forward with the litigation of your claim.

Speak to the attorneys at A.B. Olmos & Associates, P.C. for advice on divorce regarding your specific economic circumstances.

Will I be required to pay alimony?

It’s possible. Alimony is a fact-specific issue based upon a party’s need and the other party’s ability to pay in addition to other factors, such as the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties, and so on.

What is the least expensive divorce?

If you and your spouse agree to the division of assets and debts, custody of your children, parenting time, child support, and all other issues in your case, your divorce is uncontested. An uncontested divorce can reduce the legal fees associated with your divorce. If you do not agree on all points specific to the dissolution of your marriage, you have a contested divorce, which is often lengthier and more expensive.

Must I disclose I hold a winning lottery ticket?

Yes. With the division of marital assets, the parties must disclose any interest in an asset. The court will determine if the asset is marital and how to divide it between the parties. If you fail to disclose an asset (or interest therein), there may be a basis for future litigation.

Why should I hire a lawyer instead of a notary to file my divorce?

Lawyers are trained to identify all issues required in your divorce paperwork. Our experienced divorce attorneys argue on your behalf, negotiate on your behalf, and know the rules of evidence and legal requirements. Notaries have no mandatory legal training, no supervisory entity, and cannot advocate for you in court. There is no recourse if a notary provides you with incorrect legal information or completes your paperwork incorrectly. It is not advisable to obtain legal advice from non-lawyers.

Can I get a divorce if I do not know the whereabouts of my spouse?

Yes. If you can provide the judge with sufficient evidence that a diligent search for your spouse was conducted, the court may allow you to proceed with a divorce where you serve your spouse via publication.

General Custody, Child Support, Paternity and Legitimation Questions

Are mothers more likely to be awarded custody?

Under Georgia law, there is no preference for one parent over the other. The court will listen to the evidence and determine custody based on the best interest of the child.

How is child custody determined?

In looking at the best interest of the child, the court will pay attention to: the child’s emotional ties to parents and siblings, the parent’s ability to provide a stable environment, the parent’s knowledge of the child’s needs, the mental and physical health of each parent, the parent’s role as caretaker of the child, the parent’s employment schedule, and the parent’s ability to facilitate and encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent. There may be additional considerations to determine child custody in your case.

What is the difference between legal and physical custody?

Physical custody refers to where the child will live and who will act as caretaker on a daily basis. Legal custody refers to who has the authority to make decisions related to the child.

What is the most common custody arrangement?

The court generally prefers arrangements that allow both parents to maintain an active role in the child’s life. While the solution that works best for your family will depend on your individual situation.

I have an approved child support order, but I’m not receiving any support. What can I do?

Visitation rights are not dependent on child support, so parenting time or visitation cannot be withheld. Remedies available to enforce payment from the non-custodial parent can include automatic income withholding, license suspension, filing a contempt action or additional means.

Do I have to establish both paternity and legitimation?

Paternity legally identifies the biological father of the child and acts as an obligation of financial support. The establishment of paternity does not entitle the father to custody, visitation, or rights of inheritance to or from the child. Those legal rights are established when the biological father files his action to legitimate the child.

I never married the mother of my child. I pay child support, but she does not allow me to see my child. Do I have any rights?

If you did not seek and obtain an order of legitimation with an attendant parenting plan, the mother of your child is entitled to custody and she exercises all parental power over the child.

You can establish your rights to your child in a legitimation action. Be prepared to show that you have financially supported your child and have maintained a relationship with your child. Our attorneys will discuss additional factors and advise you on how to best proceed with your case.

Further Questions

Our experienced team is here to answer your family law questions on paternity, divorce, child support and custody cases. Find us in the Brookhaven neighborhood of Atlanta and schedule a consultation by calling 678-683-8500 or filling out our online contact form. We look forward to helping you navigate the legal process with your case.