This area of the law encompasses many different types of cases handled by our firm throughout Northeast Georgia. Bill Hicks heads our family law practice, and has represented clients in these areas for over nearly 30 years, and is well respected by both the Court’s and his peers in the field. While family law matters can be contentious, Bill seeks to balance aggressive representation with skillful negotiation in the following matters:
The ending of a marriage can be a very troubled time for a client to go through. Many cases involve contested issues of custody, property division, spousal and child support, or division of marital debt. Others are uncontested where all parties have agreed on issues and just need help with the procedural elements of the case and a swift and final resolution. Regardless of they type of matter, we represent clients from the beginning to the end of the case with compassion and skill. Through the years, we have endured every situation imaginable on behalf of our clients, and bring the experience and knowledge to fight for our clients to protect their and their children’s interests, both emotional and financial.
Modification of Custody:
Whether a custody cases involve the modification of an existing order, or the establishment of custodial rights, these can be very emotional cases for all parties. Particular circumstances of each case dictate the outcome, and presentation of relevant facts is a key factor determining that outcome. To modify and existing order, the side seeking the modification must show some change in circumstances. The circumstances may involve dangerous situations affecting the welfare of a child, which warrant a change in physical custody, to matters concerning logistical modifications to visitation terms.
The amount of support awarded to a physical custodian of a child is determined by State guidelines. The income of both parties determines the amount necessary for the child’s support, and the percentage of that total income of the party paying support determines the amount of support to be paid to the other party. However, there are many factors which could be used to deviate from these amounts, including the provision of insurance, extended visitation, or alternative arrangements for daycare and medical costs.
Payment if child support is considered a right of the child, and failure to do so can result in penalties ranging from increased payment for arrears to incarceration for contempt.
The father of a child born out of wedlock initially has no legal rights to visitation or custody of his child. In order to establish these rights, a petition for legitimation should be filed to do so. Paying child support or being on the birth certificate does not in and of itself give the father any legal rights concerning a child. Legitimation petitions can be contested by a child’s mother, and our firm has extensive experience handling both sides of these matters.
The ability of a party to seek spousal support from another is based on the need of the party seeking support and the ability of the other to pay. These financial issues require proof, and can involve extensive negotiation of the financial circumstances of each party. Adultery or abandonment of a marriage can be a defense to an alimony claim. Additionally, certain actions by a party who is receiving alimony can cause the alimony award to cease, even if such actions take place years later.
Family law decrees are enforceable by the filing of an action for contempt. While the vast majority of contempt cases involve the failure to pay child support, contempt can also be an effective vehicle for ensuring that financial or logistical terms of a court order are abided by. Such actions seek to find a party in “contempt of court” for not following the Court’s instructions in an order, and punishment can range from incarceration to a party being ordered to comply within a certain amount of time to avoid incarceration. On the other hand, contempt actions are defensible if a party can prove that they have complied with an order, or the actions of the filing party have prevented them from being able to do so.
The name of an adult or child can be changed legally by petition filed in the Superior Court. In the event that a child’s name is being changed at the request of one parent, proper notice must be given to the other parent, who had an opportunity to object to the change. The name change alone does not affect the legal rights of either parent, as would an adoption, but is often used to give the child the name of an unlegitimated father or to change a name to the name of the custodial mother. Adult name changes are routine matters often used to restore a maiden name, correct the legal spelling of a name, or to change a name to that used by the adult but which is not their legal name.
Grandparent/Third Party visitation or custody:
At times it is necessary for a grandparent, relative, or other third party to take over custody of a minor child, or to seek visitation with a child whose parent has been unwilling to allow contact. As these cases seek to overrule the paramount decision making of a parent, there are very technical requirements which must be met in order for a grandparent or other party to gain custodial or visitation rights.
We recommend that anyone considering or being faced with any of the issues discussed herein call our office for a free consultation to discuss these very important matters with us. During a consultation, you will be given unbiased advice and recommendations specific to your circumstances, including options and costs.