April 20, 2012

Using a Parenting Coordinator in a Georgia Divorce

Although you and your spouse are ending your marriage, if you have children together then you will always have a relationship--you will always be parents. It is important to remember that the children must always be the focus of the divorce, and the goal should be to minimize the impact of the divorce on your children. However, divorcing parents often disagree about parenting issues like discipline, religion, education or household responsibilities. Disagreement about parenting issues can further escalate the tension in your relationship with your spouse and can be detrimental to your children. In situations in Georgia where a majority of the conflicts during the divorce are related to the children and differences in parenting style and philosophy, a parenting coordinator can be an invaluable resource.

A parenting coordinator is a psychologist or mental health professional who can help you and your spouse discuss parenting issues, determine what an appropriate parenting schedule will be for your time with the children, and help you come to a consensus about how you will be effective co-parents in the future. He or she can help resolve parenting issues that arise during your divorce, and can help you and your partner work together to reduce your conflicts related to the children. The parenting coordinator typically does not attempt to resolve marital issues, but assists with disagreements related to parenting only.

A parenting coordinator is not a guardian ad litem, who is a representative of the Court appointed to determine the best interests of the children, but one who works directly with the parents to attempt to resolve parenting issues outside of Court. With the Court or the parties' consent, he or she may make decisions for the parties on parenting or child-rearing issues, but parenting coordinators do not give legal advice. The value of the parenting coordinator is in resolving issues outside the courtroom, and can help you set establish a working relationship that allows you and your former spouse to be effective co-parents not only until the end of the divorce, but throughout your children's lives.

If you have questions about a parenting coordinator, or if you are a parent with concerns about how to work with your spouse during the pendency of your divorce, contact Meriwether and Tharp.

By Elizabeth Doak, Associate, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC

December 12, 2008

Domestic Violence Resources in Georgia

When someone mentions the words “Domestic Violence”, some people may associate these words with physical abuse. Domestic violence, however, takes many shapes and forms and a person does not need to be physically abused to experience domestic violence. If your spouse verbally abuses you or he or she controls every facet of your life and he or she will not allow you to make any decisions on your own, then you may be a victim of domestic violence. Physical, verbal and mental abuse, however, are not the only forms of domestic violence. If you have been raped or have been stalked by another individual, you are also a victim of domestic violence. According to the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence website, if your spouse, threatens you, controls you, abuses you, or you fear for you or your children’s safety, then you may be a victim of domestic violence.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you have several options available to you. According to O.C.G.A. § 19-3-3, you can file a Petition seeking relief against family violence with the Court. If you need immediate assistance, however, then you can contact one of the family violence shelters in your area. You can find a list of these shelters on the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s website or here for a list of shelters.

Due to Georgia Law, these websites are very limited on the information that they provide for these shelters so you will only find a telephone number or a Post Office Box. According to O.C.G.A. § 19-13-23, it is a misdemeanor to provide the address of a family violence shelter unless a client gives the address to his or her attorney or the family violence authorizes the address to be published.

December 7, 2008

Georgia Divorce Law Research

Although we strongly recommend seeking the advise of a Georgia divorce lawyer when you are wanting to learn more about certain legal situations you are facing in a divorce, we understand that some people want to learn as much as they can online. To help with your internet searches we wanted to provide you with some free resources for help researching the law in Georgia:

1. Laws that are passed in Georgia are statutes and become part of the 'Official Code of Georgia'. You will sometimes see references to Georgia law as the "OCGA". Lexis® currently allows for free access to Georgia's code. You can find Georgia Divorce Law by looking under Title 19.

2. After a law is passed, there often arises disagreements regarding the meaning of certain phrases within a law. These disagreements eventually go to court. In some cases, rulings of trial courts regarding the meanings of a statutes are challenged and either the Georgia Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of Georgia makes a ruling regarding their interpretation of the meaning and application of various statutory language. While some of the most recent opinions of these courts can be found on their web sites, you may find it easier to search for Georgia divorce case law from LexisOne®. Please note this web site limit searchs to the last ten years of Georgia case law.

One final warning,the exact meaning of certain phrases in statutes and case law is often in dispute by even the best divorce lawyers if Georgia. While it is always a good idea to be as informed as possible, do not overlook the importance in seeking the advise of a Georgia divorce attorney prior to reaching any final conclusions or acting on the information you find in these sources.

December 1, 2008

Atlanta Divorce Support Groups

The divorce process is difficult for all parties involved. When someone is going through a divorce, he or she may feel that no one understands what they are going through emotionally. A divorce can be devastating on many different levels. Not only is someone losing their spouse and his or her best friend, but in most cases, he or she is losing his or her extended family and the lifestyle to which he or she has become accustomed. One of the spouses may feel like their entire world is falling apart and he or she has no one with whom they can share their feelings or to whom they can vent their anger. In some cases, one of the spouses may go to a counselor or therapist

When you are going through a divorce, who do you speak with when you feel that you have nowhere else to turn? The answer is quite simple. You need the support of both men and women who are experiencing the same emotions and feelings as you are. There are numerous divorce support groups throughout Atlanta. Most of these support groups are sponsored by an organization called DivorceCare and the groups are held at churches throughout Atlanta. Their meetings are two-fold. The first half, which lasts between 30 and 40 minutes, is a video seminar featuring top experts in the field, which discuss various issues and topics on divorce. The second half is a group meeting where they discuss both the video and what is happening in the lives of the group members. In addition, some of the DivorceCare locations also offer additional groups during the holidays since it can be an especially difficult period for someone going through a divorce.

November 20, 2008

Atlanta Parenting Seminar Information

Under Georgia law, both parties in a divorce are required to attend a parenting seminar in Georgia if the parties have children under the age of 18 due to the volatile nature of divorce and the impact it has on children. See Uniform Superior Court Rule 24.8. The parties are not required to attend the seminar together - they can take it at separate locations and on different dates. Even though the content of the parenting seminar is basically the same throughout the state, each county manages its own parenting seminar program. Generally, the topics addressed are how to reduce stress for children during a divorce, visitation recommendations, financial obligations, conflict management, the changing parental roles during a divorce, stress indicators for children, and the needs and age appropriate expectations of children going through a divorce.

You can find more information for parenting seminars in Metropolitan Atlanta counties from our blog at:

Please note that there are only a limited number of seminars offered each month so it is important to review the schedule and try to attend the next available seminar. If you cannot attend the parenting seminar for the county in which your divorce is filed, most counties allow you to take the seminar in any other county in the State of Georgia to receive credit. If you take the seminar in another county, however, you will need to bring the civil action file number assigned to your case with you.

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