A Georgia Divorce Attorney Answers Your Questions

We have the answers to many questions about child custody, separation of assets, division of shared debt, and other concerns shared by divorcing spouses. Visit our FAQ page to find out what you can expect when you separate from your spouse.

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  • Do Equitable Distribution Laws Always Apply in Georgia Divorces?

    Because Georgia is an equitable distribution state, couples must divide all marital assets in a fair and equitable way, regardless of who bought or “owns” it at the time of divorce. Read on to find out more about your divorce property rights in Georgia.

    Do equitable distribution laws always have an effect on property division in Georgia?

    Georgia equitable distribution laws will affect what property you receive, unless you and your spouse drafted and signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

    If you and your spouse did not draft a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, you will need to fill out a Separation Agreement, which will detail who receives what. Remember that you must divide the property equitably. This does not mean that you need to divide everything right down the middle, but it must be a fair division (e.g., you may be able to keep your business if you let your spouse keep the house).

    If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, you must take your case to court, where a judge will decide who receives what. 

    Property division can go smoothly or it can be quite a bumpy road. The property division attorneys at Ward Law Firm can help protect your property rights in either case.

    Contact us today at 770-383-1973 to schedule your REAL Case Analysis.

  • What's the Difference Between Marital Property and Separate Property?

    Because Georgia is an equitable distribution state, couples must divide all marital assets in a fair and equitable way, regardless of who bought or “owns” it at the time of divorce. Read on to find out more about your divorce property rights in Georgia.

    Marital Property vs. Separate Property 

    Marital property is anything that you or your spouse acquired during the marriage, including any wages from work, your marital home (even if you were the only one who bought it), vacation homes, family business, retirement accounts, pensions, collections (e.g., wine, art, etc.), vehicles, checking accounts, etc. This also includes debt, such as credit card debt or student loans, given you or your spouse acquired it during the marriage.

    Separate property includes any assets you owned before the marriage, as well as anything given solely to you (e.g., inheritance, gifts). For example, if you owned your house or vehicle prior to the marriage, it is likely that a court will consider that separate property.

    Contact us today at 770-383-1973 to schedule your REAL Case Analysis.

  • Are There Exceptions to What Is Considered Marital or Separate Property in a Divorce?

    Because Georgia is an equitable distribution state, couples must divide all marital assets in a fair and equitable way, regardless of who bought or “owns” it at the time of divorce. Read on to find out more about your divorce property rights in Georgia.

    Are there any exceptions to what a court usually considers marital or separate property? 

    There are quite a few exceptions to how a court will define property. For example, while something you inherit is often separate property, it will not be if the will named you and your spouse as inheritors.

    Gifts are not always safe from division either. While you would think gifts are your separate property, this is only true if the gifts are from a third party. If your spouse buys you a car, that property will likely be subject to division, especially if your spouse bought it with marital funds.

    In addition, even if you owned your house before marriage, if your spouse helped pay the mortgage, the courts may consider it marital property. The same applies to vehicles.

    A business can be difficult to classify as well. Even if you started your business before you were married, if you used marital assets to help keep the business afloat, it will likely be marital property.

    Division can become even more complicated than this if your assets commingle, or combine. This can occur if you both place money in an account, even if the money you contribute it is a gift or inheritance.

    We recommend you discuss your case with an attorney from the Ward Law Firm who can help trace the origin of the assets and figure out what is separate and what is marital.

    Contact us today at 770-383-1973 to schedule your REAL Case Analysis.

  • How will getting a divorce affect my Social Security disability benefits?

    Many things can affect your Social Security disability benefits, including your household income and even your marital status. Seeing as both of things change when a couple splits, getting a divorce can affect your Social Security disability benefits in a big way.

    How will divorce affect my Social Security Disability benefits?

    How a divorce will affect your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) income hinges on whose earning record the Social Security Administration (SSA) is basing your benefits on.

    In most cases, individuals worked for years before suffering a disability, and their SSDI benefits stem from their own earning record. If this is the case for you, your benefit amount will remain unchanged unless the courts garnish your income for child support or other payments.

    In other cases, however, the SSA bases SSDI benefits on someone else’s earning record or disability. Depending on whose record these benefits stem from, your payments may change.

    Spousal, or auxiliary, benefits allow you to draw SSDI based on a spouse who qualifies. If you are currently receiving this type of benefit, you will continue receiving the same amount each month as long as:

    • Your marriage lasted ten years or longer
    • You do not get remarried
    • You do not become eligible for a significantly larger Social Security benefit based on your own employment record and/or disability

    If your marriage lasted less than ten years, you may lose eligibility for this type of auxiliary payment.

    How can divorce affect Supplemental Security Income benefits?

    In many cases, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits increase after a divorce. The SSA bases these benefits on your income and other factors related to your financial situation, which means your benefits are likely to increase if:

    • Your divorce causes your household income to decrease
    • You split assets with your spouse in the divorce
    • Your spouse was contributing to your living expenses

    In some cases, though, your benefits might decrease. Since the SSA calculates your payment based on your income, any monies you receive in the divorce or after may count against you. This includes any assets, alimony, and child support.

    How can The Ward Law Firm help me?

    If you receive SSDI or SSI benefits, it pays to look into how your Gwinnett County divorce could affect your income before going forward with filing. Too many people receive an unwanted surprise when they call the SSA to tell it about their new single status.

    Because a divorce can impact your benefits in a number of ways, it is a good idea to discuss it with a Gwinnett County divorce lawyer before making any decisions on how to proceed.

    If you have questions about your SSDI or SSI benefits and how a divorce may affect your eligibility for payments, The Ward Law Firm can help. Call us today at 770-383-1973 and set up your REAL Case Analysis with attorney David Ward.

  • How Does David Ward View His Role in the Attorney-Client Relationship?

    Divorce Attorneys Atlanta

    How do I view my role in attorney-client relationship? As the attorney, my job is to be an adviser and what I usually tell my clients is all of the important decisions that have to get made in moving through to the divorce process, my clients are going to be the one that makes those decisions.

    Examples, decisions to settle a case, not settle, offer this, not offer that, any of those big overarching issues, those are always going to be decided by the client.

    My role is to advise my client about what I think is likely to happen under the circumstances, what the options are and then the client can choose what are those things that are going to be important to him.

    What risks they’re willing to take, which ones they are because that’s usually the trade-off, there’s risk, decision like that and those are things that I advise the client on but ultimately, those are the decision that the client wants.

    On the flip side, there are some decisions that I get to make, most of them have to do with dealing with procedural matters with the court, whether we’re going to give a party an extension of time to do a particular thing or something along those lines, those are decisions that I usually make, but again, those are more ministerial administrative things like that but the big overarching my role is as a councilor and an adviser.

    So, those things are really be going to the client.

  • When should a therapist testify in child custody or divorce cases?

    If your child custody or divorce case goes to trial, you and your spouse will likely call numerous witnesses to testify in court. Many couples wonder whether their therapist or child’s therapist should testify in child custody or divorce cases. The court will generally not require therapists to testify, but there are some cases when you may want to have a therapist testify. 

    Why is therapist testimony beneficial?

    Most courts consider therapists to be experts in their given field. In some child custody or divorce cases, a therapist’s opinion may be relevant to the issues in the case.

    For example, if a child has psychological issues and requires treatment, the child’s therapist’s opinion may be necessary to determine which parent will be able to better provide for the child. The therapist may also provide opinions as to who should have custody and whether the courts should limit visitation.

    Will the therapist give an opinion on custody or divorce decisions?

    Either side may call therapists to testify as a fact witness or expert witness depending on the circumstances.

    If called upon as a fact witness, the therapist must stick to the facts. He or she will only discuss his or her medical findings, patient’s condition and course of treatment. He or she will not express views on any issues regarding the case.

    However, therapists can also be expert witnesses. This means that you may call your therapist or your child’s therapist to give his or her opinion on custody or visitation.

    For example, if you want to petition for sole custody or limit visitation because you believe the other parent is harming your child emotionally, you may want a therapist to express his or her opinion on how the other parent treats your child.

    Some therapists may find that they are testifying as both a fact and expert witness. Preparation before the trial can help clarify what you expect the therapist to discuss.

    Should I have the therapist testify live or just use records?

    In most cases, attorneys can subpoena the therapist’s files and records. This is often easier than getting a therapist to take the stand. After getting an affidavit from the custodian of the records, you can submit the records as evidence.

    While therapists are not required to take the stand, it may be in your best interest to have your therapist testify in person.

    Therapists can offer input in cases where there is concern for the child’s mental well-being.

    If the other party claims that you may pose a threat to your child’s psychological well-being, you may bring in your own therapist to establish your stability and ability to parent effectively.

    Note: Expert witnesses may require compensation to appear in court.

    Will I have issues obtaining records?

    The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects people’s privacy with regards to their medical records. Releasing your own records is fine, but subpoenaing your ex’s records could violate HIPAA. A therapist can also release your child’s records without issue, unless the opposing party has sole legal custody of the child at the time.

    So, should I have a therapist testify in my divorce or child custody case?

    The reality is that no divorce or child custody case is the same. Each case will require a careful examination of the facts before determining whether a therapist should be questioned under oath in court. Getting what you want in a family law case oftentimes rests on expert testimony and other evidence you present in court.

    A Gwinnett County child custody lawyer can help make sure that you give yourself the best chance at success by presenting your strongest evidence. Attorney David Ward has spent years fighting for his clients in complex divorce and child custody cases. His experience and dedication can give you a leg up in the courtroom. To schedule your REAL Case Analysis today, call 770-383-1973.

  • What Makes David Ward Stand Out Among Other Attorneys?

    Divorce Attorneys in Atlanta

    Well, I think what makes me stand out from other attorneys that are handling divorce cases is my financial background. Unlike a lot of my colleagues, if you talk to a lot of attorneys, except probably the one in section being either tax attorneys or estate planning attorneys, most attorneys hate numbers and they went to law school so they didn’t have to deal with them, etc.

    My background is in finance. I have a degree in finance. I worked for years as a financial planner before going to law school. So, I understand numbers in a way that most of colleagues don’t. And when I’m trying to help somebody particularly business owners, it’s critical important to be able to understand the language and speak to the various types of experts and understand what it is that they are telling you in order to be able to provide the highest value that you can to your clients, so that’s probably the single biggest thing that makes me stand out from other divorce attorneys.

    What makes me or what I’m particularly good at is clients frequently come to me and go through and we do their real case analysis and I usually come up to the end and I ask, “What sort of questions do you have?” And the most common answer I get is, “You were great. I don’t have any other– you were really thorough and answered everything that I was concerned about.”

    So, I really pride myself on being able to provide the information that a client needs, whether that’s somebody who’s simply contemplating a divorce or somebody who’s actually engaged in the process.

  • What Sets The Ward Law Firm Apart from the Rest?

    Divorce Lawyers Atlanta

    What sets us apart from other law firms in addition to having particular skill set that most of our colleagues do not have when it comes to being able to handle the challenges faced by business owners, the other thing that really separates us from most other law firms is we make it a point to make sure that when you come to us, you work directly with your attorney the whole time.

    Now, we’ve found that some people you know are happier with you know or assistance of paralegals etc. and they develop a good relationships and more often than another more comfortable talking and speaking to them about certain types of things but we pride ourselves in making sure that if you have a legal question, you need to talk to your lawyer, you’re going to be able to talk to your lawyer.

    You know and obviously, we’re trial lawyers. We have our court schedules and things like that you know. And one of the things that we make sure of is that when we’re working on somebody’s case, we stay focused on that case. So if I’m working on your case, I’m not going to be taking phone calls that or going to distract me from what I’m doing to try and help you in advance your case along. But when people do call in, we do make sure that they get that opportunity to speak with their attorney, get their questions answered, and make sure that they’re answered thoroughly.

  • What Does Attorney David Ward Like the Most About His Area of Practice?

    Divorce Lawyers in Atlanta

    The kids, helping kids. I really enjoyed that that part of things. You know as an attorney, we’re really very lucky as attorneys. We have a chance to make a profound impact in the lives of everybody who comes to us and needing help with something. And you know, I love being able to do that for my clients and I especially love when I’m able to help protect children and make sure that they’re going be okay. That’s one of the things that I love the most.

    The thing that I love almost as much is being able to help other business owners. You know I don’t know that I have mentioned this before but this is the second iteration of the word law firm. I had started a practice in North Carolina that I had for years before I decided to move to Georgia and ultimately closed that one down in favor of coming down here to Georgia.

    And having ran my own law firm for the better part of the last 11 years, now I understand the love and the dedication of everything that goes into building a  business and being heaped to help a fellow entrepreneur protect that and make sure that that’s going to continue to flourish even after the divorce process is something I get tremendous satisfaction from.

  • Is an emotional affair adultery in court?

    Infidelity has ended a lot of marriages. When we think of adultery, though, we think of physical relationships. Gaining more recognition, though, is the emotional affair. While an emotional affair could wreck a marriage, the courts do not consider it a form of adultery, a potentially important point if pursuing a divorce.

    Physical vs. Emotional Affairs

    What separates physical affairs from emotional affairs is physical contact. Physical affairs require an in-person meeting and sexual contact.

    Emotional affairs involve romantic, emotional attachments formed outside of the marriage, no physical intimacy required. Texting, talking on the phone and meeting for lunch could all be part of an emotional affair. Emotional affairs can lead to physical affairs over time, but not all do.

    How Georgia Courts View Adultery

    Georgia courts define adultery as sexual congress with someone other than your spouse while married. While emotional affairs can be just as damaging to the marriage as physical affairs, they do not constitute adultery in divorce court.

    It is not enough for your spouse to have formed an emotional connection with another person. They must have been involved with that person in a physical, sexual way in order to file for divorce on the grounds of adultery.

    So if you cannot prove the physical affair took place, then you will be unable to file for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Testimony from one spouse is not enough to prove adultery. You will need to present evidence in the form of:

    • Photos
    • Video or audio recordings
    • Phone records
    • Bank statements
    • Credit card statements
    • Witness testimony

    You may not be able to prove that sexual contact occurred, but proving that your spouse had the opportunity and inclination to physically cheat on you may be enough to prove adultery.

    The Effects of Adultery on Divorce

    If one spouse was physically unfaithful to the other during the marriage, it might affect the terms of divorce. For example, infidelity may prevent the spouse who was unfaithful to the other from receiving alimony. See our previous blog on how adultery may affect the divorce for more information.

    While emotional affairs are not adultery as far as the courts are concerned, any form of cheating can lead to divorce. Even if you are not filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery, there are still a lot of legal processes to follow, evidence to compile, and divorce negotiations to manage. Call The Ward Law Firm at 770-383-1973 to set up a REAL Case Analysis where you can discuss your divorce case.