Areas of Practice

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Areas of Practice

Family Law

family law

The term Family Law encompasses a vast area of legal issues and situations that usually generate very emotionally charged reactions from all that are involved or affected.  These situations include divorce, child custody, support and visitation, legitimation and paternity, grandparents’ rights, and prenuptials and postnuptials to name a few.  L. A. Johnson & Associates is here to help you with your family crises with compassion and competence; we will be by your side from start to finish.

Areas of Family Law Practice:

Divorce: Contested / Uncontested
Child Support / Child Custody / Visitation
Alimony / Spousal Support
Modification
Legitimation / Paternity
Grandparents’ Rights
Prenuptials / Postnuptials
Domestic Partnership Issues

Divorce: Contested / Uncontested

Divorce is one of the most emotionally charged events that someone can experience.  Emotions can range from denial, anger, hurt, sadness... and may occur all at the same time. Divorce can leave you at your most raw and vulnerable.  It can leave you confused and fearful.  Our experienced and most caring staff is here to help walk you through this difficult situation.

divorceIn uncontested divorce, both parties agree how to divide their assets and debts.  The advantage is mostly cost which is usually a flat fee.  Generally there are no children involved; however, if both parties are able to agree on issues involving the children including but not limited to support, visitation, custody, schools, medical care, and holidays, then an uncontested divorce is possible.  Obviously, a contested divorce is where the parties cannot agree or have shut down the lines of communication.  There is constant arguing or disagreements about children, marital assets and debts...  Pets may be a concern.  This type of divorce can be costly.  L.A. Johnson and Associates, LLC will work aggressively and competently to get you the quickest and best result possible: keeping costs at a reasonibly feasible amount.

Regardless of the route one decides to take, legal representation is strongly advised.  Emotionally charged and confused individuals risk making bad settlement agreements.  If there are children involved, there needs to be an outsider to help keep the focus on what is in the best interest of the child or children involved.  L.A. Johnson and Associates, LLC is here to help.

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Child Support / Child Custody / Visitation

divorceCustody may be awarded to either parent based on the best interest of the child or children and what will best promote their welfare and happiness. If the child has reached the age of 14 years, they have the right to select the parent with whom he or she desires to live. The child’s selection shall be controlling, unless the selected parent is deemed unfit to have custody. In all cases in which the child has reached the age of at least 11 but not 14 years, the court shall consider the desires, if any, and educational needs of the child in determining which parent shall have custody.  The parents may elect to have a jury trial to determine the divorce outcome; however, issues related to the child or children is left to the sole discretion of the Judge.

As for child support, Georgia courts use an income-shares model to determine the amount and may adjust child support based on various special circumstances including medical needs, educational needs, the terms of the custody agreement, and other outside household obligations. L.A. Johnson and Associates, LLC will help you obtain the most fair and reasonable outcome.

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Alimony  / Spousal Support

Alimony, maintenance or spousal support is court-ordered support paid by one spouse to another after they are separated. A court will generally consider such factors as the length of the marriage, financial resources, length of time necessary for either party to acquire adequate education and training to enable him/her to find employment to sustain themselves, the contribution of each party to the marriage and the earning capacity of the parties.  In addition, a court may order temporary alimony while the divorce is pending.  Most alimony is ordered for a specific length of time but can be until the spouse dies or remarries. Let L.A. Johnson and Associates, LLC represent your interests.

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Modification

Modification encompasses modifying child custody, child support and/or visitation.  As a general rule, the court will not modify an existing order unless the parent proposing the modification can show changed circumstances.  Circumstances may include job loss, medical situations and changed needs of the child or children.  This modification can be temporary or permanent based upon the situation presented.

L.A. Johnson and Associates, LLC understands that such changes may occur, requiring an amendment to a previous order.  We will work diligently to represent your interest keeping in mind the best interest for the child or children involved.

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Legitimation / Paternity

Legitimation is the only way, other than by marrying the mother, that the father may establish legal rights to his child if born in the State of Georgia. Only the father of a child may file a petition seeking to legitimate his child; which is important not only because it gives the father parental rights but gives the child a right to receive benefits such as social security and inheritance. If you believe you are the rightful father of a child and you seek to claim your right, L.A. Johnson and Associates, LLC is here to help.  If you intend to seek custody of the child in question, legitimation must be completed first.

Paternity is usually, but not always, sought by the mother of the child so as to force the father to share in the support for her child. However, paternity can be requested by the father if he believes the child is not his.  Problems that can arise are numerous and complicated.  If you as the father have already been providing support for a child that turns out not to be yours, it becomes difficult to reverse such a precedent, however, discussing it with a lawyer may provide you with options.  One thing for sure is that doing nothing will not help your cause.

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Grandparents’ Rights

The question of Grandparents’ rights comes up in a number of different ways such as divorce of the childs parents, death of a parent, or the child has been living with the grandparents and now the parent(s) want him or her back.  Whatever the case may be, grandparents do have rights in Georgia.  Grandparents can petition the court for visitation rights and even custody if they feel the children will be harmed in some way if they stay with the parents.

Generally if a grandparent petitions for custody, they must show that (1) allowing the natural parents to retain custody would harm the child and (2) granting custody to the grandparent would promote the health, welfare and happiness of the child. This requirement can be met in a number of ways, and is often seen in cases where there is abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, or neglect.

Likewise, the court will look at (1) whether the child will be harmed if grandparent visitation rights are not granted and (2) whether visitation with the grandparent is in the best interest of the child. It is entirely up to the court to decide what is in the best interest of the child.  The best advice for grandparents facing such a dilemma is to consult with an attorney to explore options.

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Prenuptials / Postnuptials

Generally, no one intends to get a divorce, or do they?  A prenuptial agreement, a contract formed prior to the marriage, allows both parties to protect their interests (individual assets or property for example) in the event a divorce becomes reality.  Divorce can be costly. A prenuptial agreement can help reduce such costs by having already outlined what each party gets in the event of divorce.  Additionally, if this is a second or third marriage, a Prenuptial Agreement can help to ensure that certain assets or personal belongings are passed on to the children or grandchildren of prior marriages rather than to a current spouse.

Postnuptial Agreements are basically the same as a Prenuptial except it is formed after the marriage has occurred.  If you have concerns regarding your assets, be sure to obtain legal advice.  Courts look for certain language and have fairly strict requirements for prenuptial or postnuptial agreements to be enforced. L.A. Johnson and Associates, LLC provides strong representation in either situation.

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Domestic Partnership Issues

domestic partnersGiven that Georgia does not recognize same sex marriage or civil unions, gay and lesbian couples face a number of issues such as hospital visitation, financial rights, and property issues that must be addressed beyond mutual consent.  L.A. Johnson and Associates, LLC respects everyone’s rights and privacy.  We will help you develop wills, durable power of attorney, and health care directives.  Additionally, as with any couple, the chance of dissolution is possible; we are here to help negotiate the process all the way from mediation to trial if necessary.

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