Friday, July 15, 2016

Can I Change Back to my Maiden Name?

Yes, you can restore your maiden name after divorce in Georgia. “Your last name does not automatically revert to your former or maiden name once you get divorced.” “In most states, you can request that the judge handling your divorce make a formal order restoring your former or birth name.”

People have many reasons to change (or not change) their name after divorce. In blog post “Should You Change Your Name Back After Divorce?” Jackie Pilossoph lists the following considerations: (1) Children, (2) Reason, (3) Profession, (4) Comfort, and (5) Time. The decision to change your name is a personal decision that only you can make, however, “one reason a woman absolutely should not change her name back to her birth name, is if it is solely for the purpose of avoiding creditors or criminal prosecution.”

Georgia allows for the restoration of your maiden name with your divorce as long as it is requested in your divorce documents. If your divorce decree does not reinstate your maiden name, you can request a name change later with the Superior Court in your county for additional fees and paperwork. Be sure that you do the research and do not overlook this important decision in the divorce process.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Can I Have My Child Support Amount Changed?

Yes, child support can be modified, but only through court Order. Parties are legally required to pay the court Ordered child support obligation unless and until there is a change to the original Order.

If there has been a “substantial change in either parent's income and financial status or the needs of the child” a modification of child support can be submitted to the Court.O.C.G.A. §19-6-15 (k). Once the modification is submitted to the Court, it will go through the same process as the original Order for child support: financial information will be obtained, a child support worksheet will be calculated, documents will be reviewed by the Court, then the judge will enter a final Order on the modification.

“In Georgia, a judge may consider increasing or decreasing child support for the following reasons:

  • The paying party involuntarily loses their job or falls ill;
  • Either parent receives additional income through remarriage;
  • Cost of living increase;
  • Physical disability on behalf of either parent;
  • The needs of the child increase;
  • A significant increase in the income of the paying parent; and
  • A change in custody of the child; for instance, the child moves in with the paying parent.”

“You can file for a modification of child support at any time after the original order establishing the support obligation has been entered. However, once child support has been modified by the court as a result of an action filed by you, you cannot file another action for modification for two (2) years from the date of the final order modifying support.”

In some cases, the change in child support can even be processed as an uncontested modification if there are simple agreed upon financial changes. If child support is being processed through The Georgia Division of Child Support Services (DCSS), parties can request a review of the child support obligation for a fee. It is recommended that you contact a local family law attorney to discuss your child support modification concerns.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Will My Spouse Be Required To Pay For College Expenses For Our Children If We Divorce?

No, the Georgia Courts do not require child support to continue through college. “The duty to provide support for a minor child shall continue until the child reaches the age of majority, dies, marries, or becomes emancipated, whichever first occurs.” O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(e). Child support generally ends at age 18, but can be continued through age 19 if the child is still in high school. The Courts do not Order child support past the age of 19 unless the parties agree in clear written language.

The Georgia Commission on Child Support was formed to establish and regularly review, “child support guidelines, development and maintenance of the Georgia Child Support Calculator, recommending legislation, providing training throughout the State to judges, attorneys, and the public, and many other duties.” This Commission ensures that child support is standard across the entire state of Georgia.

Any variation on the standard child support duty must be agreed to by both parties and be expressed in a clearly written document consented to and approved by both parties. Parties may agree that the child support amount will continue through college or trade school age, while other parties may agree to split the fees associated with the higher education. Additional child support past the state minimum duty must be agreed upon by both parties and will not be approved by the Court without both parties written and signed consent. Shared college expenses for minor children is not common when parties divorce and if not previously discussed and agreed to by the parties it is not granted by the Court in the State of Georgia.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Who Gets the Dog in Divorce?

“Disputes over pet custody most commonly occur when a couple, married or unmarried, breaks up and both partners want custody of the animal.” “A pet owner might feel that his or her beloved pet is like a child, but Georgia courts simply view pets as personal property.” “Because pets are personal property legally, the courts do not have to consider their best interest in awarding ownership.”

If parties cannot agree to custody of the family pet then the Georgia Court will apply its equitable division standard. “Equity seeks to do that which is fair, and what is fair is not necessarily equal - not in Georgia.”

In many pet custody issues, parties reach an agreement outside of Court regarding the family pet to avoid fighting in Court over another highly emotional topic. If the parties can not agree on custody of the pet, mediation may be recommended to work out the details outside of Court. Some parties even agree to scheduled visitation with the family pet to suit both parties. “Having a signed and notarized pet agreement in place early on in a marriage can help prevent bitter custody battles and heartache in the unfortunate event of divorce.”

It is best to talk to your spouse about long-time family pets as part of your divorce discussion as it can often be an additional difficult and highly emotional subject. The law often leaves devoted pet owners dissatisfied and therefore it is recommended that parties work out these details together or through legal counsel. “Decide what is best for your pet; put aside your own feelings to reach that decision.”

Monday, July 11, 2016

Benefits of an Uncontested Divorce

Divorce in Georgia can be contested or uncontested. “In an uncontested divorce, the spouses reach mutual agreement on relevant issues like alimony, child custody, child support, and asset division.” Contested divorces conversely are resolved by the Court and require litigation.

There are many benefits to an uncontested divorce in Georgia:
  1. the divorce can happen sooner because you resolve the issues on your own time-line and do not need to have a long waiting period with the Court;
  2. the process is “usually more efficient”;
  3. it is cheaper because you do not need to hire an attorney to fully represent you in Court;
  4. you know the legal fees before you start;
  5. it is less stressful because there are less legal proceedings;
  6. your private life stays private, “you do not have to list a specific wrongdoing by your spouse to start a divorce, but must only swear that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”;
  7. you make the decisions, “the parties do not ask the judge to settle arguments between them, but rather either have no issues to resolve or work things out by themselves”
Although it may sound simple, it is still a legal process requiring specific documentation and procedures. “If you want an uncontested divorce (without a trial), then you must have a contract (settlement agreement) that handles all of the issues that arise in every divorce.” It is important to hire a local family law attorney to guide you through the uncontested divorce process. 

Contact the Law Office of Christine M Bechtold, LLC today to schedule your free initial consultation. 770-466-2700

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Can I Get a Certified Copy of My Final Divorce Order?

Yes, you can request a certified copy of your final divorce Order with the Clerk of Courts where the final Order was entered. For divorce and family law issues, request a certified copy from the Superior Court Clerk.

Be sure that you specifically request a certified copy if that is what you need. A legal certified copy is, “a copy of a document signed and certified as a true copy by the officer to whose custody the original is intrusted.” Some organizations will not accept standard copies and require that your copy be certified. The Superior Court Clerk can assist you with a certified copy request. You should contact the Clerk first to be sure they have the document you will be requesting. Be prepared with your Civil Action Number, the original names of the parties, the County where the case was finalized, and the approximate date of the Order you are requesting. Certified copies are generally only obtained in person at the Clerk's office. Typical Clerk fees for a certified copy 1st page is $2.50 and after 1st page is $0.50/ page. - fees , - fees.

Gwinnett County Clerk of Courts 770-822-8100

Newton County Clerk of Courts 770-784-2035

Walton County Clerk of Courts 770-267-1307

Barrow County Clerk of Courts 770-867-4800

Oconee County Clerk of Courts 706-769-3940

“The state vital records office will conduct a search to determine the occurrence of a divorce, and can issue a confirmation of a divorce.” However, note that the state vital records office will not provide a certified copy of your Order, only the Clerk of the Superior Court can supply a certified copy of the final Order.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Do I have to take a Divorcing Parent Seminar?

Yes, you will likely be ordered to take a parenting seminar if you are divorcing in Georgia with a shared minor child, but the requirements vary by county. “The superior court judges, under whose authority the program shall function, may require any or all parties to attend an educational seminar of no more than four hours in any domestic relations action before the court.” Georgia Superior Court Rule 24.8(B) Georgia Superior Court Rule 24.8(B).

“The goal of this program is to assist the parents in understanding the impact of divorce on children, reduce potential conflicts, and offer practical solutions to future problems.” “The seminar focuses on the developmental needs of children, with emphasis on fostering the child's emotional health during periods of stress.”

Information on various county parenting programs are listed below:

Alcovy (Newton and Walton Counties)
  • $25.00
  • Divorce action must be filled with the Court prior to attending the class
  • Must be attended by both parties within 60 days of the filing date of the divorce
  • Social Circle Public Safety Building in the Community Room, 138 E. Hightower Trail, Social Circle, Georgia 30025
  • 2nd Thursday (Plaintiff) and 3rd Thursday (Defendant) of every month
  • 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.
  • Schedule: - schedule
  • Additional information:
Gwinnett County
  • $30.00
  • Can be attended at anytime
  • Must be completed within 31 days of service of the original complaint upon the original defendant
  • Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Conference Room A West Wing, 75 Langley Drive, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30046
  • 1st, 2nd, and 4th Thursday a.m. sessions and 3rd Thursday p.m. session
  • 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. / 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.
  • Schedule: - schedule
  • Additional information:
Ninth Judicial Administrative District Office of Dispute Resolution (Cherokee, Dawson, Fannin, Forsyth, Gilmer, Habersham, Hall, Lumpkin, Pickens, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, and White Counties)
  • $50.00 
  • Can be attended at anytime 
  • Completion date varies according to county 
  • Locations in Blairsville, Canton, Clarkesville, Cumming, Dahlonega, Ellijay, Gainesville, and Woodstock 
  • Schedule: - schedule 
  • Additional information:

Be sure to check with the filing Court for your parenting class information, requirements vary by county.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

How Much Does It Cost to File My Divorce? Updated, July 2016

Divorce cases are filed as Domestic Civil Cases in Superior Court. Filing fees to the Superior Court vary by county, see list and links below for the most recent filing fees as of July, 2016.
The filing fee is paid to the Clerk’s office for the filing and processing of your case. If your case requires service of process by the Sheriff, there is a separate fee to the Sheriff’s office of $50.00 per person, per address.

If your county is not listed above, call the Clerk of the Superior Court in your county for the most recent fees.

This is an update to the prior 2015 post: How Much Does It Cost to File My Divorce?

Contact the Law Office of Christine M Bechtold, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation and start your divorce process.

Can't I Just Separate from My Spouse?

Yes, married parties can separate at anytime, but divorce is only valid when it goes through the Court. “Because marriages are legal contracts, the law requires that they be dissolved by the court.” If you are considering a separation from your spouse, be sure to have open communication and discuss with a family law attorney about obtaining a written separation agreement.

Legal separations go through the Superior Court in Georgia the same way as a divorce. “Unlike divorce, a legal separation does not put an end to the marriage, it enables you to live separately but remain married.” A legal separation, “isn't very common, but there are situations where spouses don't want to divorce for religious, financial, or personal reasons, but do want the certainty of a court order that says they're separated and addresses all the same issues that would be decided in a divorce.” “Legal separation is useful when spouses wish to separate but not end the marriage.” “A couple's decision to permanently separate may not be considered a legal one unless one party files for legal separation instead of divorce.”

A legal separation is sometimes ideal for parties, “but long-term separation can create big problems. If a couple isn’t divorced, their lives are still legally and financially intertwined.” If two people want to end their marriage it must be legally ended by a Court Order. Much like author Jeff Landers, this attorney recommends that “if you are going to live apart from your husband beyond a reasonable trial period, you obtain a legal separation agreement.”

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Can I Get Discounted Legal Services for Family Law?

Yes, there are options available for discounted legal services for family law issues.

First, you need to know if you have a criminal or civil case. “Criminal laws are the rules that apply when someone commits a crime, such as assault, robbery, murder, arson, rape and other kinds of crimes.” Civil cases involve those where one person is suing another. Family law cases (divorce, child custody) are civil cases.

“Under U.S. law, if you have been accused of a crime that may lead to jail time, the judge should assign a government-paid lawyer called a public defender or legal aid lawyer to represent you in court...” Public defenders are not assigned for civil cases.

There are resources available for discounted legal services for civil cases. is one whose, “goal is to provide the public with easy Internet access to basic legal information and legal resources in Georgia.” “If you do not live in Georgia and need free or low-cost legal help, visit ”

Other options include contacting the local bar association for references or contacting a local law firm and requesting a flat fee for services. The Law Office of Christine M Bechtold, LLC provides flat fee services for all clients Contact the office today to schedule your free initial consultation and to discuss your family law case.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence Day 2016

Independence Day is one of the most important federal holidays in the United States commemorating the Declaration of Independence, which declared our independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.  “Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most enduring monument.”

“What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in ‘self-evident truths’ and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country.”

In the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson describes why the Declaration is necessary:
  •  "For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury.”
  • "For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies."
  •  "He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.”
  • "He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people."
  •  "He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.."
  • “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Although celebrated on July 4th every year, “July 2, 1776 is the day that the Continental Congress actually voted for independence.”

In honor of this important holiday these local government offices will be closed on Monday, July 4, 2016:
"The Newton County Judicial Center and the Walton County Government Building will be closed on Monday, July 4, 2016, in observance of Independence Day. ”

Gwinnett County Judicial Center is closed on legal holidays.

Barrow County Government Offices will be closed on July 4, 2016.

The Law Office of Christine M Bechtold, LLC will also be closed around July 4th in honor of this wonderful holiday, so be sure to email the office to set-up your free initial consultation.