How to file for Divorce in Gwinnett County Superior Court?

GWINNETT COUNTY DIVORCE ATTORNEY – Douglas W. Lewis, Esq.

How to file for Divorce in Gwinnett County Superior Court?

  1. Determine if you can file for divorce in Georgia.  Generally speaking you must be a resident of the State of Georgia for at least the previous six months before you can file a divorce action in Georgia.
  2. To file the divorce action in Gwinnett County your spouse must be a resident of Gwinnett County.  If you live in Gwinnett County, but your spouse lives in Fulton County then you must file the divorce in Fulton County (unless your spouse waives venue).  If you live in Barrow County, but your spouse lives in Gwinnett County, then the divorce action would be properly filed in Gwinnett County.
  3. All divorces filed in Georgia must be filed in the appropriate Superior Court.  All divorces filed in Gwinnett County must be filed with the Gwinnett County Superior Court clerk.  The clerk’s office is on the first floor of the courthouse located at 75 Langley Drive, Lawrenceville, Georgia (the courthouse is also known as the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center “GJAC”).
  4. When you file the divorce action you must pay the clerk a filing fee of $204.00 (said fee is subject to change).
  5. There must be a Summons attached to the divorce petition or complaint.  The divorce pleadings (the Summons, the Divorce Petition and any Standing Orders) must be served upon your spouse.   Usually the Defendant is personally served with a copy of the divorce pleadings by a deputy sheriff or by a private process server.  The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department charges a fee of $50.00 to attempt service on a Defendant.  If you want to use the services of a private process server In Gwinnett County then  a motion must be filed with the court to request that a particular process server be appointed by the judge to personally serve the Defendant with the divorce pleadings.   The fee charged by private process servers varies depending on travel time and other circumstances.
  6. When a divorce action is filed the case will then be given a specific case number.  The last digit of the case number will indicate which judge has been assigned to your case.  For example, in Gwinnett County Superior Court if the last digit of your case number ends in 7 then you know your case has been assigned to Chief Judge Melodie Snell Conner.  There are ten (10) Gwinnett County Superior Court judges.
  7. Once your spouse has been properly served with a copy of the divorce pleadings then your case will proceed.   A divorce case will either be an uncontested case or a contested case.  An uncontested or settled divorce case means the parties have signed a Settlement Agreement which resolves all issues in the divorce case and the Agreement has been approved by the judge assigned to the case.  (If the judge does not approve of the terms of the Settlement Agreement then the case is not settled.)  A contested divorce case is a case in which the parties are unable or unwilling to settle and thus the case will go to trial before the judge or a jury.
  8. Each divorce case is unique and some can be quite complex.  Many divorce cases involve some or all of the following: Answer and Counterclaim, Interrogatories, Request for Production of Documents, Request for Admissions, Depositions, Emergency Hearings, Temporary Hearings, Contempt Hearings, Domestic Relations Financial Affidavits, Mediation, Guardian ad Litems, Child Support Worksheets, Child Support Addendums, Parenting Plans, Quit Claim Deeds, Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO), Protective or Restraining Orders, Parenting Seminars, and Final Hearings.

Gwinnett County Divorce and Family Law Attorney Douglas W. Lewis has over twenty years of experience in Gwinnett County and the Atlanta Metro area handling divorce, modification of custody and child support, contempt, paternity, legitimation, and family law cases.  If you have any questions or want to schedule an office consultation then please contact Doug Lewis at 770-682-3765 or via email at dlewis@dwlewislaw.com

In a Gwinnett County divorce case, can one attorney represent both parties?

GWINNETT COUNTY FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY – Douglas W. Lewis, Esq.

In a Gwinnett County divorce case, can one attorney represent both parties?

No, one attorney cannot represent both parties in a divorce case even if it is an ‘uncontested’ divorce case. It would be unethical to do so because of the conflict of interest that arises in that situation. One attorney cannot look out for the best interests of both parties at the same time in a Georgia divorce case.

Even if the parties agree on everything in the divorce case and it is an uncontested or settled matter they are still opposing parties in a legal action which creates a conflict of interest for one attorney to represent both parties.

I always recommend that both parties hire their own attorney in a divorce case, whether it is a settled or contested divorce case.  However, it is not uncommon to have a Plaintiff being represented by an attorney in an uncontested divorce in Gwinnett County and the Defendant not being represented by an attorney (often referred to as a ‘pro se’ Defendant).  In cases where there is only one party being represented by a lawyer that lawyer will usually not meet with the unrepresented spouse so as not to give the appearance that the attorney is advising or giving any legal advice to the unrepresented spouse.

An option for parties that are unrepresented in a divorce case and want to attempt to settle the divorce case is to have the parties hire a divorce mediator who is an experienced divorce attorney who will act as a ‘neutral’ during the mediation session and who will give both parties legal information, but not legal advice in an effort to help facilitate a divorce settlement agreement between the parties that can be filed with the court.

Gwinnett County Divorce and Family Law Attorney Douglas W. Lewis has over twenty years of experience in Gwinnett County and the Atlanta Metro area handling divorce and family law cases.  Douglas W. Lewis, Esq. is also a registered mediator in the State of Georgia in the areas of divorce, family law and civil litigation.  If you have any questions or want to schedule an office consultation then please contact Doug Lewis at 770-682-3765 or via email at dlewis@dwlewislaw.com

GWINNETT COUNTY FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY

GWINNETT COUNTY FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY – Douglas W. Lewis, Esq.

Gwinnett Attorney, DOUGLAS W. LEWIS, Esq., practices in the following areas of Family Law in Gwinnett County and throughout the metro Atlanta area:

    • Adoption
    • Alimony and Spousal Support
    • Asset and Property Division and Debt Division
    • Attorney’s Fees
    • Child Abandonment
    • Child Support
    • Contempt
    • Custody & Parenting Time and Visitation
    • Domestic Violence
    • Divorce
    • Estate Planning
    • Family Violence Protective and Restraining Orders
    • Grandparent’s Rights
    • Juvenile Court
    • Legitimation
    • Mediation
    • Modification of Alimony
    • Modification of Child Support
    • Modification of Custody
    • Name Changes
    • Paternity
    • Retirement Account Division

Gwinnett County Divorce and Family Law Attorney Douglas W. Lewis has over twenty years of experience in Gwinnett County and the Atlanta Metro area handling divorce, paternity, legitimation, and family law cases.  If you have any questions or want to schedule an office consultation then please contact Doug Lewis at 770-682-3765 or via email at dlewis@dwlewislaw.com

PATERNITY and LEGITIMATION – Frequently Asked Questions

GWINNETT COUNTY PATERNITY AND LEGITIMATION ATTORNEY – Douglas W. Lewis, Esq.

PATERNITY and LEGITIMATION – Frequently Asked Questions

“What does a child ‘born out of wedlock’ mean?”

A child born out of wedlock generally means a child that is born to parents that are not married at the time of birth. (O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-23).

“What is the difference legally between a child born to parents that are married and a child born out of wedlock?”

When a child is born to parents that are married to each other there is a legal presumption that the husband is the father of the child. Georgia law states that all children born in wedlock are legitimate.  A child born out of wedlock is not legitimate (previously known under Georgia law as ‘illegitimate’). The father of a child born out of wedlock must take steps to legitimate (also referred to by some as to legitimize) the child in order to receive parental rights to the child.

“What rights do I have as a mother to a child born out of wedlock?”

When a child is born out of wedlock only the mother of the child is entitled to custody of the child and exercises all parental power over the child unless the father legitimates the child. (O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-25).

“What rights does a father have to a child born out of wedlock?”

Georgia law says the father to a child born out of wedlock does not have any legal parental rights to the child unless and until he legitimates the child.

“Does the father of a child born out of wedlock have to pay child support to the mother?”

Both parents have a legal obligation to support a child born out of wedlock. Georgia law states as follows: “It is the joint and several duty of each parent of a child born out of wedlock to provide for the maintenance, protection, and education of the child until the child reaches the age of 18 or becomes emancipated, except to the extent that the duty of one parent is otherwise or further defined by court order.” (O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-24).

Child support is ordered by the court and the court’s order sets forth a specific amount of money that must be paid each month. In order to get child support, the mother of a child born out of wedlock must file a petition for paternity or make application to the Georgia Division of Child Support Services (DCSS).

“What does paternity mean?”

To establish paternity means to ‘legally’ identify the father of a child. While the identity of a child’s biological mother is usually by nature easy to establish, the father’s identity may in some cases be uncertain. Paternity issues often arise in cases involving child support, but they can also be important in relation to adoption, inheritance, custody and visitation, health care, and other issues.

The ‘biological father’ of a child born out of wedlock is defined as the male who impregnated the biological mother resulting in the birth of the child. When paternity is established the biological father of the child becomes the legal father of the child.”

“How can paternity be established when there is a child born out of wedlock?”

In Georgia there are three ways in which to establish paternity:

  1. the mother and father of the child are legally married to each other at the time of the child’s birth;
  2. the parents of a child born out of wedlock sign a Georgia Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form either (a) at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth or (b) before the child’s first birthday at the State Office of Vital Records in Atlanta or at the Vital Records Office in the county where the child was born;
  3. Court Order –  A legal action to establish paternity can be filed by the mother of the child, the father of the child, or by the Division of Child Support Services of the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DCSS) (DCSS may establish paternity through a local Superior Court or through an Administrative Court.

“Once paternity is established can the father be ordered to pay child support and provide medical insurance?”

Yes, once paternity is established then a Court can enter an Order requiring child support to be paid by the father of the child and the Court may also require the father to obtain and maintain medical insurance for the child.

“When can a mother of a child born out of wedlock file a Petition to Establish Paternity?”

A paternity action is often filed after a child is born out of wedlock, however, it can be filed before the child is born. Georgia law states, “if a petition under this article is brought before the birth of the child, all proceedings shall be stayed until after the birth except service of process, discovery, and the taking of depositions” (O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-43).

“Where does a mother of a child born out of wedlock file the Petition to Establish Paternity?”

Under Georgia law, the Petition to Establish Paternity must be filed in the Superior Court in the county in which the alleged father resides. However, if the alleged father is not a resident of Georgia then the Petition must be filed in the county in which the child resides. (O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-42). For example, if the child born out of wedlock lived with the mother in Gwinnett County and the alleged father lived in Fulton County then the Petition to Establish Paternity would have to be filed in the Fulton County Superior Court. However, if the father was not a resident of the state of Georgia then the mother would file the Petition to Establish Paternity in the Gwinnett County Superior Court.

Gwinnett County Divorce and Family Law Attorney Douglas W. Lewis has over twenty years of experience in Gwinnett County and the Atlanta Metro area handling divorce, paternity, legitimation, and family law cases.  If you have any questions or want to schedule an office consultation then please contact  Doug Lewis at 770-682-3765 or via email at dlewis@dwlewislaw.com

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Four on Short List for next Gwinnett a County Superior Court Judge

Four on Short List for next Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge

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When a baby is born at a Georgia hospital is the father’s name automatically listed on the child’s birth certificate?

No, the father’s name is not automatically listed on the birth certificate as it depends on several circumstances regarding the birth of the child.

If the mother was married either at the time of conception or at the time of birth, the name of the husband shall be entered on the certificate as the father of the child (unless paternity has been determined otherwise by a court having jurisdiction, in which case the name of the father as determined by the court shall be entered).

If the mother is not married at either the time of conception or at the time of birth, and no Georgia Paternity Acknowledgment Form is completed by the parents of the child, then the name of the putative father shall not be entered on the certificate of birth.  The surname of the child shall be the legal surname of the mother at the time of the birth entered on the certificate as designated by the mother. When a Georgia Paternity Acknowledgment form is completed, the surname of the child shall be entered as designated by both parents.

If the father is not named on the certificate of birth, no other information about the father shall be entered on the certificate.

In any case in which paternity of a child is determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, the name of the father and the surname of the child shall be entered on the certificate of birth in accordance with the finding and order of the court.

Does the hospital issue the birth certificate?

No, birth certificates are issued by the Georgia Department of Public Health, Vital Records.

Source: O.C.G.A. Section 31-10-9

Gwinnett County Divorce and Family Law Attorney Douglas W. Lewis has over twenty years of experience in Gwinnett County and the Atlanta Metro area handling divorce and family law cases.  If you have any questions or want to schedule an office consultation then please contact  Doug Lewis at 770-682-3765 or via email at dlewis@dwlewislaw.com

Article on Tax Planning for Getting Divorced

Tax Planning for Getting Divorced.

Is There a Six Month Separation Period Required Before I Can File for Divorce in Gwinnett County?

No. There is no required separation period in Gwinnett County or in any other county in Georgia before you can file for divorce.  Oftentimes, the parties are still living under the same roof when the divorce is filed. Georgia law does, however, require that you be a resident of the State of Georgia for at least six months before you file for divorce. All divorce cases in Gwinnett County are filed with the Clerk of Gwinnett County Superior Court at the courthouse located at 75 Langley Drive, Lawrenceville, Georgia.

GWINNETT COUNTY NAVIGATING FAMILY CHANGE PARENT SEMINAR

GWINNETT COUNTY NAVIGATING FAMILY CHANGE PARENT SEMINAR

In all domestic actions filed in Gwinnett County Superior Court that involve a minor child or children both parents are required to successfully complete the Gwinnett County parenting seminar within thirty-one (31) days of service of the divorce petition on the Defendant.  The parenting seminar is known as Navigating Family Change: A Parent Seminar.  The only exclusion to the requirement are contempt cases and generally domestic violence cases involving minor children.

In each such Gwinnett County domestic action involving a minor child there will be a Parenting Workshop Standing Order attached to the divorce petition that sets out the requirement to complete the parenting seminar.

The Court’s Standing Order states that “appropriate action, including but not limited to contempt, may be taken upon a party’s failure to successfully complete the workshop”.

The Court’s Standing Order also provides, “for good cause shown, the requirement of completion of this workshop may be waived in individual cases”.  (I have had cases such as divorce matters where the minor child was already 17 years old and the judges agreed to waive the requirement for the parents to attend the seminar).

Important Information Regarding the Gwinnett County Navigating Family Change Parenting Seminar

–          a four-hour educational seminar which takes place in one day (Thursday);

–          the seminar is held four times monthly, three morning sessions and one evening session (the 2014 schedule is below, but is subject to change);

–          the cost is $30.00 per person and payment is by cash or money order (payable to Gwinnett County ADR; payment will be accepted at the door;

–          to be successfully completed within 31 days of service of the original complaint upon the original defendant;

–          parties do not have to attend the seminar with their spouses or ex-spouses;

–          children are not allowed in the workshop;

–          pre-registration is required; registration must be received prior to the day of the seminar; once you register you will not receive any further notification of the seminar date;

–          the seminar requirement may be satisfied by a certificate from another approved court sponsored parenting seminar such as:

Ninth Judicial District – 770-535-6909

Cobb County – 770-528-1812

Dekalb County – 404-371-4953

Fulton County – 404-612-4618 (also offers seminar in spanish)

–          all seminars to be held at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center (75 Langley Drive, Lawrenceville, GA 30046). Seminars will be in Conference Room A West Wing, located on the second floor;

–          arrive 15 minutes early to receive your materials; attendees arriving late will be required to reschedule;

–          for directions call 770-822-8000 ext. 6000 or http://www.gwinnettcourts.com/#directions

–          if you are unable to attend the seminar for which you registered, you may reschedule for another date, but no refunds are available;

–          certificates will be issued after completing the evaluations; the court will provide a copy of the certificate to the participant and the original certificate will be kept on file with the court;

–          a fee waiver is available for parties having filed under a pauper’s affidavit, carrying a current Medicare/Medicaid card, or falling under the indigent guidelines as set by the state. If you believe you qualify, send a copy of your pauper’s affidavit or Medicare/Medicaid card with your registration form or call for a fee waiver application.

–          If you have questions or need more information then please call 7770-822-8588  or http://www.gwinnettcourts.com/home.asp#courtprograms_parentingseminar_registration

How to Submit the Registration Form for the Gwinnett County Parenting Seminar

  1. Register online here: http://www.gwinnettcourts.com/home.asp#courtprograms_parentingseminar/      (click on the registration button on left-hand side); or here: http://www.gwinnettcourts.com/home.asp#courtprograms_parentingseminar_registration/

(After you fill out the form, you will be taken to Confirmation page, so that you can review your information submitted and confirm it to receive a confirmation number that you need to bring with you. If you do not receive a confirmation number, try to register again or at another time.)

  1. Fax: 770-822-8588
  2. Phone: 770-822-8195
  3. Mail to the address on the      registration form.
  4. Hand deliver to the 2nd Floor Control      Desk (East Wing, Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center)
 

Gwinnett County Parenting Seminar Program Content

The seminar focuses on the developmental needs of children, with emphasis on fostering the child’s emotional health during periods of stress. The program is informative, supportive, and directs people desiring additional information or help to appropriate resources. The course content includes:

  • Responding to Children — how to talk to them to assist in their emotional adjustment to parental separation or divorce; and so they can stay out of the parental conflict, preserve their self-esteem, and simply be children
  • Leaver/Leavee — the emotional impact on each parent after separation or divorce and how it affects the children
  • Grief Process — how to recognize the stages of grief in self and family members; and how to respond to family members in the different grief stages
  • Co-Parenting — the importance of approaching co-parenting realistically and setting appropriate boundaries to minimize conflict
  • Parenting Plan Basics — the importance of a clear and detailed plan and how to incorporate elements to best execute a cooperative or parallel co-parenting style
  • Child Development — considering the above subjects given the various stages of child development

All Gwinnett County Parenting Seminars are scheduled on Thursdays.   The schedule for 2014 is as follows:

January 9, 16, 30         (Thursday morning from 9 am – 1 pm)
January 23                   (Thursday evening from 5 pm – 9 pm)

February 6, 13, 27       (Thursday morning from 9 am – 1 pm)

February 20                 (Thursday evening from 5 pm – 9 pm)
March 6, 13, 27           (Thursday morning from 9 am – 1 pm)

March 20                     (Thursday evening from 5 pm – 9 pm)
April 3, 10, 24             (Thursday morning from 9 am – 1 pm)

April 17                       (Thursday evening from 5 pm – 9 pm)
May 1, 22, 29              (Thursday morning from 9 am – 1 pm)

May 15                        (Thursday evening from 5 pm – 9 pm)
June 5, 12, 26              (Thursday morning from 9 am – 1 pm)

June 19                        (Thursday evening from 5 pm – 9 pm)
July 3, 10, 24               (Thursday morning from 9 am – 1 pm)

July 17                         (Thursday evening from 5 pm – 9 pm)
August 7, 14, 28         (Thursday morning from 9 am – 1 pm)

August            21         (Thursday evening from 5 pm – 9 pm)
September 4, 11, 25    (Thursday morning from 9 am – 1 pm)

September 18              (Thursday evening from 5 pm – 9 pm)
October 2, 9, 23          (Thursday morning from 9 am – 1 pm)

October           16       (Thursday evening from 5 pm – 9 pm)
November 6, 13          (Thursday morning from 9 am – 1 pm)

November 20              (Thursday evening from 5 pm – 9 pm)
December 4, 11           (Thursday morning from 9 am – 1 pm)

December 18               (Thursday evening from 5 pm – 9 pm)

Shared Parenting – Will Shared Parenting Custody Arrangements Gain Ground in Georgia?

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A judge in a divorce case involving child custody in Gwinnett County or in any other county in Georgia can award sole custody, joint legal custody, joint physical custody or both joint legal and physical custody.  There is no presumption in favor of any particular form of custody.  The judge determines custody based on the best interests of the minor child.

In 2013, Arkansas became the first state in America to pass a shared parenting law that requires judges to consider an approximate and equal division of time in child custody cases.  The state legislatures in Florida (2013) and Minnesota (2012) had recently passed their own form of shared parenting bills, but they were vetoed by their respective governors.  There have been state task forces set up in Connecticut, Maryland, and Massachusetts to study the issues involved in the shared custody models and are to provide their recommendations regarding same.

Advocates of the shared parenting laws stress that children are better served when they spend equal time with each parent and state that polls show the majority of Americans agree with them.  Opponents argue that the shared parenting model puts the interests of the parents before those of the children and they are also concerned about how a mandate of shared custody would affect a judge’s flexibility where equal time would not be logistically possible or when there are issues of substance abuse or family violence involved.

In Georgia, the duty of the judge in all cases involving child custody “shall be to exercise discretion to look to and determine solely what is for the best interest of the child and what will best promote the child’s welfare and happiness and to make his or her award accordingly. O.C.G.A. Section 19-9-3(a)(2).

The current law in Georgia states that “there shall be no presumption in favor of any particular form of custody, legal or physical, nor in favor of either parent. Joint custody may be considered as an alternative form of custody by the judge and the judge at any temporary or permanent hearing may grant sole custody, joint custody, joint legal custody, or joint physical custody as appropriate.”   O.C.G.A. Section 19-9-3(a)(1).

“Joint legal custody” means both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, including the child’s education, health care, extracurricular activities, and religious training; provided, however, that the judge may designate one parent to have sole power to make certain decisions while both parents retain equal rights and responsibilities for other decisions.  O.C.G.A. Section 19-9-6 (5).

“Joint physical custody” means that physical custody is shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of substantially equal time and contact with both parents.  O.C.G.A. Section 19-9-6(6).

“Sole custody” means a person, including, but not limited to, a parent, has been awarded permanent custody of a child by a court order.  Unless otherwise provided by court order, the person awarded sole custody of a child shall have the rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, including the child’s education, health care, extracurricular activities, and religious training, and the noncustodial parent shall have the right to visitation or parenting time. A person who has not been awarded custody of a child by court order shall not be considered as the sole legal custodian while exercising visitation rights or parenting time.  O.C.G.A. Section 19-9-6(11).

No shared parenting bills have been introduced in the 2014 Georgia Legislative Session, however, the debate in Gwinnett County and across Georgia between the advocates and opponents of a shared parenting law will certainly continue and it is anticipated by some that some form of a shared parenting bill will be introduced in the near future.

Of course, divorcing parents with minor children in Georgia can always agree on their own as to what is the best custodial arrangement for their minor children, whether it be ‘shared parenting’, ‘joint custody’, or ‘sole custody’.  Divorcing parents can put their agreement in writing in the form of a Parenting Plan to be submitted to the judge for his or her consideration and approval.

If you or someone you know has questions or concerns about child custody, child support, or other divorce-related and family law matters here in Gwinnett County or in the State of Georgia, please do not hesitate to contact Douglas W. Lewis, Attorney at Law, at our Lawrenceville office by phone at 770-682-3765, by email at dlewis@dwlewislaw.com, or visit us at our website at http://dwlewislaw.com/.

Source: USA Today, “Shared Parenting Could Be New Divorce Outcome”, Jonathan Ellis, January 27, 2014