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Atlanta Metro Family Law Blog

Study finds student loan debt can strain marriages

People in Georgia who carry large amounts of debt, including student loan debt, may be more vulnerable to divorce than those who are debt-free. Three times more people have more than $50,000 in student loan debt than they did a decade ago. The average student loan balance of $34,000 is 62% higher than it was 10 years ago.

Money problems are a common contributor to conflict and divorce. Student Loan Hero conducted a survey and found that 33% of debtors said money arguments contributed to their divorce, and around 12% specifically said student loan debt was the issue. The size of many people's student loan debt means they may be unable to purchase a home or pay for other major expenditures.

Pre-divorce prep

If you and your spouse decide your marriage is not working anymore, you may already be anxious about the divorce process. But what about the process before the actual divorce even starts? Is pre-divorce preparation something you need to worry about?

In short, yes. However, you may not have to stress over it as much as you think. Here’s what steps you might want to take before the divorce even starts.

Pragmatic parenting advice for the single parent

For many couples in Georgia with children, divorce may be an inevitable consequence of a struggling marriage. A divorce can be just as emotionally traumatic on the children as on the parents. This is why courts normally consider the best interests of the child when awarding custody and considering parenting plans.

To ease the conflict that children experience when parents split up, a leading child psychologist reminds parents of three things to keep in mind during a divorce and beyond. The three things in general are stability, positive reinforcement and respect for the other parent.

Insurance that may be needed after a divorce

Some people in Georgia who are getting a divorce may need to get new medical and life insurance. Often, higher-earning spouses have the lower-earning spouse on an employer-sponsored health insurance plan. The spouse may have the option to extend the plan through COBRA, but this is both temporary and expensive. The Affordable Care Act may mean that less costly options are available even if the person has a preexisting condition.

In divorces that involve one person paying alimony to the other, life insurance may help protect that support. If the person who is paying alimony dies, the recipient could have those payments abruptly cut off. Some couples include a requirement to have life insurance in their divorce agreement.

Child custody for fathers

Many people may assume that mothers are always more likely to get child custody than fathers, but this is not the case. Legally, a father is equally entitled to custody. There are a few factors a Georgia judge may take into account when considering a child custody case.

The father should bring any documentation that shows his level of involvement with the child. This might include child support payments and visitation payments. If the parents are not married and the father is trying to get custody, he may need to prove paternity. Fathers should dress professionally for court appearances and observe courtroom etiquette. This includes avoiding outbursts during court proceedings.

The effects of divorce on retirement savings

People in Georgia who get a divorce when they are close to retirement age might be worried about its effect on their retirement, but even younger people may find their retirement savings endangered by divorce. In most divorces, a spouse is entitled to at least a portion of retirement savings.

Some people may choose to keep a retirement account and allow the spouse to take other assets of a similar value. If the person has a pension plan or a 401(k), this means it is necessary to prepare a complex document called a qualified domestic relations order. This document is needed to divide both of these types of pensions. If there is an IRA, it is not necessary. However, when making a decision about how to divide retirement savings, people should keep in mind the limitations associated with some of these assets. For example, withdrawals from an IRA before the age of 59.5 will incur penalties.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and wife reach divorce agreement

Some Georgia residents may be aware that the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, is getting a divorce. The richest person in the world, Bezos is giving his wife 4 percent of the company stock. Their current value at around $35 billion makes her the world's third-richest woman. If the settlement goes through as planned, it will be the largest one in history.

Other high-asset divorces with significant settlements include that of Bill and Susan Gross, in which she received a settlement worth $1.3 billion, and Steve and Elaine Wynn, in which her settlement was $850 million. Bezos will continue to have voting rights over the shares given to his wife. If she transfers them, he will retain those rights, but if she donates them to qualifying nonprofits or sells them on the open market, this will no longer be the case.

How child custody has changed in recent decades

While family law matters were not supposed to resemble a battle of the sexes, sometimes it felt that way in the past when mothers were usually granted sole physical custody of their children after a divorce. After 1980, courts started recognizing joint custody as a better option for children. Courts in Georgia and other states are now more likely to believe joint physical custody should be awarded unless there is a valid reason preventing it.

Joint custody is often considered the new normal but that doesn't mean a child lives with both parents year-round. Practicality and logistical concerns do not always allow for joint physical custody, and this form of custody still often goes to the mother. However, there has been a rise in shared custody. A 2014 study looking at Wisconsin divorce records found that 5 percent of divorces with children in 1980 involved shared physical custody while 3 percent of cases involved unequal shared custody.

Dixie Chicks singer petitions court to validate prenup

Georgia residents who follow country music may be aware that Natalia Maines, who is best known for being a member of the Grammy Award-winning Dixie Chicks, and her actor husband Adrian Pasdar have decided to divorce after 17 years of marriage. Maines filed the papers citing irreconcilable differences in 2017. Media reports reveal that the couple signed a prenuptial agreement before they walked down the aisle in 2000, but any hopes Maines may have had for a speedy and amicable resolution have been dashed as Pasdar is contesting the document.

Pasdar says that he neglected his acting career during the marriage to care for the couple's two children and now struggles to earn a living from his craft. He has petitioned the court for monthly spousal support of $44,076 even though the prenuptial agreement does not include an alimony provision. He is also seeking $16,427 in monthly child support and wants his former wife to cover legal fees totaling $350,000. Maines has asked the court to validate the agreement so the case can proceed more quickly.

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