The Miami Herald reports on story of a a secret that surely could not be kept for long, but the husband,Arnim Ramdass, allegedly tried.
According to the stay-at-home wife, Donna Campbell, Mr. Ramdass, an airline mechanic, 52, reportedly disconnected the phone line at home and Ms. Campbell, 48, to watch television. Eventually, however, she learned the truth: Ramdass, along with 16 other mechanics at Miami International Airport, had won a $19 million lottery jackpot. Split among the 17 workers, it amounted to a $600,000 lump-sum payday, before taxes, for each of them, reports the Miami Herald (story reprinted below)
In her suit, Campbell claimed Ramdass fraudulently conspired to conceal the lottery payout from her, and contended she is entitled to a 50 percent share of her husband’s take from the winning ticket, because it was purchased with marital assets.
Once the lawsuit is resolved, the newspaper says, she plans to divorce him.
See the lawsuit here.
SOURCE: ABAJournal.com in a story by Martha Neil
What is a Marital Separation and Property Settlement Agreement?
A marital separation agreement, also known as a property settlement agreement, is a written contract dividing your property, spelling out your rights, and settling problems such as alimony and custody. A marital separation agreement may be drawn before or after you have filed for divorce — even while you and your spouse are still living together.
When you initially execute a marital separation agreement you usually do not have to file the separation agreement with the court to be effective.
When and if you begin the divorce proceedings, you will attach the separation agreement to your divorce papers and ask the court to merge, but not incorporate, the agreement into the final judicial decree. If the marital separation agreement is incorporated into the decree, it becomes a court order and is enforceable by the court. If you don’t incorporate the separation agreement into your decree, it simply becomes a contract or agreement between you and your spouse.
Why is a Marital settlement agreement important?
If you have no marital property, no joint debts, and no children, you probably don’t need a marital separation agreement to get a no-fault divorce. However, if you want to provide for the future governance of your relationship, as well as provide additional evidence to the court about the day that you separated, you should have a Marital Settlement Agreement. An agreement leaves no doubt about the details of the ending of your marriage relationship. It is better to have a clearly written agreement, rather than rely on verbal understandings.
In Georgia, if you have a Marital Settlement Agreement your divorce pleadings will be simpler and less complicated and it will be absolutely clear to the court that you have an uncontested divorce.
Do I have to file a Marital Settlement Agreement with the court?
When you initially execute your Marital Settlement Agreement you do not have to file the Agreement with the Court to be effective. When you begin the divorce proceedings you will attach the Marital Settlement Agreement to the complaint and ask the court to merge, but not incorporate, the Agreement into the final judicial decree. If the Marital Settlement Agreement is incorporated into the decree, it becomes a court order and is enforceable by the court’s contempt powers. If you don’t incorporate it into the decree, it simply becomes a contract between you and your spouse, which you later have to sue in a separate action to enforce. If the separation agreement is not incorporated into the divorce decree, and your spouse violates the agreement you can still seek money damages for the violation of the agreement, but it is easier and faster if the agreement is incorporated into the divorce decree.
What is the difference between a contested or uncontested divorce?
Divorces are either contested or uncontested. Contested divorces are those in which the respondent disputes any issue in the case – the divorce itself, the property division, child custody, alimony, etc. Uncontested divorces fall into two categories – (1) Consent Divorces – the parties agree on all major issues; and (2) Default causes – where the respondent fails to appear to contest the divorce or any issue in it, either because he or she chooses not to oppose it, or because he or she cannot be located. By entering into a Marital Settlement Agreement you make your divorce an uncontested divorce.
How long are the parties bound by a Marital Settlement Agreement?
A separation agreement is a legal document that will bind you through many years and determine your rights, obligations, and responsibilities from your marriage. You and your spouse can amend the agreement if you both consent to the changes; or it can be modified by a court order, provided the agreement does not specifically state that the agreement is not subject to any court modification. Nevertheless, the court can always modify provisions in an agreement regarding the care and custody of any minor children.
Do the courts review the fairness of a Marital Property Settlement Agreement?
In an uncontested divorce, the court nearly always approves the agreement of the parties if it is generally fair and the court is convinced that the agreement was entered into by both spouses without fraud or coercion. Often the court may want to review financial affidavits attached to the agreement in order to determine its fairness.
In negotiating your agreement, you should be guided by how a court is likely to divide your property, award custody and child support, and deal with other issues.
What is the difference between "marital property" and "non-marital property"?
In an "equitable distribution state" state, like Georgia, all property acquired during the marriage is "marital property" and all property is divided into marital property (which means it is both yours and your spouse’s) and non-marital property ( which means the property belongs to either you or your spouse alone). I general the following rules apply which categorizing property into "marital" or "non-marital property":
1. If the asset or debt was acquired after the date you were married it is presumed to be a marital asset or debt.
2. A non-marital asset or debt is one that was acquired before the date of your marriage. It is also a non-marital asset if you acquired it through a gift or inheritance. Income from non-marital property is also considered non-marital property.
3. Even if an assets or debt was acquired by your spouse individually, it is considered to be a marital asset or debt, if acquired during the marriage. This includes rights in pension and profit-sharing plans.
4.Real estate that is in both names is considered marital property.
How is property divided in Georgia?
In Georgia, the basic rule is that all marital property is divided equitably. In December 1980, the Georgia Supreme Court decided the case of Stokes v. Stokes 246 GA 765 (1980). The case concerned the property rights of the parties in a divorce action. The court held that the couple’s marital property should be divided euitably between them. Each party can retain any property that he or she owned prior to the marriage. It doesn’t matter in whose name or names the marital property is listed. If the property was acquired after the marriage and is therefore marital property it must be divided equitably.
To divide marital property, the court or a jury must consider:
length of the marriage;
the age, health, occupation, vocational skills, and employability of each party;
the service contributed by each spouse to the family unit;
the amount and sources of income, property, debts, liabilities, and needs of the parties;
debts against the property; whether the division is instead of, or in addition to , alimony;
and the opportunity of each spouse to earn money or acquire property in the future.
Another financial issue involves debts that must be paid. The court may divide the responsibility for the debts, or it may order one or the other party to ay all debts.
SOURCE: Georgia Divorce Online
In Georgia, the property and debt issues are typically settled between the parties by a signed Marital Settlement Agreement or the property award is actually order and decreed by the Superior Court within the Decree of Divorce.
Georgia is referred to as an "equitable distribution" state. When the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the Superior Court will take the following approach to dividing the assets; First, it will go through a discovery process to classify which property and debt is to be considered marital. Next, it will assign a monetary value on the marital property and debt. Last, it will distribute the marital assets between the two parties in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is deemed by the Superior Court to be fair.
There are no factors listed in the statutes regarding what is considered by the court when distributing the property upon divorce.
The verdict of the jury disposing of the property in a divorce case shall be carried into effect by the court by entering such judgment or decree or taking such other steps as are usual in the exercise of the court´s equitable powers to execute effectually and fully the jury’s verdict. (Georgia Code – Sections: 19-5-13)
Since Georgia is an "Equitable Distribution" state, all marital property will be divided in an equitable fashion according to the court unless agreed to otherwise by the divorcing spouses. What does "equitable" mean? Equitable can be defined as "what is fair, not necessarily equal." To automatically believe the marital property would be divided 50-50 would be a wrong assumption in any equitable distribution state.
Turn up the lights, turn down the music and forget about romance.
It’s time to face the business side of marriage.
Cold as that may sound, the Census Bureau recently released data that should make even the most blissfully married couples forget pheromones and focus on finances.
According to the Bureau, the length of first marriages has been getting steadily shorter since it started collecting such data in 1955. Of couples married back then, about 70% made it to their 25-year anniversary. Now, fewer than half of couples who were to celebrate their silver anniversary sometime after 2000 actually ended up doing so. The majority of marriages ended, due to divorce, separation or death.
"Even the most optimistic people have to ask themselves, ‘What financial shape would I be in if my marriage ended?’" says Marilyn Capelli, a financial adviser in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
The most effective way for couples to button down their finances is through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. But many people are reluctant to even raise the possibility of drafting one because it seems so, well, out of sync with that bit about "till death do us part."
Short of one of those contracts, there are some moves that may help you land on solid financial ground, no matter what happens.
Divorce lawyers often see a fair share of controversy over the marital home. The house is visible, valuable, and emotional. There are good reasons to stand your ground: continuity for the children, emotional attachment, and sometimes even convenience. There are also some not-so-good reasons: vindictiveness, ego gratification, and just plain greed.
Courts take into account many factors before deciding who gets the house. They include the “Good Reasons” listed below and bad reasons, such as when a physically abuse spouse wants the house or when someone who abandons his family later returns to claim the home.
Many states have divorce-related automatic restraining orders that prohibit the sale or mortgaging of the marital home. Even if the property is only in your name, you are not allowed to sell or encumber the home without spousal or court approval. Also, your spouse may file a “lis pendens,” a lien saying that there is a claim on the title.
Divorce Tip: 1) You don’t want a stranger in a black robe (the judge) making your decisions, and 2) only your attorney can properly advise you given your particular circumstances and your state’s law. Whatever the law, ideally the decision regarding the house should be based on mutual agreement, without court intervention.
If you have one or more of the "Good Reasons" listed below, then you can take the next step in deciding whether it is economically feasible to keep the house.
Good Reason #1: The kids – school-aged children are often traumatized by a divorce, and moving can compound their emotional distress. However, sometimes a fresh start might be emotionally healthy, so speak with a child psychologist if you aren’t sure.
Good Reason #2: Sentimental or emotional attachment – for example, if you were the stay-at-home spouse and you’re emotionally attached to the house. Similarly, an attachment might exist if the house belonged to your parents or a relative before you were married.
Good Reason #3: House as settlement tool – the division of marital assets should be acceptable to both sides. You can use the house as a bargaining chip, or “settlement tool.”
Divorce Tip: If you are going to fight, make sure it is for the right reasons and that you can afford the house.
The increase in divorce has its effect, directly or indirectly, on virtually every family in the country. The following information is designed to summarize briefly Georgia’s divorce laws.
Marriage is a civil contract which the state has an interest in preserving. Accordingly, the marriage relationship can be dissolved only as provided by law, by either a divorce or an annulment. It also may be altered by a decree of separation granted by our courts. In any case, there must be a proceeding in the Superior Court of the county in which the person seeking the divorce, separation decree or annulment must prove "grounds" (valid reasons prescribed by law).
What are the grounds for divorce in Georgia?
In Georgia there are 13 grounds for divorce. One ground is "irretrievably broken" (sometimes referred to as the "no-fault" ground). The other 12 grounds for divorce in Georgia are "fault" grounds.
What is a "no-fault" divorce?
To obtain a divorce on this basis (irretrievably broken), one party must establish that he or she refuses to live with the other spouse and that there is no hope of reconciliation. It is not necessary to show that there was any fault or wrongdoing by either party.
What are the "fault" grounds?
To obtain a divorce on one of the 12 "fault" grounds, one must prove that there was some wrongdoing by one of the parties to the marriage.
As an example, one fault ground is adultery. Adultery in Georgia includes heterosexual and homosexual relations between one spouse and another individual.
Another "fault" ground for divorce in Georgia is desertion. A divorce may be granted on the grounds that a person has deserted his or her spouse willfully for at least a year. Other "fault" grounds include mental or physical cruel treatment, marriage between persons who are too closely related, mental incapacity at the time of marriage, impotency at the time of marriage, force or fraud in obtaining the marriage, pregnancy of the wife unknown to the husband at the time of the marriage, conviction and imprisonment for certain crimes, habitual intoxication or drug addiction, and mental illness.
Is there a residence requirement for getting a divorce in Georgia?
Yes, one spouse must have lived in the state of Georgia for six months or Georgia must have been the last domicile of the marriage.
Must the husband and wife live apart when a divorce complaint is filed?
No, but the spouses must be considered separated in a legal sense before one can file for a divorce. Spouses may be considered separated even if they are living in the same house, if they are not sharing the same room and/or not having a sexual relationship.
How does one file for a divorce?
The person seeking the divorce (the plaintiff) will file a document called a "complaint" with the appropriate Superior Court. This complaint includes information on the marriage including present living arrangements, children of the marriage, assets, debts, and the specific reason claimed for seeking a divorce. A copy of the complaint will be served on the other spouse (the defendant) by the sheriff.
Where does one file for a divorce?
A complaint for divorce should be filed in the Superior Court of the defendant’s county of residence or, if the defendant has recently moved from the state of Georgia, in the county of the plaintiff’s residence. This would be considered the domicile of the marriage. Upon the defendant’s consent, the complaint may be filed in the plaintiff’s county of residence regardless of whether the defendant has moved from the state of Georgia or not.
What should I do if I receive a complaint for divorce that my spouse has filed?
The spouse who receives the complaint should promptly consult a lawyer. The spouse may contest the reason claimed for the divorce or contest the claims for child custody, child support, alimony or property division by filing an answer with the court. If an answer is not filed within 30 days, the right to contest the complaint may be lost.
Is there a way to live apart without getting a divorce?
A party who wishes to live apart permanently, but who does not want to get a divorce, may file a "separate maintenance" action. The spouses will remain legally married although living apart. The court may order that alimony be paid by one spouse to the other and the court may divide property between the parties.
What is an annulment?
Unlike a divorce, which dissolves a valid marriage, an annulment is a legal decree that the marriage is now void and was invalid from its inception. If there are children born of the marriage, an annulment may not be granted and the marriage may only be dissolved by divorce.
Must I go to court to get a divorce?
Not necessarily. Spouses may be able to reach an agreement resolving all issues arising from the marriage, including finances, division of property and custody and visitation of children. The agreement is presented to the court as a settlement agreement and, upon approval, made an order of the court. The court’s order, called a final judgment and decree, concludes the lawsuit. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, a judge or jury will resolve the issues. However, a judge always decides matters of child custody and visitation.
How long does it take to get a divorce?
If there is agreement between the parties, the divorce is considered uncontested. An uncontested divorce may be granted 31 days after the defendant has been served with the complaint for divorce. If there is disagreement as to any matter, the divorce will be obtained when the case reaches the court, which can take many months.
What happens while I wait to go to court?
Either of the spouses may request a temporary hearing. This hearing is not a final trial. A temporary hearing resolves the issues of child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, debts and possession of property on a temporary basis until the final trial. The judge will issue a temporary order that applies only until the time of the final trial. The temporary order may also prohibit one party from interfering with the other party or the children and prevent the transfer and selling of assets.
What is decided at final trial?
Questions of child custody and visitation are decided by the judge. The judge alone or a 12-person jury (if one of the parties has requested) will resolve all of the financial issues of the marriage, such as division of property, division of debts, alimony and certain findings concerning child support (gross income of both parties and whether any deviations from teh presumptive amount of child support are in the best interests of the child, and if so, what those deviations should be). At the final trial, both spouses present evidence by their own testimony and may call other witnesses. The decision rendered by a judge or jury is written into a court order that is binding upon both parties. The wife’s maiden or former name can be re-established if she so desires.
What about the children?
The welfare of children is of major concern to the court. Neither parent is automatically entitled to custody. The judge looks at the best interests of the child when determining custody. The judge considers many factors when deciding custody, including the age and sex of the child, compatibility with each parent and the ability of each parent to care for and nurture the child. A child more than 14 years of age can choose which parent will have custody upon the consent of the court. The court considers it important for a child to maintain relationships with both parents; therefore, visitation rights are awarded to the parent who is not given legal custody of the child.
May the parents share custody?
The court, in its discretion, can award joint custody instead of sole custody. There are two types of joint custody. Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child; joint physical custody means that physical custody is shared by the parents in such a way to assure the child substantially equal time and contact with both parents. In awarding joint custody, the court may order joint legal custody, joint physical custody or both.
What are child support obligations?
The child support law in Georgia changed effective Jan. 1, 2007. The new law is based on an "income shares" model that requires consideration of both parties’ gross income. "Gross income" has a very broad definition and encompasses salary, commissions, income from self-employment, bonuses, overtime payments, severance pay, recurring income from pensions, interest and divident income, trust income, capital gains, gifts, prizes, lottery winnings and income from any other source. Once the monthly gross income of each party is determined, the two incomes are added together to get the combined ajusted income amount. A Child Support Obligation Table is then used to get the Basic Child Support Obligation. To use the table, locate the line corresponding with the combined adjusted income amount and then apply the amount in the column that corresponds with the number of children for whom support is being determined. That Basic Child Support Obligation is then applied to each parent’s proportionate share of the combined adjusted incom
(For example, if the father’s monthly gross income is $3,000 and the mother’s montly gross income is $2,000, their combined adjusted income is $5,000, of which the mother’s income represents 40 percent and the father’s income represents 60 percent. The child support obligation for a family with combined adjusted income of $5,000 per month for two children is $1,297. Thus, if the father is the noncustodial parent, he will pay 60 percent of the child support obligation, $778.20, or if the mother is the noncustodial parent, she will pay $518.80, which is 40 percent of the child support obligation.)
The cost of medical insurance on the child and the cost of work-related childcare will result in the amount of the child support payment being modified with credit being given to the parent who is actually paying these expenses. In addition, the amount of child support may be modified by certain deviations provided it is in the best interest of the child to deviate from the presumptive amount of child support. Examples of deviations may be extraordinary education expenses like private school tuition or tutoring; extraordinary medical expenses; or special expenses which must exceed 7 percent of the basic child support obligation, such as extracurricular expenses, sumer camps, dental insurance, parenting time adjustment or any other appropriate deviation. You can access the guided electronic worksheet used in calculating child support at www.georgiacourts.org/csc. You may also download an Excel version of the worksheet through this same website.
In addition to the child support payment, the court (or parties by agreement) will also designate what percentage each parent will pay of the child’s uncovered medical and dental expenses.
In Georgia, both parents have a duty to financially support the child until that child turns 18, marries, dies or becomes emancipated, whichever occurs first. However, if the child has not graduated from high school prior to reaching age 18, then the obligation to support that child continues until the child graduates from high school provided the child remains a full-time student, but not beyond the age of 20.
May I receive money for the children’s college?
The court cannot order parents to pay for college. However, parents may agree to pay child support beyond the age of 18 or to pay for college expenses.
What is alimony?
Alimony is payment by one spouse to the other for support and maintenance. The court may grant alimony to either the husband or the wife. Alimony may be for a limited period or until the spouse receiving alimony dies or remarries. It may be paid in one payment of money or property, or it may be paid over a period of time.
What happens to "our" possessions in a divorce?
One of the most difficult and complex areas of divorce is the division of marital property. Marital property is all property acquired during the marriage, except for property received by gift from a third party or by inheritance. Each spouse is entitled to an equitable share of all marital property acquired during the marriage. The judge or jury will decide on the division of marital property. Marital property will be divided equitably (not necessarily equally) between the parties regardless of how the title to the property is held. There is no set formula or percentage amount used to divide marital property.
How will the court order be enforced?
The court order can be enforced by garnishment or a contempt action. A contempt action is filed in the same court that issued the divorce. In addition, support orders can be enforced through the district attorney’s office if the non-paying spouse resides out of town.
If my spouse and I agree on all matters pertaining to getting a divorce, do we still need a lawyer?
A lawyer will ensure that all matters that should be resolved in a divorce are resolved. Acting without a lawyer could end up being a costly mistake both to the parties and to their children.
What do I do if I am the victim of family violence?
Georgia has a law protecting victims of family violence. The parties do not have to be married in order for a victim to ask the court for relief. However, the parties have to reside in the same household. A victim of family violence can file a petition with the Superior Court that family violence has occurred in the past and may occur in the future. The court can issue a temporary order granting a variety of remedies, including eviction of the offending party from the residence or providing suitable alternate housing for the victim and children, as well as financial relief.
The victim does not need a lawyer to file a Family Violence Petition. The clerk of the Superior Court in the victim’s residing county may provide forms for the Petition or be able to direct a victim to a family violence shelter or social service agency for direction.
SOURCE: State Bar of Georgia