Georgia Prenuptial Agreement FAQ

What is a prenuptial agreement?
A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into by two people who are to be married. The purpose of a Prenuptial Agreement is to set forth certain rights for each party in the event of a divorce. Sometimes provisions for property distribution upon death are included, but such provisions are better placed in a Last Will and Testament.

Why do people get prenuptial agreements?
The most common reason for a Prenuptial Agreement is to protect property that one or both parties owned before the marriage from becoming divided upon divorce.

What is an "antenuptial agreement" or a "premarital agreement"?
These are all synonyms for a Prenuptial Agreement. They all refer to the same concept, the same type of document.

Can I sign a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement after I get married?
Yes. It would be called a "Post-Nuptial Agreement" and Georgia law does currently recognize such documents.

Does everyone getting married need a Prenuptial Agreement?
Prenuptial agreements are not for everyone. Prenuptial Agreements are generally utilized by parties who have considerable assets prior to the marriage and want to keep those assets separate or those who have been through a divorce and want to minimize the cost and time if they unfortunately go through another divorce. Without a prenuptial agreement, it is possible in certain circumstances for separate or premarital property to lose its separate quality and it can then become marital property or can be used to pay alimony.

Can a Prenuptial Agreement cover alimony?
Sometimes, Prenuptial Agreements are used to limit, establish or eliminate alimony in the event of a divorce.

Can a Prenuptial Agreement affect child custody or child support?
Generally speaking, Prenuptial Agreements do not deal with child custody or child support. Judges make the final decision on custody, and parties cannot pre-determine child support because the law regards child support as being a right for a child, and parties cannot override that right. Custody also must be determined AT THE TIME OF THE DISPUTE since no one can predict all the circumstances which will exist at the time of a custody dispute.

I already have a house and property and I want to protect it. Will a Prenuptial Agreement help?
Yes. If you own property before the marriage and you want to protect that property in the event of divorce, a well drafted and enforceable Prenuptial Agreement can make it easier for you to keep that property in the event of a divorce.

Do I need my own lawyer if my fiancé’s attorney prepared a Prenuptial Agreement?
Yes. It is important to have your own counsel explain fully the proposed Agreement and the potential pitfalls that could affect you in the event of a divorce. Your attorney can suggest changes to the proposed Agreement that can dramatically affect to your benefit what happens in the event of a divorce.

Does my fiancé need their own lawyer if my attorney prepares a Prenuptial Agreement?
Yes. Not only does it make it more fair (each side has independent advice), it also makes it more enforceable since neither can later argue that they did not understand what they were signing.

Even if my spouse and I have a Prenuptial Agreement, can we change the terms later?
Yes. You can "re-up the Prenup" by having your attorney prepare an addendum to the original Agreement. After that has been properly signed and witnessed, it becomes a part of the original Agreement and will reflect the new terms you have changed.

What if my spouse and I decide, after years of marriage, that we no longer want to have the Prenuptial Agreement in effect?
Most well-written Prenuptial Agreements will contain a provision that dictates exactly how to cancel the Prenuptial Agreement so that it is no longer in effect. Further, your attorney can build in Asunset@ provisions to the original Prenuptial Agreement that provide for its automatic cancellation after an agreed-upon amount of years.

Will a Prenuptial Agreement determine how my spouse’s property is distributed after his/her death?
Not unless you insist on such a provision. It is strongly recommended that you each have a Last Will and Testament to cover what happens to property upon the death of a spouse. Generally, a good Prenuptial Agreement will contain language that says that either of you are free to give or will away any property you want to the other party.

Are Prenuptial Agreements expensive?
As is in most cases, the cost is based on how long it takes your attorney to prepare the Agreement. Prenuptial Agreements take a lot of time to prepare since they are an attempt to resolve disputes which have not yet occurred and which are based upon factors which do not yet exist (changes in income, assets, the birth of children, etc.) In some limited cases, Prenuptial Agreements can be prepared on a flat fee basis. See your attorney for more complete fee and cost information.

SOURCE: DivorceNet

SOURCE FOR POST: Georgia Family Law Blog

Divorce Manual: CONFIDENTIALITY

One of a lawyer’s most fundamental ethical obligations is to maintain the confidentiality of client communications. With few exceptions, some of which are noted below, your lawyer cannot voluntarily reveal anything learned while representing you. These rules exist so you can tell your lawyer the whole truth without fear that what you say will later be used against you.

Direct communications between you and your lawyer are protected by the attorney-client privilege. This means that not even a court can make you or your lawyer tell what you have said or written to each other. Information that your lawyer obtains from documents or people other than you cannot be voluntarily revealed, but may in some cases be disclosed if ordered by a court.

But be aware that the attorney-client privilege can be lost if someone other than you and your lawyer (or your lawyer’s staff) hears or reads what you and your lawyer say or write to each other. There are many ways in which your privilege can be waived by disclosure of your confidences to persons other than your lawyer: for example, talking to your lawyer in the presence of a third person not on your lawyer’s staff; telling others what you have discussed with your lawyer; and allowing others to read correspondence between you and your lawyer. If you bring a friend or relative with you to your lawyer’s office for moral support, your lawyer may ask your friend or relative to wait in the reception room in order to preserve the privilege. Because the rules regarding confidentiality and privilege vary slightly from state to state, you should never discuss confidential information about your case with anyone other than your lawyer without first checking with your lawyer.

There are also several exceptions to your lawyer’s duty not to reveal client confidences. A conversation in which a client tells a lawyer that the client intends to commit a crime or, in some states, a fraud, is not privileged and the lawyer could be forced to testify in court about the conversation. The privilege may also be lost if you or one of your witnesses commits perjury and in other circumstances which you should discuss with your lawyer. Also, if a lawyer is accused of wrongdoing by the client, the lawyer may reveal confidential information necessary to defend against the accusation.

Confidential information provided to others may also be revealed during divorce proceedings. Psychologists, therapists, public officials and others may be required by law in your state to report suspected child abuse. Judges may report suspected tax fraud to the Internal Revenue Service. Financial, medical, and psychological records may be subject to subpoena. In summary, your right to privacy may be diminished during a divorce.

SOURCE: American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Divorce Manual; A Client Handbook

CyberStalking: Eliminating “Cyber-confusion”

Recently, the term "cyberstalking" seems to be cropping up everywhere. But no one seems to know exactly what it means. Is it stalking by computer? By hidden cameras? By email? Is it cyberstalking to use a cell phone or pager to track someone? What technologies are really covered by cyberstalking? And why should anyone care?

The law rests on the accurate use of terms. For more than a decade, advocates and legislators have struggled to define stalking and write laws to prosecute stalkers. Now that all states have passed anti-stalking laws, law enforcement professionals, as well as the public, are starting to share a common understanding of the elements and definition of stalking.

Stalking takes many forms. Stalkers can physically follow their victims. They can use phones, the U.S. Postal Service, couriers, and even florists to track and pressure their prey. Stalkers can also bombard their victims with instant messages, photograph them with hidden cameras, install surveillance software on their computers, and use global positioning systems (GPS) to track them in their cars. But no matter what tools they use, stalkers are still stalkers.

So what’s wrong with describing technology-aided stalking as "cyberstalking"? On the surface, the term seems harmless. But a closer look suggests a few problems. "Cyber" usually refers to the Internet. The term may be stretched to encompass all use of computers. But it does not cover the use of many other forms of technology. So it’s inaccurate to describe stalking with GPS or a camera as cyberstalking. Some states have passed cyberstalking statutes to cover stalking via email, websites, and chat rooms (that require computers). But what happens when attorneys try to apply cyberstalking statutes to technology that the statutes do not address? Some confusion is inevitable.

Although most professionals now use computers, many are still intimidated by the complexity of technology. Many stalking-savvy law enforcement officers, prosecutors, or advocates hesitate to get involved in a case described as cyberstalking because they are not experts in the inner workings of a computer. The term "cyber" distracts them from what they already know about stalking laws and how to build a case. They forget that they can hire technology experts to explain how new technologies operate. What is most important for criminal justice professionals is to understand the basics and dynamics of stalking and, in general, how their state statutes address technology. Building on such a foundation, they can prosecute the ever-evolving forms of stalking with technology.

To deal effectively with technology’s impact on stalking, we, as criminal justice professionals should make sure our language is appropriate. Instead of getting hung up on cyberstalking, why don’t we just` say "the use of technology to stalk"? That way, the crime is clear, and "technology" covers the host of tools the stalker can use (now and in the future) to commit their crimes. Once we’ve defined our terms, law enforcement can go back to catching stalkers, Merriam-Webster can wrestle with "cyber," and we can all return to our computers with renewed confidence.

SOURCE: Stalking Resource Center

Tax Treatment on Sale of Principal Residence by Divorced Couples

Married couples are allowed up to $500,000 ($250,000 each) in profits, tax free from the sale of their principal residence, as long as they have owned and occupied the residence as a principal residence for at least two of the five years before the sale. Formerly, a spouse who moved out as a result of divorce lost his or her $250,000 deduction because it was no longer the principal residence. However, thanks to a change in the tax law, an ex-spouse can now retain that exclusion.

The law contains a specific provision relating to property used by the spouse of a former spouse pursuant to a divorce decree (26 U.S.C. § 121 (d)(3B)). This section states that “an individual shall be treated as using property as such individual’s principal residence during any period of ownership while such individual’s spouse or former spouse is granted use of the property under a divorce or separation instrument.”
 
This addresses the case of where an individual has retained ownership in the house but where the former spouse occupies the house for a period of more than 3 years from the time the owner (the non-occupying individual) has vacated the home. This allows the non-occupying individual to exclude up to $250,000 of gain when the house is sold, even though he or she did not actually occupy the home for two of the last five years before the sale.

To qualify, the spouse who moved out must remain an owner and the divorce or separation agreement must grant that spouse the use of the home. If a spouse who is the sole owner remarries, the new spouse must live in the house for two years to qualify for the full $500,000 exclusion.   

SOURCE: DivorceNet

Premarital Agreements FAQ’s

1) WHAT IS A PRE-MARITAL AGREEMENT?
A pre-marital agreement may be entered into by competent adults who are legally able to marry. The purpose of such an agreement is to avoid the usual legal consequences of joining the estates of two parties by marriage. Many people have an established estate, and/or established responsibilities to prior family, which they would like to see protected from the new spouse and new obligations. This can only be done by the consent of both parties to the marriage, and with full knowledge of each other’s financial situation.

2) WILL IT HOLD UP IN COURT?
It is important to understand that the enforceability of the agreement is the most important concern, and sometimes compromises must be made to ensure enforceability. An agreement that was made without full disclosure, or entered into without proper legal advice, or under duress, will probably not hold up in court. You must be aware that such a document will almost always be scrutinized by a court at the time it is enforced to determine if it was fair at the time it was signed, whether the parties understood what they were signing, and had proper legal advice.

3) WHEN SHOULD YOU MAKE A PRE-MARITAL AGREEMENT?
To avoid the appearance of duress, the agreement should be done as far in advance of the wedding date as possible, and before expensive preparations are made. Both sides should have independent legal counsel to advise them. Remember, this is basically a divorce settlement entered into before marriage, and, if done properly, could serve as the basis of an uncontested divorce if the marriage ends, thus avoiding a costly legal battle over these issues.

4) CAN A MARITAL AGREEMENT BE DONE AFTER THE WEDDING?
A Marital Agreement can be made after the wedding whenever differences arise between the parties regarding the future financial issues. The Agreement must be based upon some consideration other than the marriage itself. Sometimes such an Agreement is made as part of a reconciliation of the parties or following some other dispute. Such an Agreement has been held to be just as enforceable as a Premarital Agreement.

SOURCE: DivorceNet