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: ESTATE PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS

A. At the beginning of the case

You may have an estate plan or will that gives your entire estate and life insurance to your spouse if you die. This plan does not necessarily change because someone files for divorce. Talk to your lawyer about what changes, if any, you need to make and are able to make in your estate plan while the divorce is pending.

Not only should you review your will, you should review the beneficiary designations for your life insurance and retirement plans, including IRAs, and discuss with your lawyer what changes, if any, to make. If you are holding property with your spouse in a form that would give it all to your spouse on your death, you may want to change the form of title.

There may be restraining orders that temporarily limit your right to change title to property or beneficiaries of insurance and death benefits.

B. After the divorce

In some states a divorce will automatically change your estate plan. In other states it won’t. So when the case is over, update your estate plan to be consistent with the judgment and with what you want to happen to your estate.

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

Divorce Manual: SELECTING A DIVORCE LAWYER

A. Introduction

Selecting a lawyer to represent you in your divorce is more than just picking a name; it means establishing a close and sensitive relationship that will continue for months and perhaps years. It is important to find and hire the person who is right for you and your case.

B. Getting Names of Lawyers

1. From other professionals

Lawyers, accountants, psychotherapists, members of the clergy and other professionals meet and work with divorce lawyers in the course of their work and are often a good source of referrals. Ask them for the names of family law specialists with good credentials and reputations and whose qualifications are most appropriate to your case. Lawyers, in particular, are aware of the reputations of other lawyers, even those outside their specialty, so a lawyer you already know and trust can be an exceptionally good referral source. If you need a divorce lawyer outside your geographical area, divorce lawyers in your area often know who the best people are in other regions.

2. From organizations

Your state bar may have a process for certifying family law specialists and may give you names. While certification is no absolute assurance of quality, it usually requires a certain proven level of experience, study, and interest in the field. Certified specialists have usually passed an examination in this area of the law. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers is an organization with a rigorous screening procedure which admits only qualified specialists.

The American Bar Association and most local bar associations have family law sections. Although any lawyer can join these sections with no screening or testing, lawyers who belong may have a higher level of interest and involvement in the field of family law than those who don’t.

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Georgia Child Custody Laws

CHAPTER 9 CHILD CUSTODY PROCEEDINGS

19-9-1. Custody of children; how determined; discretion of court; right of child 14 or over to select custodial parent; consideration of child’s educational needs; when visitation rights may be reviewed; notification of change in residence; application of Article 3 of this chapter.

(a)(1) In all cases in which a divorce is granted, the party not in default shall be entitled to the custody of the minor children of the marriage. However, in all cases in which a divorce is granted, an application for divorce is pending, or a change in custody of a minor child is sought, the court, in the exercise of a sound discretion, may look into all the circumstances of the parties, including improvement of the health of a party seeking a change in custody provisions, and, after hearing both parties, may make a different disposition of the children, placing them, if necessary, in possession of guardians appointed by the judge of the probate court.

(2) In addition to other factors that a court may consider in a proceeding in which the custody of a child or visitation by a parent is at issue and in which the court has made a finding of family violence:

(A) The court shall consider as primary the safety and well-being of the child and of the parent who is the victim of family violence;

(B) The court shall consider the perpetrator’s history of causing physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or causing reasonable fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault to another person;

(C) If a parent is absent or relocates because of an act of domestic violence by the other parent, such absence or relocation for a reasonable period of time in the circumstances shall not be deemed an abandonment of the child or children for the purposes of custody determination; and

(D) The court shall not refuse to consider relevant or otherwise admissible evidence of acts of family violence merely because there has been no previous finding of family violence. The court may, in addition to other appropriate actions, order supervised visitation pursuant to Code Section 19-9-7.

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Georgia Alimony and Child Support Laws

CHAPTER 6 ALIMONY AND CHILD SUPPORT GENERALLY

19-6-1. Alimony defined; when authorized; how determined; lien on estate of party dying prior to order; certain changes in parties’ assets prohibited pending determination.

(a) Alimony is an allowance out of one party’s estate, made for the support of the other party when living separately. It is either temporary or permanent.

(b) A party shall not be entitled to alimony if it is established by a preponderance of the evidence that the separation between the parties was caused by that party’s adultery or desertion. In all cases in which alimony is sought, the court shall receive evidence of the factual cause of the separation even though one or both of the parties may also seek a divorce, regardless of the grounds upon which a divorce is sought or granted by the court.

(c) In all other cases in which alimony is sought, alimony is authorized, but is not required, to be awarded to either party in accordance with the needs of the party and the ability of the other party to pay. In determining whether or not to grant alimony, the court shall consider evidence of the conduct of each party toward the other.

(d) Should either party die prior to the court’s order on the issue of alimony, any rights of the other party to alimony shall survive and be a lien upon the estate of the deceased party.

(e) Pending final determination by the court of the right of either party to alimony, neither party shall make any substantial change in the assets of the party’s estate except in the course of ordinary business affairs and except for bona fide transfers for value.

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