Family Law Terms in Georgia

The language of the family law court can be confusing, especially if this is the first time you have gone through a divorce or child custody matter. At The Siemon Law Firm, our lawyers always try to speak in plain English. If we need to use a legal term, we will take the time to explain what it means.

Here are some of the terms that come up most often in Georgia family law cases:

  • Annulment: An annulment is a legal decree that the marriage was invalid from its inception. When you obtain an annulment, it is as if the marriage never existed. In Georgia, annulments are granted only for specific cases, such as fraud.
  • Child support: Child support refers to the ongoing payments one parent must make to the other for the support of children after a divorce. Child support can also be ordered when two parents were never married, but had a child together.
  • Contempt of court: Contempt is the willful violation of a court order.
  • Equitable distribution: Georgia is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property must be equitably divided in divorce. Equitable doesn't necessarily mean equal. It means fair.
  • Grounds for divorce: To obtain a divorce in Georgia, you and your spouse must choose one of 13 grounds, which range from irreconcilable differences to conduct grounds such as cruel treatment and adultery.
  • Guardian ad litem: A lawyer appointed to represent the best interests of your children if there is a child custody dispute.
  • Joint custody: Joint custody is when both parents have legal custody of a child.
  • Legal custody: Legal custody is the right to make important decisions for your child, such as religious upbringing, education, medical care and extracurricular activities.
  • Legal separation: A legal separation is like a divorce, except the couple doesn't dissolve the marriage. The couple divides their property and lives apart, but continues to be legally married. Some couples separate instead of divorce so that a spouse can continue on the partner's medical insurance. Others separate for religious reasons or because they are not ready for divorce.
  • Marital dissolution: Marital dissolution is another term for divorce.
  • Mediation: Mediation involves the use of a neutral third party to help you and your spouse resolve divorce issues out of court. Mediation is not binding on either party.
  • Modification: A modification is a change to your child custody or support orders that happens after your divorce.
  • Parenting plan: A parenting plan is the document you use to spell out your child custody and visitation arrangement.
  • Parenting time: Also known as visitation, parenting time is the time the child will spend with the noncustodial parent.
  • Paternity: When a child is born to parents who are not married, the father is responsible for paying child support. The father also has a right to child custody and visitation. If the two parties do not agree who the father is, paternity is established in court using a DNA test.
  • Physical custody: Physical custody is where a child will live. The parent who has primary physical custody is known as the primary physical custodian.
  • QDRO: A qualified domestic relations order is a legal document used to divide retirement assets such as pensions, 401(k) accounts and IRA accounts after a divorce.
  • Sole custody: Sole custody is when one parent has sole legal and physical custody of a child. Sole custody is rare, except in cases of child abuse or domestic violence.
  • Spousal support: Also known as spousal maintenance or alimony, spousal support refers to ongoing payments one spouse must make to the other after a divorce.
  • Standing orders: These are orders that will prohibit you and your spouse from doing certain things (such as wasting assets) while your divorce is in process.

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If you have legal issue involving your family, our lawyers are here to advise you. Please contact us today and arrange a personal, discreet consultation.