Family law is a highly specialized area of practice. As a boutique family law firm, our attorneys practice exclusively family law and have experience handling all family law-related issues, including:
Every family is different and accordingly, every divorce case brings unique circumstances and legal issues. The attorneys at Boyd Collar Nolen & Tuggle, LLC have unparalleled experience in helping our clients navigate a difficult process. Through our years of combined experience and continuing legal education, we are equipped to handle whatever challenges arise in a family law matter. One thing that our firm does exceptionally well is to empathize with the intense emotions our clients often experience. At the same time, we maintain our ultimate focus on providing sensible advice on how to achieve the best outcome for our client. Whether through a trial or through settlement, our goal is to advocate for our clients in a comprehensive and straightforward manner so that the client can navigate the divorce process and move forward with confidence that they have gotten the best possible result.
- Property Division
Georgia is an “equitable division of property” state. For the client going through a divorce in Georgia, what this means, generally, is that property acquired between a husband and wife during the marriage will be divided fairly considering a number of factors. These factors may include the conduct of the husband and/or wife, the separate estate of each party, the contributions of each party to the marriage, and the practice and historical pattern of the parties relating to the income of one or both of the parties.
While the standards provided by Georgia law are fairly open to interpretation as to what constitutes an “equitable” division of property, our attorneys specialize in high asset, complex cases. These cases require a level of financial expertise in matters of valuation, discovery of assets and other issues which may accompany the division of a significant marital estate. The attorneys at Boyd Collar Nolen & Tuggle, LLC have knowledge in the areas of business, financial planning, taxation and accounting. Regardless of whether or not you are the spouse who has traditionally handled the family finances, we are equipped with the resources to handle and if necessary, try your case.
Alimony is support for one spouse that is paid by the other. By its nature, alimony is paid to one party in as if they were receiving “income” and it is taxable to the party receiving the alimony and deductible by the party who is paying the alimony. In divorce cases, alimony may be awarded on a temporary and permanent basis for the support and maintenance of either spouse. The amount and duration of alimony is generally based upon the needs of the spouse receiving alimony and the ability of the other spouse to pay. Other factors that the Court may consider in determining an appropriate award of alimony include the standard of living during the marriage, the duration of the marriage, the age and health of each party, the financial resources of each party, the contribution of each party to the marriage (including homemaking and child care), the separate estate and earning capacity of each party, the time needed for either party to acquire education or training to enable him or her to find employment, and any other relevant factors the court regards as fair and proper to consider. Alimony may be awarded in cash or property, and it may be payable periodically (monthly, quarterly or annually) or in one lump sum.
Georgia law does not provide a standard mathematical formula for determining an appropriate amount or length for alimony payments. Because there is no standard, a Judge or jury has significant latitude to determine the amount of an alimony award. Accordingly, in any case where alimony is a factor, having an attorney who can provide the property advice and advocacy may highly impact the outcome of an alimony award.
- Child Support
In 2007, Georgia revised the way that child support is calculated. Georgia law now makes both parents responsible for their children’s financial support and considers not only each party’s income and/or ability to earn income but also, the expenses parents pay on behalf of their children including, but not limited to, health insurance, extracurricular activities, educational expenses, and child care expenses. The attorneys at Boyd Collar Nolen & Tuggle, LLC have experience and training on which you can rely to prepare and advocate for the appropriate child support award for your children.
The standard in the State of Georgia for determining custody is the “best interest of the child”. This standard gives the Court broad discretion in determining the parent who receives physical custody of the children, the appropriate parenting time/visitation for each parent, and what role each parent will have in making important decisions about their child’s welfare, health, education and religious training.
Any Judge will tell you that the best person to determine how you and your spouse share parenting time and make decisions affecting your children’s future is you. However, when you and your spouse are not in agreement as to what constitutes the “best interest of the child”, your counsel at Boyd Collar Nolen & Tuggle, LLC will work to get you the best result through a hearing or a trial on custody issues. Our ultimate goal is ensuring that the child’s best interests are promoted and protected.
- Guardian Ad Litem
Obtaining a parenting plan for the children that is in their best interests and that takes into account the unique needs of the family is the highest priority of most parents. Given their heavy caseloads and the need to move cases along, Judges frequently are unable to take into account the nuances of the lives of every family and the unique needs of the children. Many Judges rely on the investigation and recommendation of an objective third party, called a Guardian ad Litem, in fashioning family-specific parenting plans and in making determinations on custody. A Guardian Ad Litem meets with the parties and the children, interviews third parties who have knowledge of each party’s parenting style, and make a proposal to the Court about an appropriate custody and visitation schedule for the parties’ children. Boyd Collar Nolen & Tuggle, LLC has extensive experience working with Guardian Ad Litems in contested custody situations and in shepherding parents through the investigation process to ensure that a Guardian is provided a complete and accurate picture of the needs of the children and the family.
Several of our lawyers also are recognized and respected for their work as Guardian Ad Litems throughout the region and serve frequently at the request of area Judges and lawyers. This experience includes working on highly contested and complex custody disputes that involve, among other things, issues of substance abuse, mental illness, special needs, domestic abuse and child abuse. One of our lawyers has trained hundreds of Guardian Ad Litems throughout the State and has authored a Guardian Ad Litem Manual used by many. The experience of our “in-house” Guardian Ad Litems is available on all of our cases as we seek to ensure the best possible result for you and your children.
- Paternity and Legitimation
When a child is born to parents that are not married, there are a number of different issues to consider. What custody rights do the mother and father have? Does the father have to pay child support? Can the child inherit from his father if he is not legitimized? In Georgia, prior to the legitimation of a child born out of wedlock, the mother is entitled to sole custody and complete parental power over the child. In order for a father to obtain custody or visitation with the child, the child must first be legitimized. In such an action, the court can declare the child legitimate, specify the child’s name, and order the child and father capable of inheriting from each other.
The mother of a child born out of wedlock may obtain child support from the father through a paternity suit. If it can be shown that the alleged father is the biological father of the child, the court may issue an order designating him as the father of the child, and imposing a child support obligation upon him.
- Post-Decree Enforcement (Contempt)
Unfortunately, there are times when one or both parties fails to comply with a Court Order requiring payment of child support or alimony, or relating to custody or visitation. The remedy when a party fails to comply is a contempt action. If the Court finds a party in contempt, that party can be ordered not only to cooperate going forward, but also to be incarcerated and/or to pay the other party’s attorneys fees. The attorneys at Boyd Collar Nolen & Tuggle, LLC are skilled in representing clients seeking enforcement of prior orders, as well as those clients defending such an action.
- Modification of Custody and Support
Under certain circumstances, a party may modify an existing custody and/or support order. Alimony and child support may be modified up or down, provided there has been a substantial change in the financial status or income of either party.
Using the “best interest of the child” standard, custody may be modified if there has been a material change in circumstances affecting the welfare of the child. Visitation may also be modified if it is determined that a change is in the best interest of the child whether or not there has been a material change in circumstances affecting the welfare of the child. Before pursuing a modification action, any of our attorneys can advise you on whether your prior order can be or should be modified.
In recent years, the Supreme Court of Georgia has given individuals involved in domestic relations matters the opportunity to file an appeal if they are dissatisfied with the outcome of their divorce at the trial court level without going through the same rigorous process that the Supreme Court usually requires for its cases. While relatively few domestic cases require an appeal, if a client believes an issue was wrongly decided, an appeal may be appropriate. Our lawyers have briefed and orally argued appeals at every level in the Georgia Appellate Courts, and are extraordinarily skilled at analysis of the advisability of an appeal and the likely outcome.
- Restraining and Protective Orders/Family Violence
Sometimes when parties are involved in domestic litigation, safety can become a concern. Emotions can run high and unfortunately, individuals sometimes take regrettable actions which may harm one or more of their family members. In certain cases, it is appropriate to pursue protection from the Court from family violence.
The attorneys at Boyd Collar Nolen & Tuggle, LLC have extensive experience pursuing and in certain circumstances, defending, family violence actions. Upon the filing of a verified petition alleging that an act of family violence has occurred in the past and is likely to occur in the future, the Court is authorized to enter a temporary protective order. The temporary protective order can provide relief including, but not limited to, restraining the offending party from committing future acts of family violence or otherwise harassing or interfering with the petitioner, granting the petitioner exclusive use and possession of the family residence or requiring the offending party to provide alternate housing to the petitioner and children, awarding temporary custody to the petitioner, and awarding temporary financial support to the petitioner. If the Court finds that a family violence petition is supported by evidence, a temporary protective order is immediately entered and a hearing scheduled (usually within 10 days) to determine whether the protective order should be extended or modified.
- Collaborative Law
The collaborative approach to family law offers a way to resolve issues incident to a divorce through cooperation, positive negotiation and amicable resolution. Not every case is suited for the collaborative process but if it is something you think might be right for you and your family, the attorneys at Boyd Collar Nolen & Tuggle, LLC include those specially trained in collaborative law. We are pleased to be able to offer this alternative to litigation to our clients.
- Mediation and Arbitration
Typically, the best possible result for any family law matter is to resolve issues by agreement. At times, the parties and their counsel are able to negotiate a settlement without outside assistance. In other cases, our attorneys turn to the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process to assist in reaching a settlement. ADR enables parties to resolve their domestic matter outside of the courtroom often saving the parties both money and time. There are several types of ADR which including the following:
- Mediation. The parties and their attorneys attend an informal and confidential mediation session with an independent, neutral third party, typically also a family law attorney, to discuss settlement. While agreements reached at mediation are generally binding, the mediator does not have the authority to make a binding decision on the issues raised in the litigation and further, cannot testify if the matter reaches trial. Parties often agree to participate in mediation to try and resolve their case prior to a trial and many courts now require the parties to participate in at least one mediation session prior to a final hearing.
- Arbitration. The parties and their attorneys attend a confidential session with an independent, neutral third party whom the parties agree will have binding authority to make decisions regarding their case.
- Late Case Evaluation. The parties and their attorneys attend a confidential session with an independent, neutral third party who is an experienced domestic relations attorney and/or judge, who is not assigned to their case. The late case evaluator hears the arguments and concerns of both parties and makes non-binding recommendations concerning settlement based on his or her experience. The point of late case evaluation is to have someone not involved in your case advise you what your outcome at trial will likely be thereby, possibly avoiding a trial.
- Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
Georgia law allows a couple to enter into a contract of their own creation, either before or after the marriage, setting forth their financial obligations in the event of a divorce. Such agreements are commonly used to protect property that one or both parties owned prior to the marriage from becoming divided upon divorce, to protect gifts from family members or to guard a personal interest in a family business. Prenuptial agreements can also be used effectively as estate planning tool to protect future inheritances of adult children in the event of remarriage later in life. If property drafted and executed, a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement will allow a couple to separate and divorce promptly and amicably without a costly legal battle.
The attorneys at Boyd Collar Nolen & Tuggle, LLC have extensive experience in preparing prenuptial and postnuptial agreements as well as litigating the validity of an agreement should it have been improperly drafted or executed by prior counsel.
- Education and Special Needs Law
Attorneys at Boyd Collar Nolen and Tuggle, LLC are personally and professionally experienced in representing the needs of children with disabilities. We provide consultation and guidance regarding the legal rights of children with disabilities, requirements in connection with the development of an Individualized Education Program, and legal options when parents cannot come to an agreement with a school district. With over twenty years of litigation experience, we can, if necessary, pursue available remedies in administrative due process as well as in federal and state court. In addition, attorneys regularly present on a wide variety of relevant disability topics including:
- Current issues in Special Education
- Preparing for your child's IEP meeting
- What to do if you disagree with your school district
- Advocating for and protecting your child’s rights under state and federal law to obtain extended school year services (ESY)
- Obtaining reimbursement for private school placements
- Discipline issues
- Giving Back
Finally, the attorneys and staff at Boyd Collar Nolen & Tuggle, LLC believe in the importance of supporting the communities in which we live and work. Through a variety of state and local programs, we encourage all of our attorneys to spend time giving back by, in part, providing domestic relations services to indigent clients and participating in fund raising efforts to benefit our local communities.