Jim Neil Peterson
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Providing Solutions to Family Law Matters in Atlanta

Divorce

Guidance From A Team With More Than 35 Years Of Experience

Choosing to end your marriage by getting divorced is a difficult but often necessary course of action for many couples. Whether your divorce will be contested or uncontested, you need to seek the reliable counsel of our firm's Atlanta divorce attorneys. Our ultimate goal is to guide you through your divorce and help you achieve a favorable outcome.

Ready for the next chapter of your life?

Individuals who choose to divorce will need to address matters such as property division, alimony, child custody, support, and visitation rights. When a couple is unable to come to an agreement, the court will decide these issues. Contested divorces are notorious for being difficult and challenging for both parties. Choosing a divorce lawyer can help you remain level-headed and counsel you so that you can make smart decisions for yourself and your family.

Our firm is qualified to handle your divorce case because:

  • We care about every client that we represent.
  • We have more than 25 years of experience.
  • We are dedicated to the amicable resolution of your situation if possible; however, we are also experienced trial attorneys ready to fight for your rights in court if necessary.
  • We are dedicated to providing you with knowledgeable counsel through the entire process.

Alimony

How the Georgia Courts Determine Alimony

Alimony is an award from one party for the support of the other when the parties are living separately. An award of alimony is made when appropriate in accordance with the needs of the party claiming a right to alimony and the other spouse's ability to pay. Adultery and desertion may be asserted as a defense to the payment of alimony.

In determining the amount of alimony the court considers:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of both parties Assets of each party
  • Time needed for a party to acquire education or training
  • Contributions of each party to homemaking, child care, and career building of other party
  • Condition of the parties, including the separate estates, earning capacies, fixed liabilities, and other factors that may be equitable and proper

Whether you are involved in a difficult divorce or a peaceful separation, our experienced team at The Peterson Firm is ready and available to help you every step of the way. Each case and each client is very important to us, and we will exhaust all of our resources in order to find an effective plan of action and work to reach the desired outcome.


Child Support

How is Georgia child support determined?

Child support laws have evolved over the years and have become more dependent on specific family situations. In Georgia, we use an income shares model that utilizes the income of both parents in arriving at the amount of child support. Child support worksheets are completed in each case that will provide a calculation of child support.

In addition to the income of each party, the following factors may also be considered:

  • Health insurance
  • Childcare costs
  • Travel expenses involved in visitation
  • Mortgage payments
  • Medical expenses
  • Extracurricular activities for the child
  • Other extraordinary expenses

At The Peterson Firm, our divorce lawyers in Atlanta are committed to each client's case and helping each family gather all of the necessary documentation and evidence to build a solid and sound case before the court.


Child Custody

What are the different types of child custody?

One of the most difficult and emotionally-charged issues between couples filing for divorce is often the determination of custody. There are various types of child custody including sole custody, joint custody, joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or some form of combination of them. 

Sole Custody

Sole custody means a person, including, but not limited to, a parent, has been awarded permanent custody of a child by a court order. Unless otherwise provided by court order, the person awarded sole custody of a child will have the rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, including the child's education, health care, extracurricular activities and religious training, and the noncustodial parent will have the right to visitation or parenting time. A person who has not been awarded custody of a child by court order will not be considered as the sole legal custodian while exercising visitation rights or parenting time.

Joint Custody

Joint custody is a term that is used when joint legal custody, joint physical custody or both have been ordered by the court. A judge may differentiate between joint legal custody versus physical custody depending on the situation.

Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody means both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, including the child's education, health care, extracurricular activities, and religious training; provided, however, that the judge may designate one parent to have sole power to make certain decisions while both parents retain equal rights and responsibilities for other decisions.

Joint Physical Custody

Joint physical custody means that physical custody is shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of substantially equal time and contact with both parents.

The courts take the following things into consideration:

Both parents enter a child custody case with equal rights, with there being no favor of the mother or father. If the parents are able to agree to on all issues of custody, the court will generally follow the agreement unless it is not in the best interests of the children. With sound discretion, a judge may look into all relevant facts and circumstances to determine what is in the best interest and welfare of the child or children. The stability of a child's life is one of the most important factors judges consider throughout child custody disputes.

The courts take the following things into consideration:

  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The mental health and physical health of each parent
  • Which parent has spent more time with the child or children
  • Which parent is most involved in the children's activities
  • Any fact relevant to a determination of the best interests of the children.

The Age of Children Can Be a Factor

When a child is 11 to 13 years old, the judge may consider their desires and educational needs to determine which parent has primary custody. When a child reaches the age of 14 years old, the child has the right to select the parent they prefer to live with. The child's selection will be presumptive, unless the selection is determined not to be in the best interests of the child. If both parties cannot agree on the terms of custody, child visitation rights may also be determined by the court. The courts generally believe that both parents should be substantially involved in the lives of the children, but always look for what is in the child's best interest. All cases involving minor children require a Parenting Plan which details the custodial arrangement, visitation, and other rights relating to the children. The child custody attorneys at The Peterson Firm will guide you successfully through the process of child custody decisions!


Property Division

The Peterson Firm Keep Your Interests in Mind

Georgia follows the doctrine of "equitable division of property" in determining how marital property will be divided. The purpose behind the doctrine of equitable division of property is to be sure that property accumulated during the marriage is "fairly" distributed between the parties. Equitable division does not necessarily mean that marital property will be distributed 50/50 between the parties. The court or jury has wide latitude in determining what constitutes equitable division of property.

Factors Taken into Consideration for Property Division

Many of the cases we handle involve substantial assets or closely-held family businesses. Factors that are routinely considered include: (1) any prior marriage of either party; (2) the age, health, occupation, vocational skills and employability of each party; (3) the contributions or services of each spouse to the family; (4) the conduct of either party during the marriage; and (5) the amount and sources of income, the estate, debts, liabilities, and needs of the parties as well as the opportunity of each to accumulate assets in the future by employment or otherwise.

Our attorneys have years of experience in helping value and divide assets including, but not limited to:

  • Business valuations
  • Retirement funds including IRAs, pensions, 401(k)s, etc.
  • Investments including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.
  • Life insurance policies
  • Intellectual property
  • Physical property including homes, condos, timeshares, commercial property, furnishings, art, etc.
  • Vehicles
  • Trusts

The divorce attorneys at The Peterson Firm have the knowledge, expertise, and resources required to obtain a favorable result for you, whether by settlement, or trial.


Division of Non-Qualified Retirement Plans

Knowledgeable Atlanta Divorce Lawyer

High-net worth divorces can be extremely complex and often confusing, which is why it is important for you to retain the right legal counsel to help you understand your rights and guide you the divorce process. Regardless of the situation, when a non-qualified retirement plan is involved in a divorce settlement, matters can become very complicated.

Why? Non-qualified benefits are often given to high-ranking employees and are subject to different regulations that typical 401K plans or IRAs. . This also means that Non-qualified benefits can be extremely difficult to divide or distribute to any individual other than the employee named. You will need to speak with a qualified lawyer who can assess your plan and help you determine what the best step will be within a divorce. This should be done prior to any settlement being agreed upon.

The first and most important step is to discuss your case with an attorney and have them review your plan so that they can help you understand your options.

The following may be set up if your Non-qualified plan cannot be split prior to retirement:

  • Set up higher alimony payments in exchange for keeping your plan untouched
  • Agree to pay your spouse a percentage of the monthly payout once you are eligible to receive benefits from the plan.
  • Exchanging other assets for the present value of your spouse's share of the plan

Why You Need a Legal Advocate on Your Side

For all the reasons mentioned above, it is crucial that you have a divorce attorney on your side who understands the type of plan in question and can utilize this knowledge to help you negotiate the best solution.. Whether you are the spouse seeking to obtain a portion of your spouse's non-qualified plan or you are an employee seeking to protect your plan , the attorneys at The Peterson Firm arehere to help. Our legal team has been representing clients for over 30 years and have been consistently recognized as some of the best family law attorneys in the state of Georgia.


Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreements

Atlanta Family Law Attorney

A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is not about distrust or impending divorce, it is about both planning and protecting the financial future of the parties involved. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are commonly used to establish the financial obligations of the parties if the marriage is subsequently dissolved and can be entered into either during the marriage or after the marriage.

Who Should Enter into a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement?

More couples are entering into prenuptial or postnuptial agreements simply because they do not want a court telling them how to divide their assets should they decide to separate. Whether a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is right for you depends on your unique situation. For example, if you are a young couple just starting out, expect about the same income during the marriage, and will accumulate most of your assets during the marriage, then a prenuptial agreement is probably not right for you. However, you should certainly consider entering into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement for the right circumstances.

You may consider having a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement if you:

  • Own a business
  • Have significant assets
  • Have children or grandchildren from a previous marriage
  • Expect to receive a large inheritance
  • There is a significant difference between your income and that of your spouse
  • Expect a sizable increase regarding income

We understand that each person has a long list of questions and expectations that need to be addressed before they can make an informed decision as to whether or not a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is necessary for their personal situation. The Atlanta family attorneys at The Peterson Firm have extensive experience in drafting prenuptial and postnuptial agreements and are ready to address all your specific concerns and questions.