Now that we have established the elements of the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (DRFA).  Why is it necessary for you to complete one? 

Superior Court Rule 24 requires that litigants in domestic relations actions complete one.  Failure to do so could result in a citation of contempt. 

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In a divorce, Judges refer to it to calculate child support, to determine whether alimony is warranted,  to determine how much alimony, to determine attorney's fees,  and to determine the division of assets and debts.  In child custody and support cases, they refer to it in determining support. 

Litigants should carefully review their DRFAs before signing them to ensure that all the values are correct as they can have drastic consequences in your case. For example, if you are paying your child's day care costs and the cost is showing at $100 per month but in reality it is a $1000 per month,  the child support you receive may be lower. 

Lately, I have noticed more and more judges immediately opening the file to ensure that updated Domestic Relations Financial Affidavits.  They want to know that these are the most current values for gross income, day care expenses and health insurance for the children since those three are critical in determining support. 

In sum, review your Financial Affidavit carefully before submitting it.  Ensure that the values are correct. If you are asking for your spouse to pay a portion of marital debt  make sure that the debt is listed on your DRFA.  If you are representing yourself, carefully review the opposing party's DRFA.  Note any discrepancies and use that in your cross examination. 

Posted
AuthorAdriana Torriente
CategoriesFinancials

Earlier this month we posted about summer planning for divorced parents. But what if you and your spouse are not yet divorced, how do you plan for your summer vacation?

If you are represented by an attorney, then you should contact your attorney and discuss summer planning. They can contact opposing counsel or the opposing party and help you and your spouse arrive at a summer schedule.   Remember that whatever summer schedule you have this year may or may not be your summer schedule post divorce.

Most counties enter an order at the beginning of any new domestic relations case.  Some counties call it a Domestic Standing Order and others call it a Mutual Restraining Order.  Review that order carefully.  It generally has provisions regarding traveling with the children. Some counties prohibit traveling outside the state with the kids without permission from the other parent and in other counties, travel is permitted but only for a specific duration. 

Regardless, the children will be out of school and you will need to ensure they are properly supervised while both of you are at work.  Contact the other parent and schedule some time to talk about summer vacations, summer camps and summer day care for the kids.   Plan a time to meet to review options.  Unless you are barred by a protective order, consider meeting in a coffee shop or other public place particularly if there are allegations of violence, etc.  If you live far from each other, consider setting up a telephone call, Skype or Facetime. 

Before discussing plans with your spouse, do a little pre-planning.  Review the list from our other summer planning blog post. You shoudl bring the following items to your planning meeting with your spouse:  your kids' school calendar for this year and next year, bring your own calendar which has both personal and work obligations,  nanny/babysitter availability and information regarding summer camps.   We recommend scheduling this meeting to occur in March as many summer camps fill up before the end of April. 

 

Posted
AuthorAdriana Torriente
CategoriesChild Custody

Parties in domestic relations actions are required in Rule 24 of the Georgia Uniform Superior Court Rules to create, share and file a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (DRFA) throughout the course of their litigation.   The affidavit provides a snapshot of your financial status.   Attorneys review it in preparation for their examination of their client or in preparation of their cross examination of the opposing party.  Judges review it when determining alimony or child support whether at a final hearing or a temporary hearing.

The affidavit is broken out into five different sections:  summary, income, assets, expenses and debts.  All sections are completed with monthly figures.    Review Rule 24 before converting weekly and hourly figures to monthly ones. 

The income section requires a party to disclose all income they have available to them. This includes income from rental properties or unemployment in addition to income earned in employment.    If you are paid hourly and work full-time, then you should multiply your hourly wage by 174.  If you are paid weekly, then you should multiply your weekly rate by 4.35.  These factors are listed in Rule 24.2A.

The asset section lists the assets available to the affiant.  In a divorce, some of the assets may be non-marital or have a non-marital component.   For example, prior to the marriage the Wife had a 401(k) through her employer.  She left that employer a month before she married and did not contribute to that 401(k) after her marriage. Therefore, 100% of that account is non-marital.  Regardless of whether the Husband can stake a claim to her 401(k), she must disclose it on her financial affidavit. 

The expense section requires the affiant to list all their expenses they incur each month. For expenses that occur less frequently such as car insurance, the affiant would pro-rate the cost for a month.  If you have children, the expense section is very important as expenses you pay for the children may have an impact on the amount of child support you receive or pay.

The last section is the debt section. The affiant is required to list all debts, the balance owed, and the monthly payment. Like the asset section, some of these debts may not be marital in divorce cases. 

The summary rolls up each section into a clear summary for a judge or a party to review. 

The last page requires the party to sign the affidavit and swear to its accuracy.  Therefore, it is important that the affiant carefully review the DRFA before signing it.

Later this week, we will explore why it is so important to have a complete and accurate DRFA.   

Posted
AuthorAdriana Torriente

As summer is quickly approaching and schedules relax (somewhat), the time is ripe for parental acrimony and mischief.  If you are divorced or divorcing parents this summer, make sure to avoid at least ONE bad parenting behavior:  DO NOT withhold court-ordered visitation rights.

Just this Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court released a decision that shows the perfect application of O.C.G.A § 19-9-24.  Basically, 19-9-24 lists prohibited activity of physical and legal custodians that will bar that party’s ability to file any kind of petition to modify custody, visitation, alimony, contempt or even file for divorce.  That prohibited activity: withholding court-ordered visitation. 

The Supreme Court found that Cobb County’s Judge Staley ruled correctly when she dismissed a mother’s Petition to Modify Custody and Visitation in April 2010 based upon the father’s showing that more than 100 days of visitation had not taken place between March 21 and November 20, 2009. The Court found that because the filing party was the custodial parent and that the custodial parent was withholding visitation, three of her four counts were dismissible, including her Motion for Contempt.*

Another fact of interest in this case:  the child was 11 years old and said he didn’t want to visit with dad. Mom didn't overrrule his reluctance to visit with dad so visitation didn't happen.  Well, guess what folks, until that child is 14, he doesn’t really get a say. In its opinion, the Supreme Court cited a 1984 decision that established that the wishes of a child younger than 14 does not trump a parent's rights to visitation. Now, after a child is 14, a Judge is more likely to listen.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see one parent withhold visitation from the other parent. Regardless of whether the withholding is caused by a parent's inability to relinquish control, valid concerns, completely irrational fears, or hatred of the other parent, alienating a child from one parent is rarely in the best interests of that child.  And Judges are not impressed by that kind of behavior.  If you have concerns about your child visiting with their other parent, consult your attorney to determine if your concerns warrant a modification and before you start interfering with the non-custodial parent's visitation rights or you could inhibit your right to petition the Court for a modification

Read Avren V. Garten.

* The Court specifically mentioned that withholding visitation does not prohibit a withholding party from bringing a Motion for Modification of Child Support since child support is seen as a right of the child, not the custodian.

Posted
AuthorAdriana Torriente

In a series of posts beginning today, we explore tips that newly divorced parents should consider employing in communicating about their children with their former spouse.  These tips also apply to individuals who have custodial and visitation rights to children through legitimation or paternity actions. Therefore, our use of former spouse can be used interchangeably with former girlfriend or boyfriend.

Georgia uses the best interest of a child approach in making custody determinations.  O.C.G.A §19-9-3 (a)(3) enumerates dozens of factors that assist a court in determining  the best interests of a child .  One of these factors is: The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child.   This week we will explore some ideas on fostering a close relationship between your former spouse and your children.

If you are the parent who has the children during the school week, you undoubtedly get the daily dumps from the child’s book bag replete with report cards, progress reports, and extracurricular activity schedules.   You are also the parent most likely to schedule regular checkups with the doctor, the dentist, or the orthodontist.  Do you communicate those events and appointments to your child’s other parent? Do they know about the upcoming soccer tournament or the piano recital?  Do they know when report cards are available? Or whether there is a field trip next month?  When the other parent is informed they are able to make it to important events in the child’s life.  They’ll see them make their first goal or watch them get their first blue ribbon in a science fair.  When both parents come to these events, children know they are loved and that their parents take a special interest in all they do. 

There is no excuse for not taking advantage of today’s technology and employing an online calendar to ensure that the other party remains informed of your children’s activities.  Google has a free online calendar that allows you to share information with other users but allows you to manage those privacy settings. For example, your former spouse can view activities but cannot modify or delete them.    Most websites which offer free email such as Yahoo! also provide free online calendars.  Most school systems publish online calendars for their school system and some make them exportable into a calendar format.  Should you choose to set up an online calendar here are some things to consider:

 Who should be able to view your child’s calendar?

  • Other parent;
  • If the other parent has remarried, perhaps the child’s step-parent;
  • Grandparents and other family members especially if they operate as additional caretakers; and
  • Nannies and other babysitters.

 

What type of events should be added to your child’s online calendar?

  • Academic Events

o   Report Cards Available

o   Parent Teacher Conference

o   School breaks

o   Testing

o   Field trips

  • Sports activities

o   Practices

o   Games

o   Tournaments

  • Extracurricular activities

o   Meetings

o   Fundraisers

o   Recitals

  • Doctor and Dentist appointments
  • Other Children’s Birthday Parties (This is a common complaint among custodial parents. They feel that they have to buy all the presents for the children’s parties because the other parent does not keep up with the children’s social activities)

If you are too busy to maintain an online calendar for your children’s activities, then at the very least invest in a scanner to scan the children’s extracurricular and sports schedules to share with the other parent by email.  Many teams provide the practice and game schedules online so sending your former spouse a link to the site is also a great option.

We’ll be back later this week to discuss more tips and ideas. 



Posted
AuthorAdriana Torriente