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. 

DRFA.jpg

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

There was an interesting segment today on NPR's Morning Edition on a father's rights group leading the charge to change custody laws.  The group wants to change the laws so that courts are more likely to grant joint physical custody.  Joint physical custody is when the child/children spend equal time with each parent. 

Joint physical custody can take many forms in a daily schedule.   For example, a parent has one week with the kids and the next week the kids are with the other  parent.  In that type of scenario, the change in custody occurs only once per week usually after school on Fridays or at the beginning of the week on Monday morning.  This is popular when there is friction between the parents as it minimizes the number of times the parents interact.  The change in custody can occur at the end of an activity  so that the parents do not have to see each other-- the child is dropped off at soccer practice by one parent and the other parent picks up the child.

2-2-5-5 Custodial Schedule

2-2-5-5 Custodial Schedule

Another popular schedule is 2-2-5-5 as shown in the graphic above.  In the table, M is for Mother and F is for Father.  This schedule works well for parents who travel out of town for work on some days of the week.  It is also helpful when a child consistently has a specific activity on a certain day of the week where one parent is more involved in that activity (for example, if the child always has Math Team on Tuesdays and Mother is the coach) or when one parent's schedule is more flexible to allow the child to participate in an activity (for example, when child has a dance class that starts at 4pm on Thursdays and Father works from home on Thursdays and has  a bit more flexibility on those afternoons). 

When we advise clients on joint physical custody, we discuss a few factors:

  • Age of the children
  • Children's special needs
  • Distance between parents
  • Distance between each parent and the children's school and extra-curricular events
  • The ability and interest of each parent to set up a household that mirrors the other home so that children have similar toys and sufficient clothing at each home.
  • Parent's work schedules
  • Parent's ability to cooperate and communicate with one another

Regardless of how well joint physical custody may work for parents, Georgia courts award custody based on the child's best interests.    If you think that joint physical custody may be what is best for your child, discuss it with your attorney. 

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

Earlier this week Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise announced that they had reached a settlement in their divorce.   When Ms. Holmes filed for divorce it caused quite a  ruckus especially since Mr. Cruise was in Iceland shooting a film and about to celebrate his fiftieth birthday.  Within eleven days, the parties had reached an agreement. They have not disclosed the details of said agreement.    As unfortunate as a quick settlement might have been for the celebrity news organizations, it offers us family law counselors an excellent opportunity for a “teachable moment”.

 

Plan it.   It is clear by the surprise factor and the swiftness of the settlement, that Ms. Holmes did not wake up one morning, hire an attorney, and file for divorce.   Extricating yourself from an unhappy marriage does not happen overnight and a little planning goes a long way.   No one is necessarily advocating you hire three law firms in three different states and use a disposable mobile phone to put your divorce in motion but planning may help provide some control over the outcome.  Many people are reluctant to speak to an attorney until they are served with divorce papers or until a triggering moment occurs (i.e. a domestic violence issue, one party moves out, etc.).  If your marriage is worth saving, speaking to an attorney early on will not doom it. Both Elizabeth and I refer clients to marriage therapists.   But making decisions in the heat of the moment will have a long term impact on your life, the lives of your children, and your finances.

 

Make it Quick. I would love to say that the Holmes v. Cruise divorce was quick and painless but since I don’t know them personally I cannot accurately judge their pain.  But quick it was. So why is quick good? The longer your case ends up in litigation the worse things get.   No matter how much planning you have done, divorce is stressful.  People gain weight. They may get depressed. Some even start drinking or develop erratic behavior.   A barrier to quick is that parties want to argue about every little possession (i.e. an extension cord in the garage). Focus on your children, valuable assets and the other items that are irreplaceable such as antiques and gifts from your grandmother.   The money you save on attorneys and therapists will pay for the replaceable things.

 

Keep it Private.   I would love to get my hands on that settlement agreement.  I would love to see Katie Holmes on Anderson Cooper dishing the details of Tom Cruise, Scientology, and why his wives divorce him when they are 33 years old.  But I will have to keep my gawking to the B-list celebs of Teen Mom fame.   Although most Georgians do not have the paparazzi chasing them, you still should keep your divorce private.  Do not publicize your divorce on Facebook. Do not tweet about your spouse on Twitter.  Do not blog about the idiocy of their friends.  Yes, it may be fun, but it will undo any planning you have done and will not contribute to achieving a swift divorce.  If you have children, it will make a spectacle of their lives and that will not play well in front of a Superior Court judge.

 

If you are thinking about divorce or in the middle of one, we hope that you remember Katie and Tom as your matter progresses.  Do some planning, make it quick (and hopefully as painless as possible) and that you keep it between you and your spouse.

Posted
AuthorAdriana Torriente
Posted
AuthorAdriana Torriente

Over the weekend the New York Times Magazine featured an article on the declining age of puberty, more specifically breast budding, in girls.  Doctors believe there are some factors that play into whether a girl will reach puberty sooner.   These factors are: being overweight, environmental chemicals, and family stress.  The latter is why this article piqued our interest since we regularly deal with families in chronic stress.

The article notes, “Girls who from an early age grow up in homes without their biological fathers are twice as likely to go into puberty younger as girls who grow up with both parents.” There is also a pattern of early puberty when parents divorce between a daughter’s third and eighth birthday and whose father’s exhibit deviant behaviors such as alcohol abuse or violence.  Girls who reach puberty earlier than their peers are at higher risk for social problems later in life.  They suffer from lower self-esteem, depression and eating disorders. They may begin drinking alcohol at an earlier age and are more likely to lose their virginity at an age when they are unable to grasp the long term consequences.

If you are concerned that your child might be reaching puberty earlier than expected, talk with their pediatrician.   Talk with your daughter about her changing body and focus on her emotional health.  

 If you are in the midst of a high conflict divorce or custody case, we always advise our clients not to drag the children into the litigation. What does that mean?

  • Don’t speak ill of the other parent.  Remember what your mother said,”if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all.” Remind your children that they are loved by both parents.
  • Don’t ask the children where they want to live. Unless your children are over the age of fourteen, they don’t get much of a say in custody.  Most children are terribly anxious when they feel they are going to disappoint a parent.
  • Don't use the children as a messenger.
  • Don’t promise the children anything you can’t deliver.

 Take an active role in reducing their stress. You can do this by:

  • Enroll your kids in a divorce support groups at their school.
  • If your child is prone to anxiety, look into private counseling.
  • Maintain their regular routine by keeping them in the same school and in their extra-curricular activities.
  • Engage in fun, inexpensive activities like going to the park or going for a bicycle ride. 
Posted
AuthorAdriana Torriente

Planning for your future without your spouse’s income can be a daunting task.  At Torriente Marum, we encourage our clients to think through different “what-if” scenarios prior to mediations and settlement conferences.    Social Security payments on a former spouse’s account should be considered when thinking through your finances. Our clients often have questions like the ones posed here in this Question and Answer session from Fox Business with Dorothy Clark, a forty year veteran of the Social Security Administration.     

You can also find more information regarding Social Security payments regarding former spouses at the Social Security website

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

Divorces in Georgia can take as little as 31 days or can drag on for years, but until that Final Judgment and Decree is signed there are serious questions that need answering. 

Who stays in the house?  Who do the children live with during the week? What kind of visitation does the non-custodial parent get?  Who pays the bills?  I don’t work, how will I survive?

This is when a Temporary Hearing comes into play.

A Temporary Hearing is when the parties to a divorce go before the judge to resolve immediate and pressing issues such as child support, custody, visitation, temporary alimony or temporary attorney’s fees.  Even if divorcing parties think that they are amicable enough to just agree to child support and visitation while the details of the property settlement are nailed out, the Court likes to have an order of support and visitation on the books, just in case things get ugly.  What about the 60-year-old unemployed woman who stayed at home for 35 years taking care of the kids who only has access to a  checking account into which her husband puts only enough money into to cover household expenses?  Well, the Temporary Hearing makes sure that those who need support get support, sooner rather than later. 

Basically, a Temporary Hearing allows the Court to grant a Temporary Order directing the parties how to behave until the divorce is final.  Again, please keep in mind that we are only licensed to practice in the State of Georgia and that these procedures are state specific.  Further, if you live in Fulton County, it is a different procedure altogether which we will be elaborating on at a different time.

What to Expect and How to Prepare

While it is in everyone’s best interests to have a Temporary Hearing as soon as possible, sometimes that is just not possible with the Court’s schedule.  In ideal circumstances, we’ll be able to get you to a Temporary Hearing within the first 60 days after the filing of the Complaint for Divorce.   Other times, it maybe 3 to 4 months before you see the inside of the courtroom.

The Temporary Hearing is limited to only issues that need immediate resolution.  So don’t expect to bring up who gets the china, the towels or how to split the 401k.   You cannot bring a slew of witnesses that will sing your praises as a parent.  Judges want to keep the Temporary Hearing short and to the point, so don’t expect your case to be in front of the judge for a day or days-long trial. 

Your attorney should meet with you about two weeks prior to your scheduled Temporary Hearing.  This gives us time to prepare your case, subpoena the right witness, and gather Affidavits on your behalf.  Be prepared to review and revise your Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit, provide updated income information and your most recent paycheck stubs.  We will also discuss how to appropriately testify in court.

 Tips for the Temporary Hearing:  

  • Wear appropriate clothing.  For men, slacks and a button-down shirt are preferred.  For women, skirts, dresses or pants are appropriate but remember to keep skirts just above the knee or longer and don’t wear anything too low cut, skin tight or showing your bra strap.
  • Remove unusual and visual piercings (eyebrow, tongue, nose, multiple earlobe piercings)
  • Cover tattoos, if possible
  • Do not wear flip flops or open-backed shoes
  • Do not wear shirts with inappropriate material or logos on display.
  • Do not wear excessive make up and keep make-up tones neutral
  • Shave or trim facial hair
  • Hire a babysitter.  DO NOT bring your child(ren) to Court.



Posted
AuthorAdriana Torriente