x **Frequently Asked Questions FAQ’s**

  • Modification of a Georgia Court Order

    Georgia Court Order ModificationLet’s say you and another party in a family law case in Georgia have already reached an agreement and the court has issued its final order.  But what happens if one (or both) parties want to change (modify) that agreement later on?  Possibly both parties even agree on the terms of the change.
    Sounds simple?    Not so fast.  No official change is made until it’s approved via court order.
    Some decisions are very seldom changed.  Those include paternity decisions or the division of property/assets from a divorce decision.  Those issues likely won’t be changed unless there was some fraudulent or improper circumstance.
    But a court order modification is somewhat more common regarding children’s issues – – custody, visitation, etc.   It can be complex.
    For instance, perhaps either parent periodically requests a review of the child support order.  Such reviews can be triggered by updated support laws or if there’s a change in the needs of the child or perhaps the finances of a party.  If there has been some type of material change pertaining to either parent regarding child custody, that can qualify for review.  Visitation is decided upon the best interests of the child and those best interests may fluctuate over time.
    But the courts are protected from folks who would like to change the terms all “willy-nilly”.  (Willy-nilly is not a legal term and for those not familiar it means “randomly at will” – – used only because it’s fun to say).  In some instances a material change of circumstances will be reviewed only once every 2 years.
    Do you know what organizations like GeorgiaLegalAid.org recommend that you do?   You’re right.  Contact an attorney to represent you.  Even if you don’t select us to represent you – – although we would like to be the attorney that you choose  – – at least find SOME good Georgia attorney to protect your rights and interests in the terms of the modification.

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  • Types of Georgia Adoptions

    Adoption in GeorgiaAdoption can be a rewarding and emotional experience for all involved.  It’s important to know what to expect and what options are available with various types of legal adoptions in Georgia.
    Sometimes a relative will step in and take over the care of the children.  In order to qualify as a relative, the adoptive parent must be directly related to the adoptee by blood or by marriage.  Often grandparents or aunts and uncles step into this role, but in some families a child’s brother or sister can qualify to adopt them.
    A variation of a relative’s adoption is when a step-parent adopts his/her spouse’s child.  Before the adoption process, if there is a non-custodial parent of the child, that non-custodial parent must legally consent (terminate) their own parental rights.  Then the prospective step-parent must allow a criminal background check along with verification from the court that the adoption application facts are accurate.  In the case of a step-parent, the adoptive parent does not need a pre-placement evaluation of the home.
    Many of the children who are in the Georgia foster care system become eligible for adoption through the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).  In the DFCS foster care system, a child is in the custody of DFCS while being fostered.  As custodian, DFCS must give written consent to any proposed adoption.  There will be a pre-placement home study to assure an appropriate environment, as well as a criminal background check of the proposed adoptive family.  The family will receive an information form about the adoptive child’s background.  PRIOR TO the adoption, future parents should fully investigate the assistance incentives provided for a DFCS adoption… perhaps a monthly reimbursement for expenses or legal fees, or Medicaid coverage.  We will discuss other factors with you, such as arrangement for the child’s siblings.
    There are private agencies in Georgia (often parochial) who facilitate adoptions as well.  Any child-placing adoption agency in Georgia must be licensed.  The adoptive parents can anticipate a pre-placement home evaluation, a criminal background check, and the agency will provide the child’s background information and a written consent to the adoption.
    With all adoptions, we recommend that you utilize the advice of an adoption attorney to protect everyone’s future interests.  The time to scrutinize the details of the adoption, is BEFORE the adoption is final.  We know how to troubleshoot common issues that may arise.  But particularly in the next two examples, it’s almost imperative that you seek legal assistance to help steer you through the necessary steps and paperwork.
    In a private adoption (a.k.a. independent adoption), a child’s biological parent(s) may place their child directly with an adoptive parent.  In the legal process of a private adoption, a pre-placement evaluation and criminal background check are still usually required and those studies can be conducted by a licensed adoption agency or by a qualified social worker.  In this type of adoption, both the birth parents and the adoptive parents have input about the amount and nature of their future interactions.  An attorney knows how to put those agreements into writing to protect everyone’s interests.
    If adoptive parents choose to explore an international adoption to adopt a child from another country, a licensed international adoption agency should be utilized.  Because the child will be immigrating to the United States, the adoption must be approved by both the child’s country and the U.S. State Department.  This process is complicated, it varies from country to country, and involves many forms and details to assure a smooth transition for everyone in the new adoptive family.
    If you’re curious about whether an adoption will work for you, please give us a call.  There are many children waiting.  We can help.
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  • Basics of the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Process

    Basics of Chapter 7 BankruptcyThe filing of a bankruptcy action has consequences, and as those consequences can last for years, it is important to use a qualified bankruptcy attorney to make sure you are aware of all of your options. There is an income qualification for filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy; however, there are exemptions and deductions that may be used to meet this qualification.  We will help you determine if Chapter 7 is right for you. Give us a call and let’s get started . Our firm is a Georgia Debt Relief Agency and we help you file under Title 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
    First , definitions of some words to familiarize yourself with (these definitions have been greatly simplified and are for just your general use and knowledge; as always in the law, words can have different meanings in different contexts and fact situations:
    Debtor – this is the person filing the bankruptcy
    Creditor – this is the person/corporation that the debtor owes money
    Trustee – this is an attorney who represents the creditors’ interest and reviews your bankruptcy filing to ascertain if there are any assets to provide payment to the creditors.
    Secured Debt – this is the type of debt that has some sort of collateral attached to it; like a house, car, furniture or jewelry.
    Unsecured Debt – this is the type of debt that is secured only by your signature, like most personal loans and credit cards. Medical bills are also unsecured debts.
    Chapter 7, which is what most people think of when they think about bankruptcy, is a liquidation bankruptcy where, in theory, the Trustee may sell assets owned by the Debtor in order to satisfy some, or all, of the indebtedness. However, in my personal bankruptcy practice, I have found that my clients have had sufficient exemptions to protect their assets from liquidation and sale by the Trustee.  If a debtor is facing the sale of assets by filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, they may want to file under a different chapter, such as Chapter 13.
    In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your unsecured debts, in most cases, are discharged and you no longer owe the debt. With your secured debts; i.e. house, car and some other debts, you can choose to reaffirm and continue to pay; surrender the collateral and have the debt discharged, or redeem the debt by paying a lump sum amount and keeping the collateral.
    After our consultation we will provide you with list of items we need from you to complete the bankruptcy paperwork.  Once your bankruptcy is filed, you can expect 4 – 6 months for the process to be completed.  The protection of the bankruptcy court (the “automatic stay”) goes into effect immediately upon filing however, so your creditors can no longer contact you,  collection and litigation activities are stopped.
    [This is a greatly simplified sketch of the Chapter 7 process and every case is different. This overview is not meant to be nor should it be interpreted as legal advice to anyone nor does it give a complete and exhaustive discussion of the bankruptcy laws]
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P.O. BOX 712 | WINDER, GA 30680
770-867-6919
Information On This Site is Accurate to the Best of our Knowledge at time of Publishing but is not Guaranteed. Confirm all Details. ***Under Title 11 of the United States Code, law firms like Terry W. Smith Law that represent consumer debtors have been designated as "debt relief agencies". This means that we help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.***