When you determine that divorce is in your future, the number of family law attorneys can be overwhelming. Many will promise the moon and the stars if you give them your case. It’s important to realize that your success in court is not based on hearing the promises you want to hear; it’s about the connection you have with the person who is representing your interests.
This month, Family Matters Law Group has a case study that is a good example of the kind of case we like to represent. You’ll also learn a thing or two about how having marital relations after you file can doom your case.
In this particular case, I represented a husband in his mid-50s who had been married to his wife (of the same age) for six years. The couple had acquired a house (along with various household items and furnishings) as well as some modest financial assets. There were two main reasons why the husband decided to file for divorce.
The first reason was the presence of her two older sons. The couple did not have any children together, but her two sons lived with the couple and were causing a lot of contention in the marriage.
The other reason was that the wife adamantly refused to work and contribute to the household income. The issue with this was that the wife was able-bodied and very active. She did volunteer work teaching Zumba classes and exercised frequently. She also was very creative, making arts and crafts jewelry and engaging in a host of other artistic endeavors. The husband felt that while they were doing okay, everyone needed to share in the income earning of the household.
The wife was served with divorce papers and immediately requested alimony, the marital home and certain furnishings from the home. More importantly, she attempted to sway her husband into returning to the marital bed in order to engage in relations after she had been served.
There are two main legal issues going on in this case. The first issue concerns the alimony request. Increasingly, courts are choosing to view alimony as a temporary payment to help get the other spouse on their feet, especially in cases where the person has been parenting or is disabled and now needs to return to the workforce. The question for the court was, if the wife loses the case, what is a reasonable financial settlement that allows her to retrain and/or find employment, as well as secure alternate housing?
In this case, one of the key arguments the couple had been having was over the wife’s unwillingness to find gainful employment, even though she was able-bodied and could have helped shore up the household finances. This was especially important as her two older children were living in the house. My client was frustrated at the thought of having to pay alimony for someone who, while engaging in worthwhile activities, could have redirected some of that time and energy to earning income.
The other issue is the marital relations. The reason the wife wanted to re-engage in bedroom activities was that she knew it would either stall the case or force the case to start over. Once either spouse files for divorce, the parties involved cannot engage in marital relations, because that can then serve as grounds for a case dismissal.
Concerning the home and the furnishings, I had to have a strategy talk with my client. Since his wife was requesting nearly all the household furnishings, I advised him to pick his battles and request a few things of major importance to him. This sent the judge a message that my client was trying to be realistic and pragmatic, which ended up impressing the judge enough that my client was awarded many more items than he asked for. My client was also awarded the marital home!
As for the alimony, I argued to the judge that one of the key factors was the length of the marriage (six years). I also pointed out that, despite her age and general desire not to work, the wife was fully capable of finding and maintaining gainful employment. The court did award the wife a lump sum amount of money representing the equitable division of assets as required by Georgia law. However, my client was not required to pay alimony to his ex-wife.
We did have to attend a court hearing to address the wife’s allegations that the couple had engaged in relations after the divorce filing. I fought hard for my client and eventually was able to prove to the court that she was not being truthful. The court ended up reprimanding both the wife and her attorney for filing a frivolous motion in an attempt to delay the case.
At Family Matters Law Group, we don’t just take every case that walks through our door. We believe in taking the right case for the right client, because when we believe in our clients and have a connection with them, it makes it a lot easier to fight like mad for their best interests.
I recognized this husband’s frustration when we first met, and I knew I wanted to zealously fight for him in court. I knew this man felt like a prisoner in his own home, and I wanted something better for him.
If you are struggling with a difficult divorce case, we may be able to help. We have strong connections with clients in Henry, Clayton, Fayette and across the Atlanta metro region. Contact us today using our online contact form and set up a consultation to see how Family Matters Law Group can fight for your interests.