Tonight’s post on math and Family Law was written by our Savannah Family Law Attorney, David Purvis.
In our free consultations, we are often asked for exact numbers for what we think alimony may be, or who might get what percentage of a retirement, checking, or savings account, or how visitation will occur, or some other request for specific, hard and fast, take to the bank information.
That makes sense. For many people, this is the first time they have experienced divorce or a family law situation. I know that in Savannah, I talk with a lot of folks who have been told by a well-meaning friend that “everything gets divided exactly in half” or “you can get all of her retirement” or “Mom always gets primary custody” or some other such advice, that while offered with the best intentions, is not actually correct.
The truth is, there are very few things that can be accurately and exactly determined at the onset of the case. That’s not to say that you can’t find people, lay and lawyer alike, who will try to tell you how things will exactly happen. Believe me, you’ll have your fill of those folks.
In Georgia, family law is an “equitable” action. This means that for many of the important decisions to be made, there is no exact formula. No two cases are exactly alike. What is equitable or fair in one case, may not be in another.
We (the attorneys in our firm) all recently attended the 33rd annual Family Law Institute. This is an annual gathering of many of the members of the State Bar of Georgia’s Family Law Section. It is a three day continuing legal education conference and is incredibly informative and is solely focused on the practice of family law.
One of my most favorite aspects of the seminar is that every day we heard from a panel of Superior Court Judges from around the State. They spoke about what they listened for in a case and what family law attorneys should avoid. As much of family law is determined on an equitable basis, it was really rather incredible to have the opportunity to hear from so many different judges from all over Georgia talk about what they look for in determining division of assets and debts, alimony, child custody, and child support.
By and large, family Law is not math (though there is some math required). Family Law is an effort to fairly divide the property, assets, and debts of the marriage and, as fairly as can be done, determine custody and visitation rights with minor children.
When you’re trying figure out who you want to represent you (and you should absolutely meet with several attorneys before you make any selection), pay very close attention to how the attorney approaches the topics of alimony, equitable division, child custody and child support. If they claim that they can get you a specific and exact division of something or get you the moon, you are getting a sales pitch, not honest advice.
Also, ask how much of their practice is devoted to family law? A general practitioner is much less likely to attend something like the Family Law Institute and obviously does not spend their career solely focusing on family issues day in and day out.
Finally, find out if that lawyer is calm and level headed or is excitable, nervous, dodgy or on edge. Divorce is stressful enough without some off-the-wall fellow ramping up your anxiety level, even if he claims it is for your own good. It’s not. You don’t want to get shafted.
Family Law ain’t math. It is art. At The Manely Firm, P.C., we do art very well.