We Settled, Now My Ex Won’t Sign the Settlement Agreement

Couples can agree on a the terms of their divorce at any time before the ruling of the Court.  Finally reaching an agreement can bring a sigh of relief in divorce cases.  On the other hand, reaching an agreement can also bring a wave of wary to some parties after they realize that the agreement will become enforceable by the court.  Great care and regard should be taken when reaching an agreement in a divorce case.

But, what do you do when it is your ex that refuses to formalize the reached final agreement?

Enforcing a settlement agreement is a matter of contract law.  If there is a meeting of the minds in writing then you most likely have an enforceable agreement.  Most agreements are reached during mediation.  A mediated agreement is almost always drawn up with the correct language to bind the parties to the agreed upon terms.  If your ex has had a change of heart then you can file a Motion to Enforce with the court to request that the terms of the written agreement be made an order of the court.  For your ex to successfully defeat your motion, your ex would have to have legal grounds to argue why the agreement is not legally-binding, for example:

  • Duress
  • Lack of Capacity
  • Undue Influence
  • Fraud

Most times, parties refuse to sign the formal settlement documents for reasons other than the above legal grounds.  If you have an attorney, you also have the right to request attorney fees for the expense of having to bring the Motion.

For your divorce consultation, contact Attorney Yolvondra Martin.

The Martin Law Group | 404-248-4898 | ymartin@themartinlawgroup.com

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Can My Visitation Be Withheld?

The short answer is, no, notwithstanding serious circumstances.  Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to hear of stories of the custodial parent withholding parenting time (visitation) for child support payments, personal vendettas and other reasons.  Regardless of the parents relationship with each other, it is important for children to build a bond with their parents.

If you are unable to spend time with your child because the other parent is preventing any parenting time then filing an action with the court may be your best option.  The type of action to file, depends on your circumstances.

There Is Already a Court-Ordered Parenting Plan

If you already have court-ordered parenting time with your child and your parenting time is being denied by the custodial parent then you can file a contempt action against and request for relief against the other parent to right the contemptuous actions.  For example, you can ask for make-up time with the child for the times you were denied. 

Another option is to request that the court modify the existing parenting plan permanently to grant you more parenting time with your child going forward.  A petition to modify parenting time can be filed once every two years in Georgia. 

There Is Not Already a Court-Ordered Parenting Plan

If you are legally married  to your child’s other parent then you can file for a divorce.  Once a divorce action is pending, the courts will have jurisdiction to hear your request for court-ordered parenting time.  In some severe circumstances, the court will entertain an emergency motion to allow you to see your child or even obtain physical custody of your child immediately.

If you are not legally married to your child’s mother then you need to first establish your rights to your child.  In Georgia, as the father, you have no legal rights or rights to parenting time until you have legitimized your child.  By filing a petition for legitimation, the courts then have jurisdiction to grant you legal rights to your child and grant you court-ordered parenting time with your child.

Custody and parenting time actions can be complicated and complex especially when both parents feel as though they are fighting to protect their child.  An experienced family law attorney can help you to navigate the legal process.

For your custody or parenting time consultation, contact Attorney Yolvondra Martin.

The Martin Law Group | 404-248-4898 | ymartin@themartinlawgroup.com

Can Passengers Ride With Uber and Lyft Feeling Protected?

Uber and Lyft have become popular for their cost-saving alternative choice over traditional taxi cabs.  Riders can use an app on their smartphones to find a driver at the fraction of the cost of what a taxi driver would charge. 

Uber and Lyft’s rise and popularity has caught the attention of lawmakers in California.  California lawmakers are focused on whether the company’s should provide commercial insurance for the drivers, passengers, pedestrians and other vehicles or whether it is sufficient for the company’s drivers to continue to bear the burden.  Uber and Lyft have hired seven lobbyist to defeat the bill.

The argument all comes down to a matter of public policy and safety.

Personal automobile insurance requirements vary from state to state.  In Georgia, all motorists are required to carry the minimum of Bodily injury Liability of $25,000 per person, $50,000 per occurrence and Property Damage liability of $25,000 per occurrence.

If you are injured in a vehicle driven by a Uber and Lyft driver that carries only the minimum under his personal automobile insurance policy, the state minimum will not cover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and attorney fees if you are severely injured or multiple people are injured in the accident.  In those instances, the burden then shifts to you to find additional insurance coverage to cover your damages. 

Will more regulations on Uber and Lyft resolve this issue for Georgia drivers?  Only time will tell how the legislation regulating ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft will shake out. 

If you or someone you know have been injured in a car accident, contact Personal Injury Attorney Yolvondra Martin for your consultation.

The Martin Law Group | 404-248-4898 | ymartin@themartinlawgroup.com

What Type of Bankruptcy Should I File?

In Georgia, there are two primary types of bankruptcies for consumers: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. 

Chapter 7 

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows a debtor to discharge all or a portion of his or her unsecured debts without ever repaying the creditors. Under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a debtor can return secured property to a creditor if the debtor can no longer afford it. If a debtor can afford to keep the property, he or she can keep it by reaffirming the debt. Once that happens, payments will continue under the reaffirmation agreement. Examples of secured property include real property and automobiles. 

After a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is filed, a court-appointed Trustee will oversee the case, review the Bankruptcy petition, examine the debtor under oath, and close the case so that the Debtor can receive his discharge. 

While a Chapter 7 is ideal for most Debtors, as it allows the Debtor to walk away from dischargeable debt without ever repaying the debt, it may not be feasible for all Debtors.  A debtor that is a jeopardy of losing their home through foreclosure or their automobile through a repossession and still desires to retain the same, would still lose the property in a Chapter 7 unless they could get current on the payments just a few short weeks after filing bankruptcy.  Also, a Debtor that has filed a previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy and received a discharge in the past 8 years is not eligible to receive another discharge through a Chapter 7.  In other cases, a Debtor may simply earn too much to qualify to file a Chapter 7.  Yet other Debtors that may have a substantial amount of assets may be unable to protect all of their assets from a forced sale by the Trustee.  These Debtors described above would need to file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. 

Chapter 13 

A Chapter 13 is a type of reorganization, and is sometimes called a “Wage Earners Plan”. It allows Debtors to protect some assets and repay arrears on secured debts such as, mortgage payments or car loans, through a reorganization plan.  The Plan is submitted to a bankruptcy judge and Chapter 13 Trustee for approval. If the Trustee and creditors have no objections to the Plan, the Judge will generally approve the Plan so that the Trustee may begin to administer the plan. The trustee collects the funds from the debtor and distributes the funds to creditors. 

A Chapter 13 can only be filed by individuals with sufficient income to pay the creditors. The individuals cannot have secured debt over $ $1,149,525 or unsecured debt over $383,175. A Chapter 11 may be available for people having more debt than allowed for a Chapter 13.

If you are contemplating bankruptcy, contact Bankruptcy Attorney Yolvondra Martin for your consultation.

The Martin Law Group | 404-248-4898 | ymartin@themartinlawgroup.com

How Do I Discover My Spouse’s Hidden Assets

The Courts generally favor full disclosure during litigation and divorce cases are no exception.  If you are contemplating divorce or are already involved in a divorce case, you are entitled to learn of all assets of your spouse.  It is not unheard of for married couples to hide financial information from each other especially when the marriage begins to deteriorate.

The Official Code of Georgia and the Uniform Superior Court Rules explicitly set out the procedure for compelling your spouse to turn over to you the information regarding their assets.

Generally, after a divorce is filed and the other spouse has been served and files his/her Answer, what is known as the “discovery period” begins and lasts for a period of six months.  During this “discovery period” each spouse is permitted to ask each other written question, known as “Interrogatories”.  Each spouse is also permitted to ask each other to turn over documents that may be relevant to the divorce case through a “Request for Production of Documents”.  If necessary, each spouse can send a Request for Production of Documents to persons or companies that are not party to the lawsuit.  The spouses do not have the right however to send Interrogatories to anyone other than each other.

Not only can each spouse serve Interrogatories and Request for Production of Documents, each party can “depose” each other or persons that may have relevant information related to the divorce case.  During a deposition, a person is being asked questions under oath by the attorney that caused the deposition to happen while a court reporter takes down the questions and answers.  The person being deposed can be asked anything related to the divorce case including questions regarding one spouse’s assets.

Through a diligent use of these discovery mechanisms mentioned above, one can discover if and what assets their spouse may be hiding.  An experienced divorce and family law attorney will have the ability to tailor the discovery requests in order to elicit the relevant information and ascertain if the other spouse may be hiding other information.

If you are contemplating divorce and have questions regarding your spouse’s hidden assets, contact Attorney Yolvondra Martin for your consultation.

The Martin Law Group | 404-248-4898 | ymartin@themartinlawgroup.com

Driving While Distracted

By Personal Injury Attorney Yolvondra Martin

Distracted driving is the cause of thousands of car accident fatalities each year.  The most common form of distracted driving is texting while driving.

Not only is texting while driving dangerous, it is illegal in 43 states including Georgia.  Texting while driving diverts a driver’s visual, manual, and cognitive attention away from the road.  In other words, texting takes a driver’s eyes off of the road, his hands of the steering wheel, and his mind off of the task of driving.

To put the danger in greater perspective, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) has found that texting is SIX times more dangerous than drunk driving.  Texting while driving takes a driver’s eyes off the road for approximately 4.6 seconds or length of a football field on average.  In fact, texting while driving causes more deaths than drunk driving each year.

Georgia took the stance to proactively protect its citizens on the road and passed a law banning drivers from texting, checking emails and browsing the internet while driving in 2010.  Drivers under the age of 18 and bus drivers are banned from using their cell phones completely while driving.

Driving requires your full attention.  Avoiding distracted driving can save many lives.

If you or someone you know have been injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, contact Personal Injury Attorney Yolvondra Martin for your consultation.

The Martin Law Group | 404-248-4898 | ymartin@themartinlawgroup.com

Will Filing for Bankruptcy in Georgia Wipe Out All of My Debts?

By Bankruptcy Attorney Yolvondra Martin

The answer is, it depends.

Federal laws allow a debtor to file bankruptcy to eliminate their debts or set up a repayment plan to pay back debts, depending on which type of bankruptcy you file. There are some debts that bankruptcy will never eliminate.

If your debt does not include one of the exceptions then you may be able to use bankruptcy to begin a fresh debt-free start. Filing bankruptcy in Georgia will not get rid of alimony or child support and your most recent back taxes. A bankruptcy will also not get rid of student loans, unless you can show that the student loan repayments are creating an “undue hardship.” An undue hardship means that you can’t repay your loans and keep a minimum standard of living, your financial situation is likely to continue, and you have made an effort to pay off the loans.

Bankruptcy will also not discharge purchases of luxury goods over $600 that have been purchased within 90 days of filing, any cash advances of $875 within 70 days of filing, or any other fraudulent debts. 11 U.S. Code § 523 prevents people from abusing the bankruptcy system.

Bankruptcy will also not discharge any fines or penalties from government agencies.

If you choose to file for bankruptcy, you can file either a Chapter 7, which will wipe out all debts excluding those listed and a few other exceptions, or you can file a Chapter 13. A Chapter 13 will set up a repayment plan that will help you pay back your debts over a period of several years.

If you are contemplating bankruptcy, contact Bankruptcy Attorney Yolvondra Martin for your consultation.

The Martin Law Group | 404-248-4898 | ymartin@themartinlawgroup.com

Establishing Visitation Rights for Unmarried Fathers

It is a common misconception in Georgia that when a father signs the birth certificate, that father has legal rights to his child.  The fact is that when a father has a child born out of wedlock in Georgia, the father is legally obligated to pay child support for the upbringing of the child but has no rights to visitation or even access to the child’s medical or educational information.

For a father to establish their legal rights to the child including visitation, the father must legitimize and file a custody action in Court or marry the mother.

A father can legitimize his child one of three ways.

First, the mother and father can sign the Acknowledgement of Legitimation section of the State of Georgia Form 3940 before the child’s first birthday.  This voluntary Acknowledgement establishes that the child is legitimately the child of the father.  While the form legitimizes the child, the form does not establish any custody or visitation rights for the father and the father must still file an action with the court if the need for a formal order arises.

The second method by which a father can legitimize his child is by filing an action with the court requesting that the child be legitimized and that his custody and visitation rights be established.  Generally, this action is filed in the Superior Court of the county in which the child resides.  Through this court filed legitimation action, the court can grant the father’s request for legitimation, grant the father his legal custody rights and set out an enforceable visitation schedule for the father and child.

The third is method is for the father to marry the mother.  Of course, this is not an option for every father or even in the best interest of the child in some cases.

The legitimation process can be complex, especially if the mother is not willing to agree to the terms that the father  is seeking.  If you are in need of establishing your legitimation rights, contact Attorney Yolvondra Martin for your consultation.

The Martin Law Group | 404-248-4898 | ymartin@themartinlawgroup.com