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Frequently Asked Questions for St. Simons Island, GA Business Lawyers

Ethical, experienced, and effective attorneys for a broad range of legal services

Choate & Company, P.C. provides quality legal services across a wide array of legal issues. This brief list reflects some questions prospective clients often ask. For further information on these and other areas of the law, contact our St. Simons Island office.

Business law

Family law

Homeowner associations (HOAs)

Contact an ethical, experienced, and effective business law firm in St. Simons Island, GA

Choate & Company, P.C. provides a full range of business law and family law services in Georgia. Call 912.324.5216 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Our offices are conveniently located on St. Simons Island, Georgia. We offer flexible office hours by appointment.


Business law

Why do I need an attorney to start my business?

Once you have researched your business idea and prepared a business plan, our business lawyers can help you determine the legal structure of your business ― sole proprietorship, partnership, limited partnership, limited liability company, corporation, non-profit or a cooperative. If you have partners, we can help to figure out the share of ownership. We can draft the agreement that designates who gets what if you and your partners decide to end the relationship. We can assist your business with permits, licenses and the registration of trademarks, copyrights or patents. You will need to register your business for local, state, and federal taxes. Once the business is established, we can assist with establishing policies and procedures for employment, operations, record keeping, and other important matters.

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What is the best corporate structure for a new business?

The best corporate structure is the one that suits your needs. At a minimum, you want to create a structure that minimizes your tax exposure and limits your liability by erecting a legal firewall between your business finances and your personal assets. Whether you have partners or investors will influence your selection of a corporate structure. It is important to consult an experienced attorney who can ask all the necessary questions to determine the most appropriate entity for your company, because changing entities after you have begun operation means delay and added expense.

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What is the difference between mediation, arbitration and litigation?

Litigation involves traditional, adversarial negotiation, and civil actions filed in state or federal court decided by a judge or jury. In arbitration, the parties present their case to an arbiter who decides in favor of one side or the other. Arbitration can be binding, where parties agree to accept whatever the arbiter decides, or non-binding, where parties reserve the right to litigate the issue in court if they do not like the arbiter’s decision. Mediation is a similar process, but instead of presenting their case before a neutral party who decides on a winner, the parties meet with a mediator who listens to both sides and tries to move them toward a mutually beneficial resolution. If mediation fails to solve the problem, the parties can move forward with litigation in court.

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Why do I need a franchise lawyer?

Franchising is a heavily regulated industry nationally and internationally. In addition to legal requirements by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), states also have laws that govern the terms of relationships between franchisors and franchisees. For example, a lawyer can assist if you are selling a franchise by helping you prepare a franchise disclosure document (FDD), which is a complicated filing required by the FTC. The FDD must be submitted to every prospective franchisee. It must include state-specific disclosures and be registered with a state agency before any solicitation to potential franchisees can be made in that state. Our franchise attorneys are knowledgeable about franchise laws and can navigate you through the process whether you are a franchisor or franchisee.

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Family law

What can you expect from your first meeting with a divorce lawyer?
Bring all documents that you think would be helpful, including financial records, a list of assets and debts, etc. Be prepared to discuss all aspects of your case. If you have questions, write them out in advance so you will remember to ask us. We can only help if you are candid and open about all the issues in the divorce. Remember that your conversation is confidential and will never be revealed to another party.

We will answer all of your questions and describe the process to you, as well as give you an expectation of challenges and possible outcomes in your case. A thorough case evaluation may not be available at the initial meeting because we may need time to investigate facts to see how they relate to the law in order to form a clearer picture of how your case will likely progress.

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What is the process for dividing marital property in a Georgia divorce?

Georgia is an “equitable distribution” state, which means the judge or jury has latitude to decide who gets what based on “fairness.” Equitable distribution is a three-step process in which 1) assets are identified as either marital or separate property, 2) assets are assigned a value, and 3) assets are allocated to one spouse or the other. In allocating the assets, the court applies a number of factors, including:

  • the standard of living during marriage;
  • the earning capacities of both parties;
  • the education and vocational skills of both parties;
  • the current income of both parties;
  • the age and health of the parties;
  • the assets, debts, and liabilities of the parties;
  • the needs of each of the parties;
  • the provisions for the custody of the minor children;
  • each party’s contribution to the acquisition of existing marital assets;
  • each party’s enhancement of the value of existing marital assets; and
  • whether either party has dissipated or diminished the value of the martial assets by wrongful conduct.

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Homeowner associations (HOAs)

What is an HOA?

A homeowners association (HOA) is comprised of two or more homeowners who belong to a mandatory membership organization for the maintenance of commonly owned real estate and improvements to and regulations of privately owned property in a given area. An HOA is responsible for managing community finances and their board’s direction and enforcing the guidelines in its covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). Collecting unpaid assessments, enforcing the association’s governing documents, handling disputes, and dealing with contractors are just a few of the HOA’s tasks.

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How does an HOA enforce covenants?

When a homeowner buys into a subdivision governed by a homeowners association, he or she agrees to abide by the covenants attached to the property. When the homeowner violates a covenant, it has the effect of a breach of contract. The HOA’s remedies are at law (a civil suit for monetary damages) and in equity (a motion in court for an injunction to stop the offending behavior). Most often, the HOA will seek an injunction that forbids the homeowner from continuing or repeating the offending behavior.

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