2013 looks like another interesting year for family law

By Randall M. Kessler

We have seen a lot in the past year. We have seen courts in two different states proscribe procreation (for not paying child support and other reasons). We have seen more celebrity divorce and family law in the news (think Kim Kardashian, Kris Humphries, Kanye West, Deion Sanders and Kobe Bryant).Randall Kessler

Perhaps the biggest and most significant thing we will see in 2013 is when the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue of gay marriage.

They say life imitates art. Well, maybe life imitates television, which some argue is a form of art.

The number of shows that include gay marriages and relationships in the plots have grown tremendously, and they are no longer limited to the fringe channels. The major networks now include same-sex relationships in many shows and, like interracial kisses on TV, same-sex smooches are no longer unusual. Perhaps that is more the cause of change than any legislation.

I am not advocating a position, but it’s clear that same-sex relationships exist. For me, that means finding a way to help people peacefully dissolve and resolve these relationships through our civil process.

On March 21, the Institute of Continuing Legal Education in Georgia will present its second annual same-sex legal issues seminar. Last year many issues were covered, from adoption to property division to custody issues. This year the program will help practitioners prepare for whatever ruling the U.S. Supreme Court makes.

This certainly looks to be an interesting legal year in family law. But it also will almost certainly be an interesting year for such other legal areas as gun control, taxes and banking. We also have a new evidence code in Georgia that will certainly challenge us as we become accustomed to it.

In previous years it was a new custody statute or new child support guidelines. But ultimately, family law is fact-driven. Whatever the law, our courts will always seem to find a way to try to help children. And that’s as it should be.

We still have an overwhelming number of pro se litigants. When there are no lawyers or guardian ad litems, the judge, often on his or her own, has to decide what a child’s future will be. So with all the changes, we still have a giant need to help those who cannot afford counsel. The Fulton County Family Division director is working on seminars and videos for pro se persons to use to help them. Fulton and other counties have on- site and online resource centers.

But what is really needed is lawyer community support. Let’s help with these programs through funding them or by providing materials or information or by presenting them.

Many fine organizations are carrying this torch and those entities, such as Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and the various legal aid groups throughout our state, should be given all the resources we lawyers can provide. Helping the needy in our area of expertise is so easy to do, yet so important.

I look forward to a 2013 that helps improve the lot of those in need and ensures that the children of our state are provided for physically, emotionally and financially.