If you are the parent of a young child, particularly of preschool age, you may want to consider consulting a child psychologist before and during your divorce proceedings. According to this article, recent studies show that a collapsing family structure may lead to long-term behavioral problems in young children. Because your child’s “support network” is undergoing changes (often involving a move from a blended to single parent family) it is important to provide a sense of unity and structure for your child. Therapy may help in promoting healthy childhood development despite any familial changes brought on by divorce.
International child abduction affects thousands of children globally every year. In 1988, The United States adopted The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in order to ensure that abducted children are immediately returned to their country of habitual residence. Ron Nelson, a close friend of our firm, writes an excellent article detailing this act. Anyone interested further in this topic is urged to check it out at: .
Additionally, my article The Hague Convention: Application and Analysis to Child Custody Issues” closely examines how this act will affect future child abduction cases.
On May 1, 2012, the Governor signed into law a new bill that strengthens the rights of grandparents in Georgia. The new law, which is effective immediately, revises the former “no presumption” principle in child custody cases and prompts judges to rule in favor of visitation for grandparents who have financially supported or regularly visited their grandchildren. The new bill indicates a need to consider the potential health risks involved for a child who is denied visitation rights to his or her grandparents. Furthermore, the law allows judges to rule that a child’s health may be compromised without “minimal” visits from grandparents, lasting at least 24 hours in a month. The exact revision to Official Code of Georgia O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3 is as follows:
“In considering whether the health or welfare of the child would be harmed without such visitation, the court shall consider and may find that harm to the child is reasonably likely to result where, prior to the original action or intervention:
(A) The minor child resided with the grandparent for six months or more;
(B) The grandparent provided financial support for the basic needs of the child for at least one year;
(C) There was an established pattern of regular visitation or child care by the
grandparent with the child; or
(D) Any other circumstance exists indicating that emotional or physical harm would be reasonably likely to result if such visitation is not granted.”
On April 24, 2012, the Supreme Court of Georgia decided Ennis v. Ennis, holding that while minimum contacts over a nonresident party are necessary to adjudicate issues related to a marriage (i.e. alimony, division of marital property, and attorneys’ fees), they are not required to dissolve the marriage alone.
The Court overturned the trial court’s ruling that Georgia had personal jurisdiction over nonresident Wife, noting that the minimum contacts requirements of the long arm statute (OCGA § 9-10-91(5)) had not been satisfied, and that Wife had not conducted any business nor did she have any recent, significant ties to the state.
However, the Court found that a Georgia court does not need personal jurisdiction over the nonresident Wife to simply grant the divorce. Pursuant to OCGA § 19-5-2, resident Husband was entitled to dissolve the marriage in a Georgia court so long as he had lived in the state for at least six months. If the residency requirement is met, the Georgia trial court has jurisdiction to grant the divorce.
This week, the Georgia Supreme Court decided Viskup v. Viskup, holding that venue is still proper when a petition is filed prior to respondent moving out of the county, but service is not perfected until after respondent has already moved. More notably, the Court further determined that an award of attorneys’ fees in a child custody modification action is proper pursuant to OCGA § 19-9-3(g), even where the action is not qualified under OCGA § 19-6-2(a)(2).
Mother filed her modification petition in Cherokee County on October 17, 2008, and Father was served October 24. Father had decided in September to move from Cherokee to Cobb County, but did not physically move until October 21. The trial court ruled, and the Supreme Court agreed, that Father was still a resident of Cherokee until his physical presence actually changed counties on October 21, and so long as the petition was filed before then, venue was appropriate.
Father also argued that the trial court improperly awarded attorneys’ fees to Mother, because the final order did not state a statutory basis for the award. The Court found that the trial court’s order on attorneys’ fees in fact contained language set forth in both OCGA § 19-9-3(g) and OCGA § 19-6-2(a)(2). Previously, Georgia law limited the application of § 19-9-3(g) only to actions covered by § 19-6-2(a)(2). Harris v. Williams, 304 Ga. App. 390 (2010). However, the Supreme Court ruled that to the extent that Harris v. Williams held that § 19-9-3(g) did not authorize an award for attorneys’ fees in an action seeking modification of child custody, it is now overruled. Finally, the Court held that because Mother’s petition fell within the parameters of § 19-9-3(g), the case did not need to be remanded for clarification of the statutory basis of the award.
On April 27, 2012, the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia is hosting a seminar that addresses some of the most important issues that exist in family law, and in society as a whole: Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse. The program will include such relevant speakers as Dalia Racine, Assistant District Attorney, Crimes Against Children Unit, DeKalb County, Decatur, Kelly Kinnish, Ph.D., Clinical Director, Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, Atlanta and DeQuanda Sanders, Adult Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse, Atlanta.
How do we prevent the abuse of children? Knowledge, action and awareness. This program will educate and illuminate this terrible blight on mankind. No child should be abused, and anything that can be done to reduce the odds of it happening to any child is worth doing. This seminar is but a small piece of the answer, but it may be a start. Please consider attending and learning and sharing your insights. And let’s all work together to eliminate this problem (which is an understatement of the issue).
On Wednesday January 18, 2012 I will be presenting a Webinar for the ABA. It is one that is interesting to me. The title? Handling the Media in a Family Law Matter. I am sure I don’t know all the answers, but preparing for it and thinking about it has been educational and enjoyable.
While there certainly is more than one way to work with the press, I have found that being forthcoming with the media, even if my answer is “I don’t know”, or “I know but cannot and will not say”, has been the best. The media have much power, but in the end, they, like we, are people making decisions and judgment calls so why make them second guess your honesty or integrity.
I am looking forward to the program. If you have any helpful tips, resources, insights or suggestions, please pass them along. It can only help improve the presentation.
On January 12, 2012, Dennis Collard and I will be presenting at the State Bar of Georgia on “Winning Settlement Strategies. The seminar brochure can be accessed by clicking here (click for brochure). We are the final speakers for this fine seminar being put on by the General Practice and Trial Law section of the State Bar of Georgia. Other fine speakers include Pete Law and Judge Gino Brogdon among others.
Too often the focus on lawyer education is on how to go to trial. While our particular presentation does indeed cover preparing for trial, our overall point is that by preparing well for trial, you make it more likely you will achieve an appropriate settlement. As with most seminars, the best part of the day will be listening to and watching the other speakers so that I may learn from them. If you are able to join us, please do. And if you have any suggestions for us to consider incorporating into our presentation, please let us know.