Georgia Lord Teaches Family Lawyers, Chairs Judges Panel Discussion

Photo of head table with speakers Dawn Smith, Debbie Gold, Georgia Lord, and Eileen Shuman.

Program faculty included (L to R) Dawn Smith, Debbie Gold, Georgia Lord, and Eileen Shuman.

Georgia Lord recently served as one of the faculty in a training seminar for family lawyers, family court Judges and family therapists. The seminar provided information on Advanced Child Custody Litigation. It was convened by the DeKalb Bar Family Section, Ms. Lord chaired a panel discussion by DeKalb Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams, Fulton Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick, and Henry Superior Court Judge Arch McMarity. In another segment of the program, Lord also presented detailed recommendations regarding the best structures to use for Guardian ad litem investigations, including ways that parties and counsel can help minimize the Guardian ad litem’s fees while still gaining important insights from the   investigation.

ADA Requires Accommodation of Peanut Allergy

The U.S. Department of Justice recently found that a theater program for young people violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it failed to provide adequate arrangements for a 10 year old boy who had a severe allergy to peanuts. The program’s director had agreed to ask other program participants to refrain from bringing nut products to the program’s activities. She refused, however, to commit to having an adult present who could administer an Epi-Pen in the event that the child accidentally ingested some nuts and had trouble breathing. Instead, she told the boy’s mother that the mother would be required to sign a waiver of liability, and should consider attending all sessions that her son attended, so that she could administer the Epi-Pen if needed. [Read more…]

DFCS Investigations: Do’s and Don’ts When DFCS Calls

At a recent DeKalb Bar Family Section meeting, Family Section Board member Georgia Lord heard attorneys Lila Bradley and Lynn Goldman of Claiborne Fox Bradley LLC provide a wealth of practical information regarding Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) investigations and related Juvenile Court proceedings. Ms. Bradley and Ms. Goldman noted that a DFCS investigation can pop up unexpectedly during a custody dispute (for instance, in response to a complaint by other party or a member of their family), and cautioned that the manner in which a parent responds to the investigator can have a critical impact on the outcome of their custody case (and the wellbeing of the child involved).

They cautioned that Juvenile Court litigation should be handled by a specialist who is well-versed in the rules and procedures of that court.

Their suggestions included things to try to do and things to avoid doing when responding to DFCS staff. For example, here are several things persons who are the subject of a DFCS investigation should not do: [Read more…]

Georgia Lord Gives Divorce Advice to Atlanta Women’s Network

At a recent meeting of the Atlanta Women’s Network, Georgia Lord was invited to present her advice to those who are going through a divorce or child custody dispute.

Child Guardians | Guardian ad LitemShe explained that women should not assume that if they divorce they will receive alimony. Nowadays, an award of alimony has become the exception, rather than the rule. Even when alimony is awarded it is usually for a very short period of time. Most judges now expect able-bodied individuals to largely support themselves after divorce, even if they have not worked outside the home in recent years. Counsel must be prepared to lay out convincing evidence regarding the relative financial and life circumstances of the parties in order to make a case for alimony. [Read more…]

Same-Sex Spouses Included in Georgia Birth Certificates

Father watching movie with daughter on laptopSame-sex spouses having children in Georgia via artificial insemination and other assisted reproduction technologies are both being identified as parents on their child’s birth certificate, but it may be wise for them to do more to protect their parental rights. The U.S. Supreme Court’s “Marriage Equality” decision in June opened up lots of questions regarding when a same-sex spouse will be recognized as a parent. The Family Law Review published Georgia Lord’s recent article addressing these questions — but that article was intended for an audience of Judges and lawyers rather than clients, and can be hard for nonlawyers to decipher. Barbara Katz (a well-regarded adoption and assisted reproduction attorney) has written an updated summary on some of these issues that is designed to be read by nonlawyers. It is intended to assist same-sex parents in deciding whether they need to take further action to protect their custodial rights. With Ms. Katz’s kind permission, her summary is available HERE.

As Ms. Katz explains, for married couples who are having a child biologically via artificial insemination, Georgia Vital Records will automatically list both spouses as the baby’s legal parents. However, NOT ALL STATES have this same “marital presumption of legitimacy.” Because of this, many LGBT organizations and mainstream legal organizations are advising gay parents having children biologically to still get a court order of parentage or complete a stepparent adoption, even if both parents’ names are on the birth certificate. The reason that some parents may want to take this precaution is that it is possible that their right to be recognized as a parent may be challenged in the future. Such challenges may come from a known sperm donor seeking parental rights, from the other parent during a divorce action, or from the biological grandparents, aunts or uncles in the wake of the biological mother’s death. Each parent should carefully consider his or her family’s particular situation in determining whether to spend the time and money involved in seeking a court order to clarify his or her parental rights.

Georgia Lord cautions that same-sex parents who were not married to each other (via a government-licensed ceremony) before their child was born stand on very different footing, legally, that those who were married. She and other family law attorneys are watching closely to see the rulings courts issue regarding such situations. There is also a strong possibility that the Georgia Legislature may address these issues during its upcoming session. Ms. Lord encourages everyone to let their state legislators know their views regarding what the rules that govern questions of child custody should be. 

Child Custody Rules for Same-Sex Separations Described by Georgia Lord in Professional Journal

FamilyLawReviewCoverThe recent “Marriage Equality” decision by the US Supreme Court (Obergefell v. Hodges) has left Georgia lawyers and Judges struggling to figure out how the state’s prior rules regarding child custody disputes should be applied to same sex couples who are separating. Georgia Lord recently authored a scholarly article addressing this topic for The Family Law Review, a professional journal for Family Law attorneys in Georgia.  A copy of that article can be seen HERE. As Lord explains in this article, for the short term, there will continue to be uncertainty regarding the extent to which many individuals who are or were in same-sex couples have standing to seek custody of the children born or adopted into those relationships. One factor which will likely be very significant is whether the parents entered into a state-licensed marriage before the child’s birth or adoption (whether in their state of residence or elsewhere). For now, the safest course of action for a nonbiological parent will, in most cases, continue to be adopting a child via a step-parent adoption. [Read more…]

Georgia Lord Teaches Child Custody Lawyers

PanelPresentationOnGuardianAdLitemService

Georgia Lord (fourth from left) on Panel Providing Instruction On Guardian Ad Litem Service. Other panelists were attorneys A. Bernadette Olmos, George P. Shingler, Dawn Elizabeth de Klerk, Lila N. Bradley, and Robert A. Burnett.

Georgia Lord recently joined other custody litigation experts to teach child custody lawyers from Atlanta, Decatur, and DeKalb. Lord served as faculty at a Continuing Legal Education Seminar on “Advanced Issues Facing Custody Litigators and Guardians ad Litem.” Lord presented a scholarly assessment of the potential impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality decision. She reviewed the rules Georgia’s courts are likely to apply when deciding custody disputes between spouses or domestic partners of the same sex.

Georgia Lord also provided advice to prospective Guardians ad litem during the training. Guardians ad litem investigate custody disputes and make recommendations to the Judge regarding who will get custody. The Guardian works to provide the Judge with an objective assessment of which custody arrangement would best serve the child or children; she represents the “best interest” of the child or children whose custody is at issue. Lord is frequently appointed to serve as Guardian ad litem by local family court Judges. [Read more…]