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.

Have Sizeable IRAs? Divorcing? Consider Trusteed IRAs

IRAs make up a significant portion of many individuals’ financial assets. If you have sizeable IRAs, it is important to periodically review whom you designated as the beneficiary for these accounts and whether it is time for a change. Many who are considering divorce, or were recently divorced, want to remove their spouse as their designated IRA beneficiary.  When making this switch, it would be wise to thoughtfully consider the options and work to steer clear of potential problems. For example, individuals with children often wish to designate their children as the beneficiary for their IRA. They should consider whether their children are sufficiently mature to manage these resources wisely. Many young adults who obtain unlimited access to funds yield to the temptation to cash out the account (despite the tax penalties involved) and spend the funds quickly. Even if the owner of the IRA is confident that their proposed beneficiary will be fiscally prudent, it would also be wise for the account holder to consider the possibility that either the account holder or the beneficiary may suffer a disability that leaves them unable to manage the account. [Read more…]

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…]

Decatur Attorneys Learn About Child Support Collection

Two very knowledgeable employees of the Georgia Commission on Child Support gave nuts-and-bolts advice about collecting child support at a recent meeting of the DeKalb Bar Association Family Law Section.  The speakers explained how to collect child support through automatic payroll deductions. Such deductions can be very helpful in situations in which a parent who has been ordered to pay child support is working and earning money but is failing to send the ordered child support. When the payroll deduction process is used, the paying parent’s employer subtracts child support from the paying parent’s paycheck and sends it to to the Family Support Registry. The Family Support Registry then forwards these funds to the person who is entitled to collect child support. [Read more…]

Collaborative Law Institute of Georgia Selects Georgia Lord for Office

The Collaborative Law Institute of Georgia recently selected Georgia Lord to serve as an officer of the organization. The group (which is also known as CLIG) is an organization established to set the standards for collaborative practice within the State of Georgia. CLIG provides ongoing professional training regarding collaborative practice techniques, as well as instruction concerning how professionals can better serve families undergoing divorce or other transitions and disputes. CLIG’s officers are instrumental in educating professionals and the general public about the benefits of using the “Collaborative Process” to resolve conflict.
Georgia Lord will serve the group as its Recording Secretary. She explains that she is eager to accept this post because she strongly believes that collaborative practice can have a very positive impact in many situations. “During my years as a Family Court staff member,” she says, “I witnessed cases in which one of the parties ‘won’ their case, but did so at the expense of draining their accumulated assets to pay for the litigation – and inflicting lots of emotional wounds upon themselves and their children. Collaborative practice offers an alternative. Its methods focus on reaching a solution that works for everyone involved. The process is non-adversarial and respectful. The parties use their energy and resources to craft a plan for their future rather than spending them on refueling the litigation battle.”
Further information regarding the Collaborative Law Institute of Georgia and collaborative practice generally can be found on the CLIG website.

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. 

Contempt Motion Filed Against MARTA Mobility

Advocates pressing for adequate, accessible public transit for persons with disabilities charge in a federal court action that MARTA is in contempt of court. The action sets out evidence that MARTA’s paratransit service — MARTA Mobility – fails to provide the level of service required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and by an injunction previously entered against the system. They argue that MARTA has failed to take reasonable steps to improve the system’s performance. As a result, they say, those who rely upon the system for transportation to work, to medical appointments, or to special occasions are often left stranded. MARTA Mobility’s own statistics regarding whether its vehicles show up on time — or even show up at all – show that the system’s performance has recently been worse than it has been at any point in the past twelve years. [Read more…]