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…]

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…]

Georgia Lord Elected to DeKalb Bar Family Law Section Board

On June 4th, 2015, Georgia Lord of Georgia Lord Law was elected to the Board of the DeKalb Bar Family Law Section.  The Section regularly presents educational programs on Family Law to attorneys who practice in DeKalb County.  It meets monthly at the Historic DeKalb County Courthouse, in downtown Decatur, and periodically hosts more extensive continuing legal education seminars or other special events. During the June 4th election meeting, Lord thanked her fellow family law attorneys for selecting her to this leadership post and said she was looking forward to planning many training programs for the group.

The program for the September meeting of the DeKalb Bar Family Law Section featured Georgia Supreme Court Justice Carol W. Hunstein. Justice Hunstein both reminisced about her eight years on the DeKalb bench and shared some practical tips for practitioners litigating in the Georgia Supreme Court. [Read more…]

Cobb Judge Praises Accountability Court Programs

At a recent meeting of the Atlanta Bar’s Family Section, Georgia Lord heard Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary Staley praise the work done by Cobb’s Accountability Court programs. These programs are designed to meet the needs of criminal defendants who suffer from alcohol or drug addiction or mental illness. Judge Staley explained that these Accountability Court programs are intended to address the problems underlying a defendant’s criminal actions. She believes such programs are far more effective than traditional criminal sentencing: she gave examples of how Accountability Courts can make a dramatic difference in both the defendants’ lives and the lives of those around them.

Traditionally, a court sentencing a defendant accused of theft would simply decide whether the defendant should be locked up, put on probation, or released. Incarceration is expensive, both for the community and for the defendant. Past experience teaches that a defendant who steals to fund a drug habit will probably keep stealing unless he or she either stays locked up or breaks the drug habit. Accountability Courts are designed to help defendants change the condition that is prompting them to commit crimes. Cobb’s Accountability Courts include a Drug Treatment Court for defendants addicted to drugs or alcohol; a Mental Health Court for defendants with severe and persistent mental health issues; and a Veterans Court, for defendants who are honorably discharged veterans with mental health issues.

Other metro counties have similar accountability courts, and their generally positive impact is becoming increasingly recognized. Governor Nathan Deal has become an enthusiastic supporter of Accountability Courts and, with his support, Georgia now offers financial incentives to counties that use such courts.

DeKalb Judges Explain Mistakes to Avoid in Divorce and Custody Litigation

During a recent meeting of the Family Law Section of the DeKalb Bar Association, Georgia Lord heard presentations by three Judges of the Superior Court of DeKalb County: Judges Gregory Adams, Mark Scott, and Clarence Seeliger. Georgia explains that she found the speeches valuable.  She notes that, “At this type of program, DeKalb Judges explain mistakes to avoid in divorce and custody litigation.” Judge Seeliger noted that many divorce or custody litigants want to focus on airing their hurts or grievances rather than on the questions that will have the greatest impact on his decision. For example, in contested child custody cases he wants to hear about each party’s parenting abilities, as well as their willingness to cooperate with their ex in co-parenting.  Instead, some parties in contested custody cases spend a lot of time testifying about the other party’s adultery and relatively little time addressing parenting skills and experience. Judge Seeliger said that it turns him off to hear one parent disparage the other in court because the harsh words will injure their ability to work together to raise their children in the future.

One of the pieces of advice Judge Adams offered was that litigants should listen very carefully to each of the questions they are being asked on cross-examination and try their best to answer them.  He says that many litigants respond to cross-examination questions by basically repeating a prepared statement, rather than by actually answering the questions.  He finds this very frustrating. He noted that one change he has seen during his ten years on the DeKalb Superior bench is that now more fathers are requesting significant shares of the parenting time.

Judge Scott noted that he often reminds litigants that although the other party may have done something that they find offensive, they need to consider the possibility that the Judge hearing the case may not be as offended as they are.  Some things that offend them may not offend the Judge at all, because the Judge’s values and life experiences may well be different from theirs. He encourages parties to consider resolving their case by compromise, saying, “The results you are hoping for may not be the ones you get from me.”

All of the Judges stated that they found the services of a “Guardian ad litem” very valuable in custody disputes.  Such Guardians are appointed by the court.  They conduct an investigation and make recommendations regarding the type of custody arrangement that would be in the best interest of the child or children involved.  The Judges stated that when a Guardian has been appointed, the Guardian’s report gives the Judge access to more information than they would otherwise have.

How to Help Your Children through Your Divorce

Divorce is often painful for the people involved but it can be especially tough for children. The way in which you talk to your children about the divorce can have a profound impact on them, as can the way in which you behave.  This is a time when it is important to model grace under fire: it is how to help your children through your divorce.

mother cooking with childIt is important to tell your children you are divorcing well before they hear about it from someone else.  Once the plans have been finalized and you know for sure you are going through with the divorce, it is time to sit down with the kids. Yes, “the Talk” is difficult, but it has to be done, and it is important that you do it the right way.  If at all possible, both parents should be there for the talk.

Try to be calm rather than emotional.  Don’t let them see that you are mad, scared or hurt.  Do not ask them to “decide” what you should do; the responsibility of deciding whether to end a marriage rests with the spouses, and should not be piled onto the shoulders of their children.  Reassure your children that:

  1. The split is NOT in any way their fault;
  2. Even though you and your spouse’s feelings for each other have changed, you both will ALWAYS love your kids;
  3. Even though you and your spouse will not be living together any more, you both will still act as a unit to raise the kids; and,
  4. Things will be okay.

You will need to repeat these assurances to your children as time goes by.

Both during your initial talk with your children, and later as the divorce process grinds along, be careful not to fall into any of these tempting traps:

  • Oversharing – Give the children information that is relevant to them, like where they will be when and who will take them to soccer practice. Don’t give them the nitty gritty about wrongdoing or infidelities: complaining to your children about their other parent will not only hurt them and will also damage your case with the Judge.   Don’t complain about or argue with your spouse to others where your children may be able to hear you.  Do not vent your emotions with your children.
  • Blaming – When the children are unhappy about a particular situation, avoid using your spouse as a scapegoat. Instead of saying, “I want to be with you for Christmas, too, but your father insisted you be with him,” say, “The judge decided you should spend this Christmas with your father and I know he is excited about sharing it with you.”
  • Manipulating – Don’t try to use the children as a weapon against your spouse. Most of the time it won’t work and it will actually end up damaging your relationship with the kids instead.
  • Disrupting – Most children thrive on routine and boundaries so their lives should be disrupted as little as possible.
  • Ignoring – Never get so tied up with your own pain that you forget your kids are hurting too. Give them the love and reassurance they will need to get through the divorce with a healthy outlook.

Georgia Lord Meets Supreme Court Justice Thomas

Following her recent admission to membership in the Bar of the United States Supreme Court Georgia Lord had the opportunity to chat with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Clarence Thomas personally greeted Georgia and congratulated her. Although Justice Thomas is known for his silence during the Court’s oral arguments, he was very gracious and welcoming on this occasion. He good humoredly responded to the many, many questions posed by those present. The admission ceremony itself took place in the Supreme Court’s courtroom and five of the current Justices participated: Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan, along with Justice Thomas. As a member of the Court’s Bar association Georgia is eligible to represent parties in Supreme Court cases.  Luckily, a photographer captured the moment when Georgia Lord meets Supreme Court Justice Thomas.

GABAR at SCOTUS

What is Collaborative Family Law? How is it Beneficial?

Divorces are often combative, stressful, unsatisfying and expensive, so why do so many people go through with them? For many it is worth the temporary pain to get on with a new life and a fresh start. But, did you know, you can get the same or better results with much less discomfort by using a collaborative approach to divorce? In the 1990s a group of Minnesota law attorneys wanted to find a more straightforward and even handed way to approach a divorce.  They came up with the collaborative law process which many people throughout the country use as an alternative process to a standard divorce.

Collaborative family law may sound complicated but the concept is fairly simple.

The couple makes a commitment to resolve all of their support, custody, and property issues through negotiation.

It has many benefits over a standard divorce like:

  • collaborative divorce georgia lordIn a normal divorce you are leaving all the decision making power in the courts hands. They may have an unbiased perspective but most people would rather leave their fate in their own hands when possible. If you can work together with your spouse, you can come away with much better results while working together than you ever could in a divorce court.
  • If there are children involved, a collaborative approach is much healthier for them. Children notice a lot more than people give them credit for and if they see their parents constantly at each others throat it causes stress. Also, if one parent tries to use the children against the other then it can end up permanently damaging their relationship with their children. In a collaborative divorce, no one is backstabbing or fighting. Instead the children just see their parents discussing their issues and coming to a common understanding.
  • It is less stressful on the couple getting divorced. Most of the horror stories told about divorce come from the constant infighting for custody, money and possessions. Since you will be working together in a collaborative divorce, there is much less stress and hurt feelings.

Georgia Lord Admitted to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court

us supreme court buildingOn January 26th, 2015, Georgia Lord was accepted as a member of the Bar of the United States Supreme Court. As a member of the Court’s Bar association she is eligible to represent parties in Supreme Court cases. The admission ceremony took place in the Supreme Court’s courtroom and five of the current Justices participated. Justice Clarence Thomas personally greeted Georgia and congratulated her following the ceremony.

25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The year 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and a year-long celebration is being planned. The activities will include the 2015 National ADA Symposium that will be held in Atlanta on May 10th, 2015, and the 28th Annual Meeting of the Society for Disability Studies, to be held in Atlanta on June 10th. There will also be a nationwide “rolling” celebration, the ADA Legacy Tour. For further information see http://www.adalegacy.com/ada25/ada-legacy-tour, 2015 National ADA Symposium, and 28th Annual Meeting of the Society for Disability Studies .