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May 2010 Archives

Top 15 Predictors Of Divorce

There are no hard and fast rules in determining whether or not your marriage is headed for divorce, but an article in The Daily Beast has boiled it down to 15 red flags. While these are very compelling numbers, please keep in mind that there are no hard and fast predictors of divorce. The good news is that the U.S. divorce rate has fallen and now is somewhere between 40 and 50 percent; not terrific but a positive trend.

We won't go into all 15 here, but the article is worth a read.

Some of the findings seem totally rational, including the likelihood that disagreements over finances often sink marriages. According to the "State of Our Unions 2009" study from the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project, couples that argue over money at least once a week are 30 percent more likely to call Atlanta divorce lawyers.

Twins Charged In Mother's Murder

Sixteen-year-old twins Tasmiyah and Jasmiyah Whitehead have been arrested and charged for their mother's murder that occurred on Jan. 14. Their mother, Jarmecca "Nikki" Whitehead was found stabbed to death. Many of the Conyers mother's friends say they are not surprised, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Jarmecca Whitehead was found dead at her home in a pool of blood, having been beaten and stabbed repeatedly. There were no signs of forced entry, leading police to believe that the victim knew her attacker(s).

Michelle Temple, Jarmecca Whitehead's friend and former employer, said she didn't think the girls were capable of murder but that she had a change of heart after the killing:

"Who would think that? But after she was murdered, I knew it was them."

While the Jesse James and Sandra Bullock saga is sad, it may not have been entirely unpredictable.

Jesse James, the soon-to-be ex-husband of Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock, told ABC's "Nightline" news show that his wife most likely suspected he was having affairs throughout their 5-year marriage, ABC News reported. 

But, he told the show, he was able to talk his way out of it:

"I told her basically everything, that I had affairs outside of our marriage. I think she's had her suspicions in the past, but, you know. I lied, and lied my way out of it. I lied to everyone about everything, even to myself."

Marietta mother Shannon Nicole McDowell was arrested and charged with 1st- and 2nd-degree cruelty to children, contributing to the deprivation of a minor and making false statements, WSBTV Atlanta reported. Cobb County police are looking for the father, Damon Earl Jennings.

Investigators said the couple's 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter both were taken to hospitals (the boy was flown to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta) for their injuries.

While the boy was still being treated as of May 25, the girl was released to the custody of the Georgia Dept. of Family and Children Services (DFCS). That means the parents likely will need to contact a Georgia family law attorney in addition to a criminal lawyer if they hope to regain custody of their children.

It's important to point out that all those accused of crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry and the father of her young daughter, Gabriel Aubry, split up several months ago but now are engaged in a serious child custody battle, entertainment journal Radar Online reported. The Halle Berry child custody battle is one that will certainly involve an attorney because Gabriel Aubry wants permanent custody.

As is common for A-list movie actors and actresses, Halle Berry is shooting a film halfway across the world for three months. But since the actress plans to be in South Africa with her child, Gabriel Aubry is reportedly exploring his legal options.

An unnamed source "close to the situation" told Radar reporters that the father is fighting for permanent custody of daughter Nahla.

A 21-month-old girl who was injured when her neck became trapped in a car window is expected to make a full recovery, according to Winder police cited by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her neck became trapped in the small opening and the girl temporarily lost consciousness.

Police Sgt. Rachel Love told reporters that the toddler will likely recover to normal because of the immediate performance of CPR on the girl by a neighbor, as well as the quick response of Winder firefighters. She was in critical condition on Saturday night but now is stable and improving.

Police say the girl was left unattended in the car with her 3-year-old brother while the mother was away. Investigators are not sure how long the mother had left the children alone in the car, but said they believe she was inside a nearby home during the incident. 

Facebook and similar social networking sites are great for reconnecting with old friends and classmates; but danger lurks behind the screen. Atlanta divorce lawyers usually stick to matters of law, but several attorneys cited in an ABC News article are advising their clients about the importance of tact when using social networking sites

A lot of people are complaining of Facebook breakups.

Divorce attorney Anita Ventrelli said such networks have created "a whole new area" for people to cause problems by typing too much:

"I would tell you to be circumspect and that even things said jokingly can be printed out and spun with a sinister context."

CNN reported that DeShawn Snow, a former cast member of the hit reality television show "Real Housewives of Atlanta," is getting divorced. She and former professional basketball player Eric Snow are calling it quits after 12 years of marriage.

But don't expect too much backstabbing or sniping between the two, since she claims she was asked to leave the show because she didn't bring enough drama to the series. She talked about her departure in an interview with Essence magazine, excerpted in the CNN article:

"[One of the producers] called and said that I was 'too human for a circus show' and that because the show did so well, they are about to pump up the drama and they didn't think that I would fit in. I'm fine with the decision."

No one's saying that husbands are better off depressed, but a new study reported by the Telegraph makes the startling conclusion that couples are less likely to get divorced if the husband is less happy than his wife. An unhappy wife could mean divorce?

It doesn't take a seasoned Atlanta divorce attorney to tell you that unhappy wives are more likely to split up with their hubbies. But this study goes beyond the obvious, finding that it's more about the so-called "happiness gap" between spouses.

Regardless of whether the wife is happy, the study concluded that wives are more likely to leave their husbands if their men are substantially happier than they are. The study is based on data from tens of thousands of marriages in the U.K., Germany and Australia.

Researchers at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore found that while 64 percent of autistic children have married parents, which compares to 65 percent of children without an autism spectrum disorder, CNN reported. In other words, the oft-repeated suggestion that 80 percent of married couples with autistic kids are likely to divorce is just a myth.

Brian Freedman, who led the study, said the research could go a long way toward relieving some of the anxiety parents of autistic children often experience over the now-discredited myth:

"It leaves many families with a sense of hopelessness about family and relationship. I felt like it was important to get better info about this out there."

There are numerous reasons why some potential foster parents see their foster parent application denied. FindLaw explains that prospective foster parents must be over 21, have a steady income source, have a record free of felony convictions, submit to a home assessment and attend parent training sessions.

But Contemporary Family Services (CFS) in Baltimore apparently has different standards. The Baltimore Sun reported that a woman's foster care application was denied because she doesn't allow pork in her house.

That's right, no pork. So is a house free from "the other white meat" really a reason to deny someone the opportunity to become a foster parent, or is it simple discrimination? 

In an apparent attempt to brand Republican gubernatorial opponent Karen Handel of having views that are not in line with most Georgia conservatives, GOP candidate Nathan Deal accused her of supporting gay adoption, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Unlike the law in neighboring Florida, gays and lesbians have the right to seek an adoption in Georgia. It seems like Nathan Deal wants to make a big deal of gay adoption support.

As the GOP has moved sharply to the right in an already conservative state, many Republican politicians are hoping to align themselves with what are widely considered conservative values. But since gay adoption isn't even on the radar of state lawmakers, it's little more than a political wedge issue for the GOP primary.

The wife of Forsyth County Commissioner Brian Tam, Kelly Tam, has a contract with the city of Cumming (in Forsyth County), which according to a NorthFulton.com article has prompted an ethics complaint. Critics are concerned that Brian Tam's position as Commissioner and his wife's contract create a legal conflict of interest.

The dispute arises out of a separate matter, which we won't go into here, but a Forsyth News article reported that the ethics complaint calls for Brian Tam to recuse himself from the matter because of Kelly Tam's contract with Cumming.

Although the details are tedious, it's safe to say that Kelly Tam could see some indirect benefit from her husband's decision. 

Georgia Couple For Gay Adoption

Considering that there are more and more same-sex couples who want to adopt, it is time to address reasons for gay adoption; especially in Georgia.

A CNN article profiles several families consisting of same-sex parents with adopted children, including Rob and Clay Calhoun. The committed couple lives in Georgia, where adoption by gay and lesbian parents is allowed even if same-sex marriage is not.

Same-sex couples do in fact adopt children in the Peach State. But Georgia is not among the 11 states (and Washington, D.C.) that explicitly bar the use of applicants' sexual orientation to prevent them from adopting. In other words, it's often up to the whim of judges and the persistence of a couple's Georgia family law attorney.

A judge in Dallas, Texas, which also is not among those 11 states, once crumpled up the paper petitioning for adoption and threw it over his shoulder once he realized that the would-be parents were the same gender.   

There is now a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this week that a Texas mother who brought her son to the United States from Chile during an international child custody dispute did so illegally, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Monday's ruling was the first significant test of an international Hague Convention treaty meant to prevent parents from taking children to other countries without the other parent's permission. It's an evolving area of law, one best explained by a Georgia family law attorney.

While the child is a U.S. citizen and has a British father, he now will return to Chile.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the prime suspect in a double-homicide of a Griffin mother and her daughter is on the loose and considered armed and dangerous (as of yesterday). Kenneth Baker, 49, allegedly shot and killed Lynnale Baker and her 19-year-old daughter, ShaeLinda Sanders.

Police say the man, who was married to Lynnale Baker, had been served with divorce papers shortly before the shooting. Tragically, it's too late for the two Griffin women; but spouses who fear for their safety often can secure restraining orders with help from a Georgia family law attorney.

Family friend Julia Pattillo told reporters that Lynnale Baker was an "angel" and that the two were well-loved:

"She was like a second mother to me. She always made it known that no matter how down you were about yourself, you were beautiful."

The Gwinnett Daily Post reported that additional child cruelty charges have been filed against Lawrenceville man Chad Dunn, who allegedly stabbed his estranged wife to death in a Wal-Mart parking lot during a child custody exchange on Valentine's Day. The children's mother, Shelley Dunn, died from massive internal bleeding caused by the stab wounds.

Very little information is available about this case, but the man likely was charged with first- or second-degree murder and remains held at the Gwinnett County Jail without bond.

Last week, a grand jury decided that the fatal stabbing in plain view of the separated couple's two young girls, ages 8 and 6, warranted aggravated assault and third-degree child cruelty charges as well. While the article does not explain, it is likely that the charges are related to the psychological trauma that must have accompanied the horrifying scene.

During a contentious divorce case, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, Georgia family law attorney Susan M. Brown told veteran Fayette County Superior Judge Christopher Edwards that another judge had repeatedly sexually harassed her and improperly ruled against her clients. She said she had brought the issue to Chief Judge Paschal English but that nothing was done.

Christopher Edwards also didn't appear willing to report what Susan Brown described as a culture of judicial misconduct. He reportedly wondered aloud whether other Georgia family law attorneys would agree not to make an issue out of the whistleblowing attorney's allegations, "then seal the records of the proceedings and move on."

However, the issue quickly became public. In a matter of weeks, Paschal English and the judge Susan Brown had complained about, Judge Johnnie L. Caldwell Jr., resigned.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that disgraced golfing star Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren Woods may file for divorce in Sweden in an attempt to keep the media feeding frenzy to a minimum. It could produce one of the largest divorce settlements ever, perhaps as much as $300 million in alimony.

Tiger Woods has an estimated net worth of around $1 billion, making him the first billionaire athlete.

According to unsubstantiated rumors, Tiger Woods is thought to have hired an attorney specializing in international child custody cases. Also, rumor has it that Elin Nordegren plans to move back to her native Sweden and has been renovating a house in the northern European country.

Now that the sensationalized child molestation trial of former kindergarten teacher and northern Georgia resident Tonya Craft is over, the television cameras and throngs of reporters have packed up their things and left. But as WTVC in Chattanooga, Tenn. reports, Tonya Craft's battle to regain custody of her two children will hardly be a walk in the park

That's because her ex-husband, Joal Henke, is digging in as he tries to retain custody of the children he has cared for since her arrest two years ago.

Clancy Covert, a Georgia family law attorney representing Tonya Craft, told reporters after the trial that his client mostly just wanted to be reunited with her kids:

"Tonya's been counting down the seconds that she's been without her children. Now that she's been found not guilty, and acquitted of all charges in Georgia, this is the next step."

It seems as though the differences between 76-year-old talk show host Larry King and 50-year-old wife Shawn Southwick actually are reconcilable, according to ABC News. Larry King was about to join Elizabeth Taylor in the exclusive 8-times-divorced club but decided to work things out with his current wife.

His spokesman told reporters that the veteran television personality has moved back into the family home, shared with their two children. Both parties filed for divorce last month after 13 years of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences, but now the proceedings have been dismissed.

Russian courts put a hold on adoptions to the U.S. in the wake of the uproar over a "returned" Russian boy by his would-be adoptive mother, but now adoption officials in the two countries are moving closer to an agreement, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The details remain unclear, though.

While one Russian official said the two countries are in agreement on "all principal issues," expecting a deal in about two months, a U.S. State Dept. spokesman was less enthusiastic and said several details still need to be ironed out.

That means Atlanta family law attorneys working with prospective parents who are hoping to adopt from Russia may have to wait a little while longer.

A Catoosa County Superior Court jury found accused child molestor and former teacher Tonya Craft not guilty on all 22 charges, CBS News reported. Charges pertaining to alleged abuse of three young girls included aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation.

One of the accusers was her own daughter.

But she said the not guilty verdict only partially completes her battle to put her life back together, as she lost custody of her two children following her 2008 arrest. She appeared on NBC's Today Show shortly after the verdict was reached:

"Until I get my children, I won't have my heart back."

In a plotline fit for the daytime talk show circuit, as reported by AOL blog The Boombox, Atlanta rapper Danyelle "C-Dove" Brown claims he's the estranged son of William Norwood. Who in the world in William Norwood?

Well, he just happens to be the father of musicians Brandy and Ray J. The siblings have their own VH1 reality series, Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business, which chronicles the back stage happenings of the singers and occasional actors.

"Willie" Norwood, as he's known, also is a musician and runs the family business, Rn'B Productions. C-Dove said the family patriarch also is his father, but that attempts to reach out to him have proved fruitless.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution article reported that a number of Georgia's private adoption agencies regularly break rules meant to protect the interests of all parties involved. The AJC investigation summarized by the article also places equal blame on weak oversight by Georgia state regulators.

Many adoptions are multi-state transactions; involving parents in one state, a child in another and sometimes an adoption agency in yet a third state. So it may be wise to hire a Georgia family law attorney who also understands adoption law in other states.

But there's only so much an attorney can do to prevent the types of blatant rule violations the AJC investigation turned up, often without penalties. The state imposed penalties against private adoption agencies found in violation of state law only three times since 2008, according to the investigation.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on a child custody swap gone awry, which left 37-year-old father Antonio Dozier dead. Very few details of the shooting were provided by the police.

Last Saturday, when Antonio Dozier was returning his children to their mother in southwest Atlanta, he encountered the mother's new boyfriend. The children were transferred to the mother, the two men exchanged some words and then brandished handguns.

Fifteen shots were fired; the children's father was shot once in the chest and died at the scene. The unidentified mother's new boyfriend (who also was not identified) was grazed and reportedly is in stable condition.

Few legal situations are as painful as a child custody battle, especially when not even the most experienced Georgia family law attorney can overcome deficiencies in the family court system. An article in The Crime Report paints a dire picture of US family courts failing the children they're supposed to protect.

Consider the following examples of custody and visitation tragedies: 

Three-year-old Teigan Bacon was shot to death by his father during a court-ordered visit in Arizona; a man in Idaho killed his 8-month-old child and then killed himself during a visitation; a registered sex offender granted visitation killed his 1-year-old daughter.

When someone asks how you and your spouse met, do you punctuate the narrative with smiles and fond memories or do you focus on the negatives? Most couples probably fall somewhere in the middle, but a book excerpted by MSNBC suggests that how you tell your story is a strong indicator of whether or not the union will last.  

In fact, a University of Washington study involving the recording of oral histories of how married couples met was able to predict with 94 percent accuracy which marriages would end in divorce.

But newlyweds might want to hold off calling an Atlanta divorce attorney if the how-we-met story doesn't sparkle, since the study found that it's less predictive for new spouses.

CNN "Relationship Rant" columnist and senior assignment manager Audrey Irvine writes that as a single black woman herself, she is "tired of people and the media moaning about why black women can't find successful black men willing to marry them." 

She cites 2000 US Census data finding that there are 1.8 million more black women in the country than black men and that 42 percent of black women are unmarried.

Audrey Irvine doesn't dispute these numbers but offers another explanation, having nothing to do with ethnicity:

As the daughter of a single parent, I wonder whether we are raising our daughters to be single as well.

Although there isn't a whole lot the Fulton County Commission Chair can do to either advance or block a pathway for same-sex marriage within Georgia, that hasn't stopped independent candidate Mary Norwood from voicing her support for gay unions, as GA Voice reported.

But current Chair John Eaves so far has not spoken publicly about his stance on the controversial issue. Choosing his words wisely, the elected official did say he supports civil unions, but declined to say more:

"I haven't publicly come out with a stance on that. I am respectful of all rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation."

Maybe he's just hedging his bets and hoping to court both ends of the spectrum. But then again, maybe Mary Norwood is using this wedge issue that has little to do with the actual job to put John Eaves in a difficult political position.

The topic of marriage is not at a loss for television reality shows, self-help books, blogs or other sounding boards for advice. It's a highly emotional issue, especially for families that have children, that means different things to different people.

But New York Times health reporter Tara Parker-Pope's new book "For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage," reviewed by the Associated Press, attempts to cut through the opinions and explore the facts.

Her book is written as a guide for couples who would rather figure out ways to overcome obstacles than to compare Atlanta divorce lawyers, for example. The reviewer says it's written "with a sharp eye" and provides a nice cross section of research studies into marriage.

News outlets (including this CBS story) were abuzz with last month's story about 7-year-old Russian adoptee Artyom Savelyev, who adoptive mother Torry Hansen sent back to Russia after reportedly feeling threatened by the child. It set off a debate about so-called "high-risk" children from institutions.

Georgia State University professor Kathleen L. Whitten doesn't judge the would-be mother but wrote an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution dispelling what she says is a generalization regarding children adopted from institutions:

In fact, adopted children overall are similar to their nonadopted peers in behavior, school grades and strong relationships with their parents, according to the most current studies in psychology and social work.

CNN talk show host Larry King often is the butt of jokes about multiple marriages, along with Elizabeth Taylor and Billy Bob Thornton. But as the suspender-clad TV personality pursues his eighth divorce, Time Magazine asks whether his marriage license should be revoked for good.

It's purely a rhetorical question, as any Atlanta divorce lawyer will attest, since no states prohibit frequent-marriers from giving it another go. And as the article points out, evolution favors alpha males who bond for a while and then find a younger, more-fertile mate:

Other primates change partners all the time... So why are we complicit in allowing people to make big public promises they have demonstrated a chronic inability to keep?

Georgia's Dept. of Human Services provides a 16-page pamphlet to help custodial grandparents better understand state laws and public benefits associated with raising grandchildren (PDF). The booklet was put together by the Atlanta Legal Aid Society's Grandparent/Relative Caregiver Project and the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline.

The first thing the pamphlet points out is that the type of public benefits available to your grandchild depends on one's legal relationship with that child.

Single moms with absent, problematic or deceased partners often succeed in raising healthy, well-adjusted children. While these parents deserve applause for a tremendously difficult job well done, the odds are squarely against children lacking involved dads.

A Rome News-Tribune article points out that kids without involved fathers represent 63 percent of all youth suicides and 70 percent of juveniles in state reform programs, while girls with absentee fathers are 164 percent more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy.

This isn't the first time someone has pointed out the importance of having two strong parents involved in their children's upbringing.

The roughly $500 to $600 million settlement Tiger Woods may have to pay estranged wife Elin Nordegren Woods in alimony, covered by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker, is not exactly chump change. Spouses getting half in a divorce settlement are nothing new; but for the world's first billionaire athlete, a half-billion-dollar settlement certainly gets people's attention.

However, the alleged infidelity of golfing superstar Tiger Woods was so over-the-top that there may not be much his attorney can do for him. Any Atlanta divorce lawyers out there care to weigh in?

An unnamed individual the columnist says is "close" to Elin Nordegren Woods said the Swedish blonde has been in talks with an army of lawyers both in Sweden and in the U.S. in a "round-the-clock" manner.

The Division of Child Support Services under the authority of the Georgia Dept. of Human Services outlines the three main ways to establish paternity of a child. Paternity simply refers to the identification of a child's biological father, which was made much easier with the advent of DNA profiling. 

The first and easiest determination is if the parents are legally married to one another at the time of birth, so long as there is no suspicion of a third party.

If paternity is disputed, mothers can call a Georgia family law attorney to help them secure a court order for a DNA test. This would be administered through the Office of Child Support Services. The OCCS charges $31 per person for a genetic test, which typically would involve the mother, child and suspected father.

Divorce is a process whereby the assets and liabilities of a couple are resolved and divided, while the legal process itself can create additional debt. But did you know that a credit card company can learn about your divorce through spending habits? Credit card company Visa is rumored to have a process that helps it predict whether or not your marriage is on the rocks, according to a Daily Beast article.

Paying an Atlanta divorce attorney with your credit card would be an obvious red flag and would require no further investigating, but Yale Law School Professor Ian Ayres said it's a more sophisticated process. Visa's data-mining technique for predicting divorce, he said, is a secret weapon intended to make sure the company gets paid:

"Credit card companies don't really care about divorce in and of itself--they care whether you're going to pay your card off."

Embattled DeKalb County schools administrator Patricia "Pat" Pope now goes by the name Patricia Reid, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article about her unusual annulment. She had an annulment granted to her because she was married to someone else without her knowledge. 

In unrelated news, she is being investigated for suspicion of corruption related to school contracts awarded to her ex-husband's architectural firm.

Turns out, she didn't realize she still was legally married to someone else when she married Anthony "Tony" Pope. 

Patricia Reid had filed for divorce from the unnamed previous husband in 2001, but it was dismissed, which she claims she did not know. She married Anthony Pope in 2005, and only became aware of the unresolved former marriage after she went to file for divorce from her most recent spouse.

New York-born hip-hop rapper Nas (Nasir Jones) has been cleared of contempt charges after finally paying child support to ex-wife Kelis, as reported by MTV News. Kelis and Nas were married for four years before divorcing in 2009. The estranged couple has an infant son together named Knight Jones.

A spokesman for the rapper Nas released a statement indicating that he paid roughly $50,000 in owed child support and agreed to unspecified terms:

"Nas has paid all of the child support owed in full. His legal counsel today also settled on additional undisclosed financial terms, which included attorneys' fees and spousal support."