The Atlanta Family Law News Blog - Find an Atlanta Family Attorney

June 2010 Archives

Oscar-winning, 45-year-old actress Sandra Bullock is no longer married to celebrity custom motorcycle designer Jesse James. The Sandra Bullock and Jesse James divorce was finalized last week by a Texas court in Travis County, about two months after Sandra Bullock filed her petition, according to TMZ.com.

Her filing blandly stated that the marriage "has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities." Wow, talk about an understatement.

The article doesn't mention whether or not Jesse James will have any custody or visitation rights of the couple's nearly adopted son, Louis Bardo. But the New York Daily News reported that the actress is now free to complete her "single parent" adoption of the 5 1/2-year-old boy.

The Pentagon issued a rule in May requiring single and remarried parents in the military who have full or joint custody to "attempt to gain consent" from the other parent before they leave that child in the care of another party, as explained by Stars and Stripes. The intention of the rule is reduce personal stress on deployed troops.

But while it sounds like sound custody policy, legal experts believe it lacks adequate grounding and that it may not provide enough legal ammunition for Georgia family law attorneys.

NeNe Leakes, star of reality series "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," was spotted at a recent event in Los Angeles without her wedding ring, according to RadarOnline. An unnamed source told the celebrity gossip site that they're no longer an item, even if they're still legally married:

"Greg has indicated that he might want some alimony payments from her should they get divorced, so the situation could get really messy. As yet neither party has filed any divorce papers - NeNe just thinks her time with Greg has come to an end."

But if and when the two parties decide to "lawyer-up" with Atlanta divorce lawyers, according to the source, the former stripper is worried he may tout skeletons from her closet. She also has been spotted with alleged new flame Charles Grant, a football star she may or may not have been having an affair with before the public split.

It's hard to know exactly where the truth lies, since actor and filmmaker Mel Gibson tells a much different story than his ex-girlfriend, Russian musician Oksana Grigorieva. The Mel Gibson and Oksana feud continues. 

She says he physically abused her and refuses to pay child support for their 9-month-old daughter, according to the New York Daily News, while he says she's making it all up. Atlanta divorce lawyers will tell you that the truth usually is revealed during the discovery process of civil actions.

In Juanita Bynum news, the Evangelist and gospel singer recently signed a contract with World Music Entertainment and spoke with Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Shelia M. Poole. While her life is now on an upward trajectory; she suffered abuse by her husband, followed by a very public divorce three years ago. 

The popular Atlanta-area televangelist was attacked by husband and bishop Thomas W. Weeks III in the parking lot of a hotel where the couple met to discuss marital problems in 2007, according to an article on WDEF-TV's web site. They had been separated at the time, but it's unclear whether Juanita Bynum and her Atlanta divorce attorney were in the process of filing for divorce.

Not all engagements make it all the way down the aisle, as Vienna Girardi's split from ex-fiance Jake Pavelka confirms.

And even though a diamond is forever, the New York Post reported that the former fiancee will have to relinquish the $50,000 engagement ring supplied by producers of ABC's "The Bachelor," the reality TV series where the two met.

That raises an interesting question: How do Georgia divorce courts typically deal with massive diamond rings when dividing marital property? Perhaps a Georgia family law attorney has an answer. In this case, the couple never did get married and neither party actually paid for it; so ABC may opt to use it for a future season of "The Bachelor."

Three-fourths of the job losses left in the wreckage of the so-called "Great Recession" have been among men, according to data cited by a Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune article. Some pundits even began calling it a "mancession."

But the jury's still out whether long-term joblessness or underemployment among men tightens or weakens marital bonds and family harmony.

While plenty of Atlanta divorce lawyers could provide anecdotal evidence of marriages destroyed by the stress of recession, sociologist Christine Whelan suggests the opposite in her essay "A Feminist-Friendly Recession?" Her essay was included in the 2009 State of Our Unions report by the University of Virginia and the Institute for American Values.

CNN's Soledad O'Brien explores the complexities and struggles of same-sex families, including adoption, in her series 'Gay in America.' One of the families highlighted in the series, as discussed on CNN's web site, is an Atlanta-based gay couple with seven children.

Keith Kennard, who shares fathering duties with partner David Mayer, said he decided to be upfront about his sexual orientation when he started the adoption process in Georgia. He and his partner did not know what gay adoption in Georgia would be like. He hadn't consulted a Georgia family law attorney and wasn't sure what to expect; so he didn't want any surprises:

"I had heard about the laws they had in Florida against [homosexual] individuals adopting children ... and I wasn't really sure what the laws were here in Georgia."

Just when we thought it couldn't get any worse for former New York Giants football star Tiki Barber, who allegedly had an affair with a 24-year-old NBC intern while his wife was pregnant with their twin daughters, now it looks like he might be too broke to pay for the proposed settlement, according to the New York Post

Adding to Tiki Barber's woes (or instant karma, perhaps?), NBC recently terminated his $300,000-per-year contract as a "Today Show" correspondent. Still, wife Ginny Barber allegedly is seeking $150,000 per month in alimony.

President Barack Obama talked about the importance of being an involved father and how fatherhood shapes the lives of children before hosting a Father's Day Mentoring Barbeque on the South Lawn last Sunday, the White House blog reported.

He also referred back to themes from last year's Young Men's Barbeque, in which he discussed the importance of taking personal responsibility for one's family.

The following is a video clip from that event:

Atlanta family law attorney John Mayoue, interviewed by WSB Radio, said infidelity has changed the fundamentals of marriage, once considered a much more sacred union. Cheating is nothing new, but he takes a rather pessimistic view of the current state of matrimonial unions:

"If you're entering into a marriage in 2010, you should assume the worst. You should expect cheating and do all you can to prevent it. But frankly, it's not in your control."

Ouch.

Atlanta's own, actor Tyler Perry, who is ranked the sixth highest paid man in the movie industry by Forbes, as reported by the Examiner.com, reportedly isn't interested in settling down. He told New York Post columnist Cindy Adams a while back that he's not sure marriage or settling down with one woman is for him.

There's nothing wrong with that, and his honesty should be lauded.

There is room for debate among Atlanta divorce lawyers and laymen alike, but a high-profile divorce probably wouldn't help his rising celebrity status anyway. Here's what he told Cindy Adams:

"I live alone. In all my adult life I've had five serious relationships with women. And I'm not sure monogamy is for me."

Adrian McLemore, given the choice between taking custody of his sister's children or letting them become foster kids, decided on the former, as reported by the Dayton Daily News. The 24-year-old video store manager and part-time college student sometimes feels overwhelmed but never regrets his decision.

One of the main drivers behind his decision to become the legal guardian of 3-year-old Arayiah and 1-year-old Tyiaun was he and his sister's own beginnings as foster kids. Adrian McLemore said he couldn't allow that trend to continue:

"Having a second generation of our family in foster care is unthinkable to me and I wouldn't allow it. I love them to death. I want to show them that I am here to play, to hug or discipline... Just to be there."

The chances that golfer Tiger Woods squired a cub out of wedlock might be quite high if he really was as promiscuous as tabloid reports indicate. Alleged former mistress and porn actress Devon James believes Tiger Woods is indeed the father of her 9-year-old son and has sued for paternity, according to the New York Daily News.

The papers were filed in a Florida court under her real name, Melinda Janette, which claims a TMZ.com report that the golfer was cleared by a 2001 DNA was false. Instead, she said the test cleared a man named "Matt" and that Tiger Woods never took a test.

Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber, who left his wife of 11 years while she was 8-months pregnant with twins for a 23-year-old former NBC intern, allegedly won't agree to a fair child support agreement, the New York Post reported. The couple, which is in the middle of a divorce, also have two other children.

Any Atlanta family law attorney would tell you that a well-paid celebrity such as Tiki Barber, who currently works for NBC's Today Show, won't be able to hide his assets and most likely will have to pay up once the dust settles.

The Post quoted an unnamed source close to Ginny Barber who said that although he was all smiles when the couple met in the courthouse lobby, he's not giving up any yardage in their child support settlement talks:

"Tiki is being cheap and not offering her anything near the sum she needs for her and their [four] children. Nothing was agreed in court."

Chip Caray, the newest color commentator for television broadcasts of Atlanta Braves baseball games, missed out on an early relationship with his dad because of a divorce and a demanding career, as discussed in an article on the Braves' Web site.

His father is none other than Skip Caray, who called Braves games until his untimely death two years ago. His grandfather is the late, legendary Chicago Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray.

But as Chip Caray's story illustrates, it's never too late for estranged fathers to rekindle the relationship with their kids. Chip Caray said he didn't truly reunite with his dad until three-and-a-half years before his death.

California-based marriage and family therapist Mitchell Rosen, writing an op-ed in the Riverside Press-Enterprise, discusses the importance of actively involved fathers in the life of a child. The significance of the timing, of course, is the upcoming Father's Day holiday.

Bucking conventional wisdom, he starts off by insisting that he does not see bias against fathers in family courts. His experience is likely limited to California; therefore, an Atlanta family law attorney may have a slightly different take.

Former Columbia County sheriff's deputy Gregory Key Kernaghan was arrested and charged with stalking estranged wife Stephanie Kernaghan, from whom he had been separated, according to the local ABC affiliate. The felony aggravated stalking charges carries the possibility of prison time, if he is convicted.

He was arrested after stalking the house jointly owned by Stephanie Kernaghan and himself, a violation of a condition of his bond stemming from a similar, prior stalking arrest.

Sheriff's Captain Steve Morris told reporters that Gregory Kernaghan tried to contact his estranged wife directly and through a third party. A complaint filed by Stephanie Kernaghan, which resulted in the first stalking charge, indicated he had called her as many as 20 times per day.

Actor Charlie Sheen is experienced in matters of marriage, child custody and divorce. Ex-wife Denise Richards got custody of their children and receives at least $50,000 a month in child support, according to celebrity gossip site TMZ.com.

And according to court documents obtained by TMZ, current wife Brooke Mueller has reached an agreement with Charlie Sheen in advance of their likely divorce. Charlie Sheen and Brooke Mueller have been separated since Dec. 25, 2009.

Legal separation is often the first step to a divorce and can be facilitated most effectively by an Atlanta family law attorney if you live in Georgia.

Sheree Whitfield, a cast member of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" allegedly owes two law firms more than $180,000 in fees related to her divorce, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution blog Radio & TV Talk.

The reality television "star" hired Levine & Smith in 2006 to represent her in her divorce from professional football player Bob Whitfield. Three years later, Levine & Smith Atlanta divorce attorney Steve Montalto sued her for more than $87,000 in allegedly unpaid fees.

Tonya Craft, the former Chickamauga kindergarten teacher who was acquitted on 22 counts of child molestation last month, has reached a temporary child custody agreement with her ex-husband, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

But since the details were sealed, it's unclear whether or not she was able to regain full custody of her son and daughter. They were taken from her and put into the custody of their father as soon as the sex crime charges were filed two years ago.

Although she taught at a Georgia school, the custody case is just across the border in neighboring Chattanooga, Tenn. In addition to a Tennessee family lawyer, Tonya Craft also is represented by two Atlanta family law attorneys.

North Hall High School teacher and band director Alan Kirkland, 37, resigned after it was discovered that he was having an "inappropriate relationship" with a female student, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The actual extent of the affair was not disclosed, but he admitted he had a relationship.

Alan Kirkland's wife, now ex-wife, learned about the relationship in January and promptly called a Georgia family law attorney to initiate divorce proceedings.

As with his ex-wife, Ashley Kirkland, it was a paper trail of text messages that ultimately did him in. Lots of text messages -- more than 10,000, she said. She did not know the content of the messages but the fact that he sent so many to a female student was enough.

It takes a special kind of patience and selflessness to become a foster parent, since many of the children who end up in state custody come from troubled backgrounds. Unfortunately, foster children often are viewed as "damaged goods," making it difficult to place them in good homes.

A Georgia family law attorney probably would give a similar disclaimer to prospective foster parents, just to make sure they understand the potential difficulties involved.

So it's especially encouraging to hear about foster children who overcome the odds and go on to exceed everyone's expectations. Georgia State University's annual Celebration of Excellence event last week shined the spotlight on the state's foster care youth, as reported by the Atlanta Community Activism Examiner.

An untold number of deployed military service members also are embroiled in child custody battles. And while extended tours of duty no doubt put quite a strain on families, efforts are underway to change how judges award custody to the other parent just because of their military obligations, Stars and Stripes reported.  

The Dept. of Defense and various state and federal lawmakers are trying to change laws they say don't provide enough protections for soldiers seeking custody.

Georgia legislators are said to be taking up the issue, according to information from the DOD cited by Stars and Stripes, but nothing has been introduced as of yet. A Georgia family law attorney could better explain the current status of child custody cases with respect to deployed parents.

Canadian pop-country singer Shania Twain is now officially divorced from estranged husband Robert "Mutt" Lange, according to CBS News. Shania Twain's divorce came after rumors of infidelity broke out in the tabloids. The couple had been separated since 2008 after she caught her music producer husband having an affair.

He allegedly sparked a relationship with Marie-Annie Thiebaud, the now-divorced couple's longtime secretary and manager of their Swiss chateau. 

However, in a strange twist of fate, Shania Twain has been spotted "getting cozy" with the alleged other woman's ex-husband, Frederic Thiebaud. At least she waited until after the divorce (if the affair allegations are indeed true).

If a new study reported by CNN is accurate, it might be wise to "unfriend" that Facebook friend who says she or he is getting divorced. A group of university professors concluded from a study that divorce may be contagious in online social networks.

But the underlying theory of social contagion, that behavior and emotions spread quickly through groups, is nothing new.

The study was conducted by James H. Fowler at the University of California, San Diego and researchers at Harvard and Brown Universities. The study looked at social and family networks in general and concluded that people with a divorced brother or sister are 22 percent more likely to get divorced than those without divorced siblings.

Sister 2 Sister magazine reported on a candid conversation between Gregg Leakes and radio personality Corey King of LargeFM.com about the former's plans to divorce wife NeNe Leakes of television's "The Real Housewives of Atlanta." The radio host posted the conversation on YouTube as an "exclusive interview" without his knowledge. 

Gregg Leakes' publicist, Mahogany Jones, issued a statement on behalf of her client:

"The taped recording was obtained by fraud and deception. Mr. Leakes was under the impression that he was simply confiding in a friend after an argument with his wife."

Just one week after former Vice President Al Gore and wife Tipper Gore announced their intention to get divorced, daughter Karenna Gore Schiff has separated from husband Drew Schiff after 12 years of marriage, as reported by People Magazine.

That makes the third Gore separation or divorce in about a year, according to a Babble.com blog entry. Al and Tipper Gore's daughter Kristin Gore called it quits this time last year after just four years of marriage.

There is no legal requirement for separation prior to divorce in the Peach State, as a Georgia family law attorney would tell you. Some other states require a separation period of about six months before courts will grant a divorce.

Sandra Bullock's disgraced husband Jesse James may have been unfaithful but legal papers filed in his child custody battle with first wife Janine Lindemulder suggest he may actually provide a better home for his 7-year-old daughter, Sunny, as reported by the Toronto Sun.

His ex-wife who is a porn "actress," was recently sentenced to six months in jail for tax evasion and (according to court papers) abuses prescription drugs and alcohol.

Vermont attorney Sarah Star told the Associated Press that she believes her client Janet Jenkins' ex-partner fled the country with their daughter from a legally recognized civil union. Lisa Miller and her birth daughter, Isabella Miller-Jenkins, did not appear for a court-ordered custody swap earlier this year.

Janet Jenkins, the girl's other legally recognized parent and Lisa Miller's former partner, believes they fled to Central America. A police officer told Sarah Star that Lisa Miller and Isabella Miller-Jenkins flew to El Salvador from Juarez, Mexico:

"She's most likely in a country that is not as developed as the U.S., and [Jenkins is] worried about her. She's worried she's not in a safe environment."

Kelvin Collins, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Georgia, offers some sage financial advice for newlyweds in a recent Macon Telegraph op-ed. Simply stated, couples that regularly fight over money are more likely to get divorced, as confirmed by a Utah State University study cited in the column.

And who wants to call an Atlanta divorce attorney right after the honeymoon just because their spouse can't balance a checkbook or put down the credit card?

A DeKalb County father was shot in the leg and hand shortly after handing off his 1-year-old twins to their mother during a child custody exchange, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The victim, Kaashif Johnson was released on Monday morning after being treated for the injuries sustained the previous evening.

The victim's mother, who was not named by reporters, told a local television station that she heard gunshots as she was waving goodbye to her grandchildren. She said her son put the twins into the mother's car and then a white SUV drove up behind her PT Cruiser and someone opened fire.

Unlike neighboring Florida, which bans adoption by gays and lesbians outright, Georgia has no such prohibition. Lesbian families of course have the option of artificial insemination. And according to a 25-year study published in the journal Pediatrics, as reported by CNN, children raised in lesbian households had fewer behavior problems than their peers.

The point of the study, which followed 78 lesbian couples who conceived through donated sperm, was to determine the long-term psychological impacts on kids raised in committed lesbian households.

Dr. Nanette Gartrell, who began the study in 1986, said she was surprised by the results:

Tragic child television actor Gary Coleman, star of the 1980s TV show "Diff'rent Strokes," died recently at the age of 42. But even though he was secretly divorced from 24-year-old Shannon Price, the late star's divorce lawyer told The New York Daily News that she is the one who told doctors to pull him from life support.

Any Georgia family law attorney would tell you that one of the rights of marriage is the ability to make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated spouse. But Shannon Price was no longer Gary Coleman's wife when she made this decision.

As this blog wrote about in May, Atlanta rapper Danyelle "C-Dove" Brown claims to be the brother of musical siblings Brandy and Ray J and challenged alleged father and musician William "Willie" Norwood to a paternity test. So far, Willie Norwood has not responded.

But that didn't stop C-Dove from taking the initiative himself. Pop music web site The Boom Box reported that C-Dove scheduled a paternity test and invited his alleged father to take it, too.

Former vice president Al Gore and wife Tipper Gore announced their mutual decision to separate last week, as has been widely reported. But while many divorce and marriage experts have been quoted saying that divorce after 40 years of marriage (as was the case with the possible Gore divorce) is highly unusual, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article draws a different conclusion.

Atlanta divorce attorney Randy Kessler told reporters that while it may sound sad to hear about older couples getting divorced, it would even sadder for them to stay in unhappy marriages:

"People are not going to stay married because they're almost dead. They don't want to live the rest of their lives wondering 'what if.'"

Former "NYPD Blue" star Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon has filed for divorce from husband Mike Nilon after nine years of marriage, the New York Daily News reported. Although the officially cited "irreconcilable differences" for the split, the actress and model claims her husband had been having a long-term affair with a mistress in Chicago.

In April, she reportedly sent out the following email to Mike Nilon's colleagues at the Creative Artists Agency:

"I found out today that MY husband of almost 9 yrs has been having an affair for 5 yrs with some slut in Chicago. I am devastated!!!! And I have been duped! Our boys don't deserve this!"

They separated on April 9, right about the time the message was sent. When asked by an interviewer at E! Magazine whether she regretted sending out the email, she replied: "I was angry...and no, I don't regret it."

Social networking site Facebook has taken a lot of heat for what critics say are lax privacy controls, but sometimes a little online transparency is a good thing.

A California-based mother recently found her two kidnapped children, who were allegedly kidnapped by their father 15 years ago, by using Facebook, WFTV reported. The father, Faustino Ultrera, is in the Osceola County, Florida jail on charges that he kidnapped his two children in 1995.

According to documents cited in the article, the defendant called the unidentified mother and told her he had taken the children to Mexico and that she would never see them again. They were three and two at the time.

Digging up dirt on a client's spouse is nothing new for Atlanta divorce lawyers, but social networking site Facebook just makes it that much easier.

CNN recently published an article about the growing popularity of Facebook as a tool for gathering evidence for divorce cases. And it's not just to catch alleged cheaters, according to Maine attorney Ken Altshuler, who was able to prove that his client's alcoholic husband was back on the sauce.

His client won her case, thanks in large part to some photos of her now-ex drinking beer that were posted on his Facebook profile:

"Facebook is a great source of evidence. It's absolutely solid evidence because he's the author of it. How do you deny that you put that on?" 

Former U.S. Senator and Vice President Al Gore and wife Tipper Gore have announced their plans to get legally separated after 40 years of marriage, according to the Washington Post. The couple, who met in high school, sent a jointly penned email to friends announcing the news:

"This is very much a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration."

Marital stress often goes hand-in-glove with politics, but close family friend Chris Downey told reporters that he was "beyond shocked," that he never would have expected this. The email to friends made it clear the couple wants to keep the matter as private as possible.

The marriage between singer Kelis and hip hop star Nas is officially over, terminated by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, Hip Hop DX reported. But even though the Nas and Kelis tied the knot in Atlanta in 2005, they didn't hire Atlanta divorce lawyers for their L.A. divorce.

They cited the oft-used grounds of "irreconcilable differences."

TMZ said it obtained legal documents related to the divorce proceedings, including child and spousal support court orders the rapper claims he can't afford.

Biological parents are increasingly using Facebook to stalk the children they gave up for adoption, according to an article published by the Guardian. As a result, adoption agencies in the UK are reporting a spike of calls from adoptive parents whose kids were contacted by their natural parents.

Adoption UK chief executive Jonathan Pearce referred to the phenomenon as "intrusive and unplanned communication," stating that it is becoming nearly impossible now to guarantee the confidentiality of adoptive parents and children.

While in the UK contact between birth parents and the children they give up for adoption traditionally has been limited to a process whereby adoptive parents send birth parents letters and photos, Facebook is changing all of that.

"Mother and Child," the new film by Columbian-born director Rodrigo García starring Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, Samuel L. Jackson and Jimmy Smits, tackles some of the more difficult aspects of adoption. Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday gave it a lukewarm review but discusses some of the adoption themes explored in the film.

Annette Bening stars as a woman named Karen who gave her baby up for adoption at the age of 15. The now middle-aged Karen still feels guilty about giving up her child, while her daughter Elizabeth (played by Naomi Watts) is now a successful lawyer who struggles with feelings of abandonment.

A parallel story line follows Lucy, who decides to adopt and meets a potential birth mother named Ray.

Paternity usually is determined either by assumption (i.e. if the mother is married, the husband is the assumed father) or through a voluntary declaration by the father at birth, according to FindLaw. But it's not always so clear and fathers don't always accept the responsibility of paternity.

Thankfully the court system and advances in genetic testing provide effective avenues for mothers whose "baby daddies" try to duck responsibility. It's called a paternity suit.

Mothers wishing to collect child support and otherwise hold the baby's father accountable would want to first schedule a meeting with a Georgia family law attorney, who might suggest she file a paternity action in civil court. Since DNA testing is at least 99 percent accurate, the standard of proof that the man must be more likely than not to be the father leaves virtually no shadow of a doubt.