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

July 2010 Archives

New research from the University of Illinois concludes that child custody evaluators' own personal beliefs about domestic violence often cloud their judgment when when making determinations, as reported by Medical News Today.

Divorce lawyers in Atlanta and elsewhere typically rely on such evaluators to help their clients' child custody cases. But evaluators' beliefs tend to fall into one of two general categories, according to the researchers' findings.

Divorce records indicate that Georgia state Senator Preston Smith, a Republican candidate for attorney general, had an affair with a female staffer in 2003 and 2004, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Copies of the divorce papers were circulated to local media outlets after Senator Preston Smith came in second in the attorney general race on July 20; a runoff election with first-place finisher Sam Olens is scheduled for August 10.

The details of events leading up to his divorce no longer just between himself and his Georgia family law attorney, Preston Smith offered the following statement to the press:

"Without a doubt, I fell short in my personal life by getting a divorce, and people have the right to make a moral judgment on that if they chose."

It isn't all that unusual for a silver fox in Hollywood to date or even marry a woman less than half his age (Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, for example). But somehow it still makes headlines when older women, or "cougars," hook up with or marry younger men.

The latest celebrity cougar news is 50-year-old Linda Hogan's engagement to 21-year-old Charlie Hill, as reported by celebrity gossip and news site Linda Hogan is the ex-wife of former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, with whom she has a 22-year-old daughter.

Former reality television stars Kate & Jon Gosselin ("Jon and Kate Plus Eight") have reached an "extremely confidential" settlement agreement in their prolonged child custody dispute, according to celebrity gossip Web site But it's not clear whether that's an accurate report.

There's not much to say in the absence of details and lawyers for both parties are not talking. But an unnamed source close to the couple "confirmed" the settlement, according to TMZ:

"An official agreement between Jon and Kate has been reached and they will be working together for the benefit of their children."

Move over Tiger Woods, there's an even pricier high-profile divorce in the works.

While Tiger Woods and estranged wife Elin Nordegren Woods have reached a tentative $100 million settlement, The Age reported that Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky may have to pay out roughly $172 million to divorce his second wife.

The use of Facebook and other online social networks as a source of evidence for Atlanta divorce lawyers, and attorneys everywhere, is nothing new. But, as a recent USA Today article reminds us, it's a topic that's always worth revisiting; especially since a recent survey found that more than 80% divorce attorneys have seen an increase in the use of Facebook evidence. 

The bottom line is that too many people take a cavalier approach to their online personas, posting pictures or making comments that can be read by just about anyone and printed out as part of a permanent record.

USA Today's CyberSpeak technology columnist Kim Komando offers a few tips to help divorcing partners protect their Facebook accounts from the prying eyes of opposing counsel. What's most astonishing (she uses the word "appalling") is her comment that sometimes people don't find out their spouse is divorcing them until they read about it on their Facebook page.  

The brutal slaying of Pennsylvania landscaper Kevin Mengel Jr. at the hands of his estranged wife's young lover was done solely to avoid a "messy divorce," according to a witness in their murder trial, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Divorces can indeed get messy, and Atlanta divorce lawyers could spend days talking about their messiest cases. But having your husband murdered with a shovel, of which 34-year-old Morgan Marie Mengel stands accused, seems infinitely more so.

Jesse James, celebrity mechanic and former husband of actress Sandra Bullock was granted physical custody of his six-year-old daughter and can take her to his new home in Texas after a ruling by Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Thomas Schulte, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

The child's mother, former porn actress Janine Lindemulder, will have extra time with six-year-old Sunny during school vacations. She was granted joint physical and legal custody two years ago but it was modified after her conviction on charges of federal tax evasion sent her to prison and then to a halfway house.

According to documents obtained by TMZ, Atlanta R&B singer and producer Terius "The-Dream" Nash filed divorce papers just nine days before wife Christina Milian gave birth to their daughter. At least he didn't leave her for a 24-year-old blonde weeks before giving birth to twins, as did former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber.

In the complaint for divorce, prepared by Atlanta divorce attorney John C. Mayoue and filed in Fulton County Superior Court, Terius Nash states that the marriage is "irretrievably broken" and that "there is no hope for reconciliation" (PDF). The couple was married less than a year ago on Sept. 4, 2009.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran an article last Thursday about the importance of taking advantage of summer as a time for divorced parents to reconnect with their children. As any Atlanta divorce attorney would agree, the most important thing you can give your children is quality time and shared experiences.

While kids are on summer vacation, working parents often are able to take extended time off. The article also points out how "the exes left behind" when their kids are visiting their other parent can use that time to relax.

After 16 years of marriage, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has filed for divorce from wife Mary Richardson Kennedy, the Associated Press reported. But the slain senator and presidential hopeful's son made it clear that he's not interested in dishing out details.

According to the AP, The Journal News quoted Robert Kennedy as saying, "I'm not going to talk to you about my personal life."

The divorce papers were filed on May 12 in a Westchester County court house, just three days before Mary Kennedy was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. The grounds for the divorce were not made clear.

The Los Angeles Times' Ministry of Gossip blog reported that another audio tape alleged to be of Mel Gibson and estranged partner Oksana Grigorieva has surfaced. The tape was made public by Radar Online and likely won't help the movie star's child custody case.

A Georgia family law attorney could better explain evidence procedures in the Peach State, but there's a possibility that the tapes could all be thrown out as evidence under California law. Its authenticity has not yet been verified, but Mel Gibson's camp has not denied it.

Nikki Araguz was born as Justin Graham Purdue in 1975 but had a sex-change operation in the mid-1990s, as reported by KENS San Antonio. That alone isn't enough to make headlines, as gender reassignment surgeries have become more common.

She says her now-deceased husband, Wharton Volunteer Fire Dept. captain Thomas Araguz, supported her throughout the gender change process.  

It's hardly news that divorce and child custody proceedings are stressful and that this stress often spills over into other areas of one's life, including the workplace. But workers can't afford to slip up in the current economic climate, as a Kansas City Star article explores.

The legal community is paying attention. Attorney Mitchell Karpf, chair of the American Bar Association's Section of Family Law, organized a Families Matter Symposium in June to address this and other concerns. A few Atlanta divorce lawyers likely were in attendance as well.

Going through a divorce is difficult enough. But while there are plenty of separations without divorce, difficulties caused by the Great Recession are creating a trend in divorces with separations. In other words, as illustrated by ABC TV show "Primetime," sometimes divorced couples can't afford to live apart.

That means financially troubled couples whose marriage is on the rocks might want to consult separate financial consultants as well as Atlanta divorce lawyers.

Katherine Sender, a professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of "Business, Not Politics: The Making of the Gay Market," told a New York Times reporter that the market always moves ahead of politics or social mores. She simply points out that there's a lot of money to be made in same-sex weddings:

"As gay marriage becomes part of the national imagination, marketing to it and publications concerning it become more and more viable."

There isn't a single Georgia family law attorney who can out-maneuver the state's ban on gay or lesbian marriage. But that doesn't stop gay Atlanta couples from getting hitched in Iowa, Massachusetts or the other three states (plus the District of Columbia) that allow it.

CBS News reported that Craig Schelske, the ex-husband of country singer Sara Evans, has filed documents with the court asking for a modification to their child custody agreement. He claims Sara Evans and current husband Jay Barker have repeatedly criticized him in front of their three children.

Specifically, he is requesting physical custody of their children for six months at a time. You'll have to ask a Georgia family law attorney how such matters are handled in the Peach State, but child custody cases typically center on the child's best interests.

Republican candidate for Georgia governor Karen Handel has made it clear she does not support civil unions for gays and lesbians as an alternative to marriage. But her current views on gay adoption are a little hazy, as discussed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Political Insider blog.

Florida is the only state that bans adoption by gays and lesbians and it doesn't appear to be an issue in Georgia, at least not yet, but the heated GOP gubernatorial race has made it an issue.

Prospective gay and lesbian parents, however, may want to carefully choose Georgia family law attorneys with special expertise in that area. But just in case legislation banning gay adoption is passed, which Karen Handel said she would back, it might be wise to start the process now.

The Family Law Prof Blog republished a story by the Maryland Daily Record (subscription) about a divorced couple that was granted joint pet custody of their Lhaso Apso, Lucky. Typically under the law, as explained by FindLaw, the family dog is treated like "a table or a lamp" when divorcing couples separate property.

That's what makes this case so unusual. A similar court order probably doesn't exist in Georgia family court records, but a Georgia family law attorney might have a better idea of how the state's courts handle division of family pets.

Georgia father Gary DeToma, whom authorities say was in the midst of a bitter custody battle with his ex-wife, was arrested for the murder of his 5-year-old son, CBS News reported. He also is accused of attempting to murder his 4-year-old son.

Blue Spruell, the Georgia family law attorney for grieving mother Melanie DeToma, told reporters that a fund was set up to help her pay for extra expenses resulting from her son's murder. Checks can be made out to the Gary DeToma Jr. Fund and mailed to: 1120 Commerce Drive, Decatur, Ga. 30030.

Three people were killed and three others were wounded at an Albuquerque, New Mexico manufacturing plant after 37-year-old Robert Reza went on a shooting rampage following a domestic dispute, the Associated Press reported. He committed suicide at the scene. 

Adrienne Basciano, the shooter's girlfriend, is now in serious condition at the University of New Mexico Hospital. An updated article by AP cites Albuquerque police, who said the deadly confrontation ended a bitter child custody dispute between the couple

Just when you thought the tabloid-fodder antics of Sarah Palin's daughter and would-be son-in-law Levi Johnston had faded, the couple is back in the news. Bristol Palin and the once-estranged father of her child, Levi Johnston, are now engaged to be married, as reported in a Washington Post blog.

And according to the blog, they shared the big news with celebrity gossip magazine US Weekly before telling the former Alaska governor. And considering the nasty feud between Levi Johnston and Sarah Palin (she referenced his "aspiring porn career," in light of his photo shoot for Playgirl), Bristol Palin sounded a little nervous about breaking the news:

"It is intimidating and scary just to think about what her reaction is going to be. Hopefully she will jump on board."

A pair of billboards sponsored by the Georgia Right to Life organization, which opposes the right to a legal abortion, has sparked controversy for their use of race, as reported by WRDW Augusta.

As any Georgia family law attorney would tell you, women facing unplanned pregnancies often must agonize over the choice of abortion, adoption or becoming a parent. It's not an easy choice.

While virtually no one would dispute the virtues and importance of adoption, the billboards have caused an uproar for their depiction of a black child and the words "Black and Unwanted." The organization decided to put the billboards in Georgia because they say the state has the highest abortion rate for African-American fetuses in the nation.

Actor and film director Mel Gibson, who is no stranger to controversy, is being investigated by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Dept. for allegations of domestic violence against ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, Fox News reported. If found guilty of felony assault, he could serve four years in prison.

The former couple has an 8-month-old daughter together, Lucia Gibson, and currently is embroiled in a bitter custody dispute. And as any Georgia family law attorney would tell you, a domestic abuse conviction probably would hamper the "Mad Max" star's chances of getting custody of his child.  

An apparent murder-suicide in Limestone County last Sunday is believed to be related to a child custody dispute gone wrong, according to WAAY TV. The two left dead from the incident are 23-year-old Clinton Douglas Edward Roberts and 23-year-old gunman Terrence Turneal Gilbert.

Sometimes even the most skilled and experienced Georgia family law attorney is powerless in preventing acts violence resulting from custody and divorce, as this case demonstrates.

Investigators (with the help of a witness) said the incident started at 1:21 a.m., when someone began banging on the back door of a house shared by Clinton Roberts and his girlfriend. Clinton Roberts got up to check and reportedly was greeted by a 12-gauge shotgun; he was shot three times and killed.

An independent investigation into Savannah Metro Officer Jason Carey's fatal shooting of Larry Wall four months ago has largely cleared the officer of wrongdoing, according to the Savannah Morning News. State investigators carrying out the review concluded that Jason Carey acted within the boundaries of his duties.

While much of the story involves the investigation and the age-old debate over rules of engagement, it's important to point out that the shooting victim was a suspected deadbeat dad.

Janine Lindemulder, the ex-wife of celebrity motorcycle mechanic Jesse James, reportedly stars in a new pornographic film released just days before her child custody trial was scheduled to resume, according to Monsters & Critics.

Despite rumors that the veteran porn actress retired from the business, she reportedly stars in a film called "Dirty Desires." But perhaps she didn't get the best advice from her attorney, since now she must convince a California court that she is fit to spend more time with Jesse James' and her seven-year-old daughter.

Maybe talk show host Larry King just has an itchy trigger finger when it comes to divorce, but People Magazine reported that the 76-year-old television celebrity had a change of heart and decided not to divorce 50-year-old wife Shawn Southwick after all. Larry King has been divorced six times.

Ask a few Atlanta divorce lawyers what they've experienced in their careers, but it's quite rare for a couple to file divorce papers in court and then reconcile and call the whole thing off. The couple has been married for 12 years, which is an awfully long marriage for Larry King; they also have two sons together ages 11 and 10.

Although actor Kelsey Grammer and estranged wife Camille Donatacci have cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for their divorce, that hasn't stopped the gossip columnists from speculating, as reported by the New York Daily News. The couple is getting divorced after 13 years of marriage, which would be the "Frasier" star's third.

The actor said the marriage failed because of "a few things that we couldn't work out," which could be the reason given for any divorce. However, as Atlanta divorce lawyers would tell you, the reason for the divorce often impacts decisions of child custody and visitation, alimony and division of property.

But Kelsey Grammer insists rumors surrounding his divorce are complete B.S.

In the wake of LeBron James' over-the-top announcement of his free agency decision last Thursday, 55-year-old Washington, D.C. attorney Leicester Bryce Stovell filed a lawsuit alleging that he is the basketball star's father, TMZ reported.  

He is seeking a paternity test and, if conclusive, also seeks $4 million for the alleged cover-up of his paternity by the newly signed Miami Heat player's mother, Gloria James. He details his recollection of the having had "consensual sexual relations" with Gloria James in 1984 in his lawsuit.

Perhaps it's too much information, but the complaint also documents how he even remembers apologizing for his "sub-par" performance in bed.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker is expected to make a decision in the challenge of California's controversial Proposition 8, the Mormon-backed, voter-approved initiative that bans same-sex marriage. But while supporters are optimistic, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart insists that the challenge to the law and the Prop 8 decision could ultimately backfire.

In short, he believes the case most certainly will be appealed to the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by the losing side. And that decision, in turn, likely will make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The concern among same-sex marriage supporters, as Jonathan Capehart explained, is that the hard-right influence of the court may not rule against Proposition 8. And aside from ideology, he added, the court may decide it doesn't want to make such a decision that would supersede state law.

Reclusive chess master Bobby Fischer was always enshrouded by mystery and wild speculation. Officials in Iceland hope to solve the mystery of a woman claiming he was the father of her 9-year-old daughter, as reported by CNN.

Since the world champion chess master died in 2008 at the age of 64, his body had to be exhumed in order to extract the DNA necessary for the test. Although he no longer is able to spend quality with the girl who may be his daughter, there are issues concerning inheritance.

Exhuming a body for a paternity test is quite unusual, but ask a Georgia family law attorney how the Peach State might handle a similar inquiry.

A child custody dispute between a Southern California woman and an Ohio man illustrates the complexities that often accompany interstate family law matters, as covered by the Associated Press. In this case, judges and attorneys in Orange County, California met their counterparts in Montgomery County, Ohio via teleconference.

Ultimately, it was decided that Ohio has jurisdiction in the case. A Georgia family law attorney can better explain how jurisdiction is determined when settling interstate custody disputes.

The 2-year-old child's biological father, whose name has not been publicly released, has been seeking custody of his child but allegedly has not made an effort to be a part of the toddler's life. Stacey Doss, who has raised the toddler ever since she was a newborn, said she believes the child would be better off with her.

No matter how deep in debt you are, child support is one of only a handful of financial obligations that cannot be discharged, forgiven or otherwise overlooked, as FindLaw explains. There are plenty of deadbeat dads and moms out there, but they are considered scofflaws and typically have their wages or other assets garnished.

But sometimes hiccups in the system create unforeseen hardships.

Wake County dad Jeffery Berkenmeier, who has joint custody of his children and a South Carolina court order dismissing any former child support orders, lost $1,200 of his tax refund, according to ABC News.

Former University of Georgia athletic director Damon Evans resigned over the weekend after a particularly embarrassing DUI arrest, as covered by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The details of the incident are illustrated in a Georgia Dept. of Public Safety incident report.

But his drunk-driving charges are the least of it.

The first-person account of the stop and eventual arrest by the responding officer may prompt Damon Evans to call a Georgia family law attorney, as his wife likely already has done. The officer stopped his BMW, which contained an attractive female passenger not named Mrs. Evans.

Ignore those rumors about the estimated $500 million to $750 million settlement in the pending divorce between disgraced golfer Tiger Woods and his estranged wife Elin Nordegren. While her prenuptial agreement guaranteed her $20 million, she was able to secure $100 million and custody of the couple's two children, the Independent reported. 

That's not exactly pocket change, even though it's just a fraction of the rumored half-billion-dollar-plus settlement estimated by celebrity reporters. And in return for all that cash, as if enduring the numerous flagrant (and alleged) affairs wasn't enough, Elin Nordegren will agree not to air Tiger Woods' dirty laundry.

Former Victoria's Secret model Stephanie Seymour skipped a court-ordered drug test in connection with the divorce and child custody proceedings  with estranged husband and former polo player Peter Brant, the New York Post reported.

She was brought into a Connecticut courtroom after missing the court-ordered screening while on vacation in the Caribbean with two of her children. Both Stephanie Seymour and Peter Brant were compelled to undergo drug testing as a condition of their divorce.

Kelsey Grammer, the star of "Cheers" spinoff "Frasier" and a stage actor, is about to be single again. People Magazine reported that the actor's third wife, Camille Donatacci, filed for divorce in a Los Angeles court last Thursday. 

She cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the split and is seeking primary custody of their 8-year-old daughter Mason and their 5-year-old son Jude. She also is seeking alimony but the article didn't indicate how much she's seeking.

Alimony, also called spousal support, is usually determined on the basis of the payer's net worth. A Georgia family law attorney could probably give a ballpark figure of how much she'll get out of the settlement.

Modern science has given prospective parents otherwise unable to conceive a broad palette of conception choices, including sperm donation. Sperm donors typically maintain their confidentiality; but Georgia family law attorneys could better explain the changing legal landscape of sperm donation.

However, the emotional and psychological impacts of being a donor offspring remain challenging, to say the least, as a study entitled "My Daddy's Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived Through Sperm Donation" explores (PDF). 

Details of the most publicly talked-about divorce in recent months are still difficult to come by, but an unnamed source told RadarOnline that Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren are about to sign a $750 million settlement.

That's right, three-quarters of one-billion dollars. Out of curiosity, what kind of a payout could an Atlanta divorce attorney expect to get out of a settlement of that magnitude?

The source said the couple has agreed on all major issues and that it's just a matter of signing on the dotted line:

"Both Tiger and Elin are very close to finishing the negotiations and filing and signing the paperwork."

Unlike in many other states, Georgia law did not give its governors the authority to conduct weddings until fairly recently. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed House Bill 238 into law last month, giving his office and past Georgia governors the authority to do just that, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

If you were to ask a Georgia family law attorney about exactly who can perform weddings, they'd tell you that governors (past and present), judges, preachers and some others who have obtained the necessary credentials may perform weddings in the state.

But there's a heartwarming back story to the new law.

Actor Michael Douglas, whose "Wall Street" sequel "Money Never Sleeps" is set to hit movie theaters, is being sued by ex-wife Diandra Douglas for half of her estranged ex-husband's earnings from the movie, entertainment news site Popeater reported. Apparently, alimony never sleeps either.

She claims that as part of their 2000 divorce settlement, she is entitled to 50 percent of any movies he did during their 23-year marriage. Still confused?

According to Diandra Douglas' attorneys, that particular provision includes any spinoffs of his movies. The original "Wall Street" was released in 1987, well before their divorce. Attorney Nancy Chemtob succinctly stated her client's case:

"It's the same character, the same title, just years later."