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

August 2010 Archives

The marriage of actor Michael Douglas and Diandra Douglas was over 10 years ago but a sequel to the popular 1980s film "Wall Street" appropriately titled "Money Never Sleeps" has brought the pair back into court, the BBC reported.

This blog covered the news that Diandra is seeking half the earnings from the forthcoming film, claiming a clause in their divorce settlement in which she is entitled to a portion of earnings from "spin-offs" of his films. The question is whether the film is a "spin-off" or, as lawyers for Michael Douglas argue, a sequel.

Although this is a unique case with entertainment law underpinnings, a Georgia family law attorney could better explain the implications of such a clause.

What started out as a child custody dispute is now a criminal matter. Police in the Denver-area neighborhood of Lakewood said 27-year-old father James Paul Chavez placed a loaded .22-caliber pistol in his 4-year-old daughter's backpack, the Denver Post reported.

Considering that courts are tasked with considering the best interests of the child when deciding child custody disputes, it doesn't take a Georgia family law attorney to know that this incident will not help his case. 

A father in Greenville, South Carolina was in federal court last week after his arrest in Phuket, Thailand, according to NBC Greenville. The man, Samuel Lee Horton, pleaded guilty to violating a child custody order for his 3-year-old daughter.

Samuel Horton was charged by the Greenville County Sheriff's Office on May 5, 2009 after he had taken his daughter across international boundaries to Thailand. He also was indicted on fraud charges for procuring a falsified passport for the child.

He pleaded guilty in federal court.

Sheriff's detectives earlier this week finished their investigation into allegations that actor and director Mel Gibson physically abused his former girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, according to Fox LA. He also is embroiled in a child custody and support dispute with his ex-girlfriend, who is the mother of their young daughter.

Potential criminal charges against Mel Gibson may severely impact his custody case, depending on how it plays out, as any Georgia family law attorney would tell you. Judges typically consider the "best interests of the child" when determining custody and visitation, including any history of domestic violence and the mental stability of each parent, according to 

Scott Simon, host of National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" show, discussed his experience adopting two children from China on the NPR show "Fresh Air," as recounted at NPR's Web site. 

International adoption has gained in popularity, particularly as more couples wait until they're older to have children. But it's not a simple process, as FindLaw makes clear, and can be expedited with the help of a Georgia family law attorney specializing in adoption.

An article appearing at written by Georgia family law attorney Reynold Mason makes the point that current interpretations of child support laws often are biased against fathers.

It's not the first time fathers' rights activists and others have raised concern that divorced dads don't often get a fair shake. But he dissects a court case in which a mother granted $28,000 in monthly child support ($336,000 per year) for two children allegedly used the money for lavish shopping sprees.

Despite earlier rumors that Elin Nordegren was close to securing a divorce settlement for the unheard-of sum of $700 million, it ended up being settled at a still-astronomical $100 million (based on estimates). But some attorneys say even that much was way too much, according to a CBS News article. 

Any Atlanta divorce lawyers care to weigh in on this one?

Divorce attorney Raoul Felder, at least, believes the golfing star's ex-wife made off like a bandit and that it probably can be attributable mostly to Tiger Woods' desperate situation at the time. He said the real settlement amount, which is confidential, was somewhere between $100 million and $500 million:

A Seattle-area woman has been accused of theft, perjury and fraud after allegedly faking her own pregnancy and stealing thousands of dollars in child support payments from the man she said was the daddy, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

King County prosecutors claim Federal Way resident Carmen Lynn Johnsen told her lover at the time (December 2008) that she was pregnant with his child. She took a couple of pregnancy tests a month later, which showed she actually was not pregnant, but she allegedly kept that to herself.

It's important to point out that DNA tests used to determine paternity are very accurate. Regardless, it's often a good idea to consult with a Georgia family law attorney first before agreeing to child support payments if you're in doubt.

After Cobb County Police raided the Marietta-area home of James and Anne Cardona earlier this month, as reported by CBS News, they found two obese and neglected girls living in unimaginable filth. The girls, ages 5 and 4, were promptly taken from the parents.

It's not clear whether the parents, who were charged with child cruelty, will consult a Georgia family law attorney and try to regain custody of their children. But Normer Adams, executive director of the Georgia Association of Homes and Services for Children, said he believes any attempt will be unsuccessful given the seriousness of their alleged neglect:

"Any parent in their right mind would see these children are suffering."

Wall Street Journal reporter Robert Frank, who writes the Wealth Report blog, recalled the time he toured Georgia millionaire Larry Dean's over-the-top, $40 million mansion. The dream house consisted of a Moroccan theater, sinks made of 24-karat gold, 13 fireplaces, its own 18-hole golf course and a 1950s-style dance hall.

But that was back in 1994.

Although Larry Dean certainly could afford the most expensive Atlanta family law attorney he could find, he lost half of his already-dwindling fortune (from a successful software venture) and put perhaps too much of his cash into the house. He plowed $30 million into its construction and shelled out $1.5 million in annual upkeep expenses.

British newspaper The Daily Mail reported a rumor that Joe and Katherine Jackson, the parents of the late "King of Pop" Michael Jackson, are getting divorced after 60 years of marriage. They began living apart five years ago but Katherine Jackson said she has had enough of his allegedly cruel behavior.

A spouse's history of abuse, even if unproven, usually doesn't help the case of that individual in divorce. A Georgia family law attorney may be able to estimate the potential fallout of the Jackson divorce.

The ABA Journal reported on a lawsuit brought by the two grown children of California billionaire Donald Bren, claiming they are owed more than $100 million in retroactive child support. It's a bold claim: Christie Bren, 22, and 18-year-old David Bren say the $10,000 a month they received was not enough.

Instead, they claim he should have paid them a staggering $400,000 per month in support. The mother, Jennifer Gold, claims Donald Bren orally promised to pay the children more in child support; he claims the written contract governs the payment amount.

How much authority do verbal contracts actually have? A Georgia family law attorney may be able to explain.

Single mothers, whether they had a child out of wedlock, got divorced or otherwise are not attached to a partner, have plenty to consider when pursuing relationships or going on dates. Audrey Irvine, who writes the CNN column "Relationship Rants," discussed the difficulties and challenges single mothers face when dating.

The daughter of a single mother herself, the writer begins by stating that single moms primarily are concerned about how dating affects their child. She said her single mom friends often are put in the middle of a difficult situation in which the child and the love interest actually compete for the mother's attention.

Actress and singer Hilary Duff, perhaps best known for her title role in the television series "Lizzie McGuire" and the movie spin-off "The Lizzie McGuire Movie," signed a prenuptial agreement with new husband Mike Comrie, according to Us Magazine.

While the 22-year-old likely enjoys a respectable level of financial success herself, the prenuptial agreement (or "prenup") was mostly to protect Mike Comrie's estimated $500 million fortune. He earns his own paycheck as a hockey player for the Edmonton Oilers (although he currently is a free agent), but most of his wealth comes from his family's successful Canadian furniture company.

Macon mother Catherine Brown, 34, and two grandparents were charged with interfering with child custody after the mother allegedly took her 6-year-old child out of the state, according to the Macon Telegraph. The child was not harmed in the incident.

If found guilty of the charges, Catherine Brown's Georgia family law attorney may not have many options for restoring her custody rights.

She had arranged to meet the boy's father last Friday in Jeffersonville, which is halfway between Macon and the father's home in Laurens County, to return the child after her court-approved visitation. But when she didn't show up, father David Brentley called her and then went to the home she shares with her parents.

Seems like you can get insurance for just about anything these days, beyond the bread-and-butter staples of health, automotive and life insurance policies. 

Now you can add divorce insurance to the list, according to's Insurance Blog. It is offered by SafeGuard Guaranty Corp. and called "WedLock," which founder John Logan prefers to call marriage insurance. He claims it's the world's first insurance product for insuring against the emotional loss of divorce.

Yes, this is for real.

While many of our laws and statutes are based on ancient English customs and are known as common law, as explained by LawBrain, others take more time to develop through the court system and usually can be traced back to specific cases.

One such case, the domestic battle between a New York couple married in 1804, set the groundwork for U.S. child custody law, as explained in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article. Much has changed in the 200 years since then, but it's an interesting glimpse into the origins of current custody law.

This is a sad day for the bottom-feeders of the entertainment world, the celebrity gossip tabloids. A new agreement granting the daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin primary custody of her 1-year-old son also bans the dueling parents from talking trash about each other, ABC News reported.

Nineteen-year-old mother Bristol Palin will have primary custody of Tripp, while 20-year-old father Levi Johnston was granted just two days of visitation with his son per week. Specifically, he will be able to visit Tripp on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from noon until 6 p.m. 

Although Alaska state law often is unique with respect to its laws, a Georgia family law attorney may be able to explain the differences.

HealthDay News (via MSN) reported on a new study finding that men are more likely to have extramarital affairs if their incomes are substantially lower than their wives' incomes. The study also found that women who make more than their husbands are more likely to cheat on their husbands, too.

That's not to say Atlanta wives making twice what their husbands earn should automatically be suspicious or consult Atlanta divorce lawyers. But the study draws conclusions that don't bode well for today's changing gender roles.

Christin Munsch, a graduate student at Cornell University, said she got the idea from a friend who cheated on his partner. She said he told her that his partner "made all the money, she had all the friends, and he'd moved up there to be with her. He felt completely powerless."

All Headline News reported that Kelsey Grammer, the star of the syndicated television show "Frasier," which was a spin-off of "Cheers," may have to shell out more than $30 million to soon-to-be ex-wife Camille Donatacci.  

She reportedly owns half of Kelsey Grammer's TV company, Grammnet Productions, according to the article. He is worth around $85 million but did not offer any spousal support in his formal answer to her divorce complaint.

While it's unusual for a man to claim spousal abuse at the hands of his wife, it's even more odd when the alleged victim is a professional basketball player. According to TMZ, Indiana Pacers guard Earl Watson claims his wife, actress Jennifer Watson (television's "My Wife and Kids"), attacked and bit him on the chest until he bled. 

Husbands typically are not the victims of spousal abuse, although a Georgia family law attorney could probably provide some better perspective.  

"American Idol" 2004 winner Fantasia Barrino may be staring down the barrel of a million-dollar "home-wrecker" lawsuit, according to an ABC News article. Charlotte, North Carolina woman Paula Cook accused the singer of having an affair with her husband Antwaun Cook and ultimately causing their divorce.

A spouse may sue a third party for allegedly causing the break up of their marriage in some states, called an alienation of affection suit, according to LawBrain. North Carolina is one of those few states but a Georgia family law attorney would tell you that Georgia is not on the list.

Perhaps it shouldn't be a shocker that most of the 1,004 adult Americans polled by a recent survey said they married the right person, according to an Associated Press article published in The Vancouver Sun. But far fewer of these same respondents believed in the idea of a soul mate, according to the poll.

A Marist poll found that 97 percent of men and 94 percent of women believed they found "the one," while only 66 percent said they believed in the idea that two people are destined to be together. But that figure still is much higher than the roughly 50 percent that Atlanta couples, for example, will one day be calling Atlanta divorce lawyers.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) agents arrested Georgia family law attorney Lynn Swank at her office and charged her with four counts of forgery, two counts of perjury and one count of theft by deception, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Specifically, the Stockbridge lawyer stands accused of forging four separate court orders terminating parental claims and then lying under oath by telling the judge her ex-husband forged the signatures. The orders, required to place a child for adoption, were presented to Lynn Swank by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Gail Tuson alerted the GBI in January after she saw her faked signature on the four orders.

Cleveland resident Maurice Lyons was indicted on aggravated murder charges after he allegedly stabbed wife Tonya Hunter 17 times, fled in her car and abandoned her 4-year-old son, according to CBS News. Even though the victim was a marriage counselor, it seems she failed to take legal action until it was too late.

This case just illustrates how difficult it can be for domestic violence victims to leave their attackers. Abusive spouses rarely change; it may be to your benefit to speak with an Atlanta divorce attorney if you fear for your safety.

Maurice Lyons, 38, is being held on $8 million bail and faces the death penalty; his criminal defense attorney said his client has psychiatric issues.

Kenneth Lee Baker, a Georgia man who is charged with killing his wife and step-daughter after he was served with divorce papers, will return to Georgia to face charges, according to Shreveport, Louisiana TV station KTBS.

He was captured in Shreveport more than a week ago and more recently agreed to waive extradition to Griffin, which is just south of Atlanta.

Sadly, violent acts resulting from child custody or divorce disputes are becoming more common. There's not much a Georgia family law attorney can do to prevent such tragedies, but most lawyers can suggest ways to avoid confrontations with an estranged spouse.

Supporters of same-sex marriage often compare the struggle for marriage equality with African-Americans' long fight for civil rights. Which brings up questions of how slain civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. may have thought about gay marriage.

While some states (not including Georgia) have added sexual orientation to the list of protected classes for employment and other laws, which a Georgia family law attorney could better explain, is equal marriage a civil right?

The family of the non-violent civil rights leader clearly is divided.

Just in case you were suffering withdrawal from the daily deluge of news regarding Tiger Woods and his messy divorce from Swedish beauty Elin Nordegren, the Examiner published a comprehensive breakdown of the settlement

First of all, as we blogged about earlier, it's nowhere near the unimaginably high $750 million payout declared by the rumor mill between Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren. It's a more-modest $100 million settlement, which should still be enough to keep Elin Nordegren out of the thrift shops and soup kitchens.

But given the embarrassing text messages to his mistresses and other signs of extreme infidelity, Atlanta divorce lawyers probably expected a much higher payout. It's not known publicly exactly how much Tiger Woods is worth but Forbes estimates it to be roughly $600 million, which would mean Elin Nordegren is getting about one-sixth of his money.

Atlanta-based pastoral counselor and family therapist Doyle Hamilton, profiled in a CNN article, tells his students that the biggest indicator of divorce "is not conflict." Instead, he tells them that facing down problems before they become too big to handle is the key to a lasting marriage:

"The No. 1 indicator of divorce is the avoidance of conflict. Marriage is hard work. We want you to program that into your brains."

Roughly half of U.S. marriages end in divorce, which is one of the first things Doyle Hamilton tells the young couples at his workshop. But even though he tends to take the romance out of young relationships by presenting such harsh realities, his goal is to provide them with the tools they need to stay connected and away from Atlanta divorce lawyers.

"American Idol" winner Fantasia Barrino engaged in a lengthy affair with married man Antwaun Cook, according to his estranged wife Paula Cook, CNN reported. The revelations were revealed in court documents filed in Mecklenburg County District Court in North Carolina obtained by the news organization.

Paula Cook separated from Antwaun Cook in June and seeks child custody, alimony and "other monetary support." A Georgia family law attorney could better explain how evidence of an extramarital affair sways such divorce proceedings and might also shed some light on what the "other monetary support" entails.

Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker, an appointee of former president George H.W. Bush, ruled last week that the voter-approved measure banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. So at least in theory, although it's actually still in limbo, same sex couples now can marry in California.

But, as Atlanta family law attorneys would advise, it's too soon for two grooms or two brides to jet off to San Francisco for a wedding. The ruling has been appealed to the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals by backers of the measure, known on the 2008 ballot as Proposition 8.

BET's Entertainment Spotlight blog reported on the birth of NBA broadcaster Eric Snow's new baby. Eric Snow is the estranged soon-to-be ex-husband of former "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star (are they all really stars?) DeShawn Snow, who got his former college lover pregnant.

And to think that Bravo booted her from the show because she lacked the drama and fireworks the show's producers seek from the "Real Housewives" franchise. In fact, she said one of the producers called to say she was "too human for a circus show" and just didn't fit in.

Quite a compliment for someone getting the axe; but maybe they moved too soon.

The Coweta County trial of Alex McNaughton, who was charged in the February 2009 murder of wife Cathy McNaughton, is underway and both sides have presented vastly different versions of what happened on that fateful day, according to the Newnan Times-Herald. She was stabbed to death at the couple's home in north Coweta.

Kevin McMurry, assistant district attorney for the Coweta Judicial Circuit, gave the prosecution's opening statements. He said the couple had marital problems and that the victim wanted out of the relationship:

"She knew she had to get a divorce and planned to get one."

Facebook-gleaned revelations of infidelity, hidden assets and other information that can effectively end a marriage and provide valuable fodder for Atlanta divorce lawyers are nothing new. But a Cleveland woman's discovery through the popular social network that her husband married another woman behind her back, as reported by the Associated Press, takes the cake.

Lynn France already suspected her husband, John France, was having an affair. So she typed the suspected other woman's name into Facebook and saw wedding pictures of her husband and his new wife at Walt Disney World; dressed as Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty, no less:

"I was numb with shock, to tell you the truth. There was like an album of 200 pictures on there. Their whole wedding."

And that was just the beginning.

Atlanta divorce lawyers and bankruptcy attorneys aren't the only professionals who see an upside during times of financial and household stress. A Wall Street Journal article discusses the increased demand for crisis firms, often contracted by large employers with the intent of soothing frayed nerves in the workplace.

Bringing in these types of professionals also can be seen as a way to prevent workplace violence, according to human resources consultant Philip Deming, who specializes in workplace safety:

"Classic language could be something like, 'If my boss had just given me that raise, I wouldn't have had to go through bankruptcy or get a divorce.'"

Union County father Michael Callaway was caught on video surveillance tape trying to suffocate his infant child in 2007 but a judge recently gave him visitation rights to the child he has been charged with trying to harm, Fox 5 News reported.

His trial is currently on hold because a Fulton County judge said he was mentally unfit to stand trial on charges of first degree child cruelty. 

The child is now in the custody of Michael Callaway's parents after ruling that neither of the parents were fit to care for the boy, Owen, who is now three years old. The attempted strangulation took place in the Atlanta area, although the custody case is in Union County.

Wendy Wilson, the former personal assistant to slain Atlanta Hawks player Lorenzen Wright, claims to have audio recordings of his ex-wife threatening to have him harmed, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

In an interview with a local ABC affiliate, the former assistant said she shared the recordings with Lorenzen Wright and the Memphis police before his recent murder. She said she was concerned for her former boss's safety:

"It was threatening... things like if she caught him with anyone else, she'd have him 'F'd up' or whatever."

A New York Times article republished by MSNBC explores the motivations behind some unhappily wed couples' decisions to skip the divorce. Call it the "un-divorce" or the "permanent separation," some separated couples still enjoy the benefits of marriage without the emotional trappings of the actual relationship.

It's not for everyone, and Atlanta divorce lawyers will continue to see a steady stream of clients, some couples simply see no need for the costly and time-consuming process of legally dissolving a marriage.     

Either celebrity splits simply involve naturally dramatic people, or we just don't hear much about the divorces or ordinary Americans. Any Atlanta divorce lawyers care to weigh in?

But in odd break from the ordinary, as reported by the New York Daily News, the divorce of Sam Mendes and Kate Winslet is making headlines precisely because it lacks drama. The couple split four months and is in the middle of divorce proceedings.

The Christian Science Monitor reported how a number of states are considering various pieces of legislation, some better than others, including a Massachusetts "father's rights" bill that would create the presumption of joint custody. Some are considering statutes that would limit the duration of alimony payments.

But, as both the article and Atlanta divorce lawyers would point out, the following three underlying problems unlikely to be addressed by new legislation typically cause the most hardship for families of divorce:    

  1. The cost of litigating child custody and alimony disputes
  2. Relinquishing control of child care and financial decisions to the courts
  3. Antagonism, leading to extra stress on the children, caused by divorce litigation

A judge in the Seattle area denied a request by prosecutors to prevent a pregnant woman convicted of starving her daughter from having contact with her newborn once the baby is born, the Seattle times reported. The two children of Brittainy and Samuel Labberton were taken away from them after their infant was found starving and the mother threatened to kill her older child.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sean O'Donnell said Brittainy Labberton starved her infant child because she was afraid the child was getting fat. The homeless couple is fighting to get their children back as they await the birth of a third child.

Courts typically base custody decisions on a determination of what's in the best interests of the child, as a Georgia family law attorney would say.

Ten children found living in a shack without food, electricity or running water are now free to be adopted into new homes, according to The Augusta Chronicle. The Court of Appeals of Georgia ruled that Jeremy and Christine Long's parental rights have been terminated after the court denied the couple's July 17 appeal to keep their neglected kids.

The Burke County Juvenile Court records pertaining to the 10 children remain sealed, but prospective parents interested in adopting one or more of the children may want to ask a Georgia family law attorney about how to start the process.