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These articles DO NOT constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. If an article is relevant to your particular legal situation you should understand that it is merely intended to provide a very general preview of matters that would be discussed in detail during a face-to-face consultation.   The law is constantly changing and some of the information in these articles might be obsolete.  Please also recognize that seemingly insignificant details often have a big effect on the advice that we give our clients concerning a particular legal issue.

April 7, 2020

WHAT HAPPENS WITH CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION DURING THE ONGOING COVID-19 PANDEMIC?

By Lance Owen | Posted in Family Law | No comments

This is a question that I have been asked several times over the past couple of weeks and the answer has not been very clear. Last night I consulted with a very reliable source that has been in contact with the Council of Superior Court Judges. I was advised that Custody and Visitation Orders are UNAFFECTED by COVID-19 or anything detailed in the Governor’s Executive Order(s) including the shelter-in-place provisions.

It is important to note, however, that long standing case law (Beckham v. O’Brien, 176 Ga. App. 518 (1985)) has supported the proposition that a parent MAY not be held in contempt if the denial of custodial or visitation rights was necessary to protect a child. In the case cited the mother refused to allow the father visitation with their child in violation of a visitation order after the father was arrested for child molestation.

It is my belief that the mere existence of the current pandemic does not authorize the denial of custodial or visitation rights in violation of a court order, but if allowing the contact would require the child to be exposed to a parent or others in his or her household that has tested positive for COVID-19, or would require the child to travel to unquestionably dangerous areas where the child might be exposed to the virus, then I believe the courts will quite possibly excuse the failure to abide by their orders.

I believe once the courts resume that each situation and the surrounding circumstances will be examined on a case-by-case basis. I would just discourage any parent from opportunistically denying the other parent his or her parenting time when there is no clear and present threat to the safety and welfare of a child.

April 6, 2020

State Judicial Functions Suspended through May 13, 2020

By Lance Owen | Posted in Family Law | No comments

The Honorable Harold D. Melton, Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court,  declared a Statewide Judicial Emergency based upon the COVID-19 epidemic suspending all court functions in all courts in all counties with certain limited exceptions as defined in the Order.   The suspension was set to expire on April 13, 2020.  On April 6, 2020, Chief Justice Melton extended the Statewide Judicial Emergency until May 13, 2020. 

While this suspension and the backlog that will inevitably result when court resumes will present varying degrees of inconvenience for our clients we are determined to get things moving again as quickly as possible.  We appreciate your patience.   

Our law office is closed to the public, but we are continuing to work from the office each day based upon the fact that Governor Kemp’s Executive Order has deemed law firms to be an essential business.  We are accessible by email and telephone, and we are regularly scheduling consultations with new clients by teleconference.  Furthermore, we have a drop slot on the front door of our office which may be utilized to drop off letters, documents and small packages.  

We have attached links to the Declarations received from Chief Justice Melton this afternoon. 

3-14-20 Order Declaring Statewide Judicial Emergency
4-6-20 Order Extending Statewide Judicial Emergency

December 13, 2019

Jury Trials in Divorce Cases

By Lance Owen | Posted in Family Law | No comments

Georgia and Texas are the only states that still allow jury trials in divorce cases.  Georgia law allows either party to request a jury trial to determine child support, alimony and how marital property and debts will be divided between the parties.  The judge will still determine child custody and visitation when a jury trial has been requested.  Most cases that aren’t settled are heard and ruled upon by a judge through what is called a bench trial.

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Johnston & Owen
124 North Hill Street
Griffin, Georgia 30224

  • Phone770-227-8929
  • Fax770-229-1844
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Johnston & Owen
110 Habersham Drive, Suite 201
Fayetteville, Georgia 30215

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McDonough, Georgia 30253

  • Phone678-583-1390
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Johnston & Owen
P.O. Drawer L
Griffin, Georgia 30224