Friday, June 20, 2008
By D. AILEEN DODD
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/20/08
The stormy marriage of ministers Juanita Bynum and Thomas Weeks III — temporarily calmed by a night of passion — ended this morning in a Gwinnett County courtroom.
A divorce was finalized for the couple at 10:45 a.m before Judge Debra Turner.
Both Bynum and Weeks expressed relief and a measure of joy that marriage, marked by a spectacular wedding, a high—profile ministry and a parking lot beat down, was over.
"It has been a long-awaited moment," said Bynum after the court hearing. "I had already made my [peace] with it."
Weeks, on probation for assaulting Bynum last summer, said he will always have a "special love" for her, but he is moving on.,
"I feel like it's a new day — a brand new life, a brand new time," Weeks said.
Bynum agreed to pay $40,000 of Weeks' attorney fees. They will keep individual assets they had before the marriage. Bynum wants to retrieve some personal items in Weeks possession, including a harp and sculpture.
Weeks a gets a 2004 Land Rover. And he pays any credit card debt in his name.
No alimony was granted.
The couple left the courtroom separately. They only said hello to each other before the hearing.
Before the final decree, the divorce proceeding was interrupted after Bynum revealed that the couple had sex last August after they had separated.
It was not revealed if conjugal connection happened after Weeks assaulted Bynum in a hotel parking lot last summer. Turner left the courtroom to research whether the divorce could be granted under Georgia law, which, in part, sees sex by separated couples as a act of reconciliation.
"My understanding is you can no longer have marital relations based on the date of separation that you file," Turner said.
Randy Kessler, Weeks' attorney, said that the couple had been living in separation and that Bynum filed for divorce after the sexual encounter.
"The fact that they had sex before she filed for divorce is an amendable defect," said Kessler, meaning the conjugal coupling should not void the divorce.
After the recess, Turner agreed to push the date of separation up to September to circumvent the reconciliation issue.
Weeks strolled into the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center around 9:30 a.m. with a smile on his face. He was flanked by two supporters, one of them his personal assistant.
Bynum, who arrived just before 10 am., said "I'm doing well, I feel great. It's not a sad thing."
She said she doesn't have any time to take off and heal from the divorce. She has been made a regular adviser on television's "Divorce Court," and two weeks ago, she was permanently added to the cast of "Lincoln Heights," an ABC network series featuring multicultural families. The prime time show airs on Mondays.
"I'm excited," she said.
Bynum, a nationally-known evangelist and Weeks, pastor of a once-large and prosperous church in Duluth, appeared to be a match made in heaven. But not even prayer could keep them together in the end.
Both pastors have accused each other of violence, however Weeks was the only one to face charges for it. In March, Weeks, leader of Global Destiny Ministries, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault charges for pushing, kicking and beating Bynum in the parking lot of the Renaissance Concourse Hotel in Atlanta last summer.
Bynum filed for divorce on the basis of cruel treatment soon after the August 2007 attack. The couple had already been separated for several months at the time.
Weeks and Bynum wed in an elaborate televised ceremony six years ago. They built a church and international ministry together in Duluth, but busy work schedules, financial troubles and alleged incidents of spousal abuse eventually severed their union.
Some followers of the couple, though, had prayed they would reconcile.
However, in the tell-all book on his love life with Bynum "What Love Taught Me" Weeks, who was sentenced to three years probation and community services for assaulting Bynum, accepts some responsibility for the downfall of his marriage. He said he was a "workaholic" who hadn't really learned to relax and lighten up.
"I am a very private person — somewhat introverted," Weeks wrote in his book. "I lack personality in many ways ... I was always serious, focused and nerdish ... maybe that was one of my great downfalls in developing relationships."
Weeks said Bynum was his polar opposite — outgoing and funny. But because she was so devoted to her ministry, he often felt lonely when she traveled on the job. Weeks said he missed the "connection" he had with his wife as a friend and a lover when she was gone preaching.
"I worked, worked, worked and worked to avoid feeling lonely," Weeks wrote in his book. Weeks said in his book there were "countless" women around him at church that offered to meet his needs, but he said he refrained from straying because of his faith and commitment to his church. "I have a legacy I have to carry out," he said.
Weeks said in his book he and his wife never became "best friends" because of their separate lives. He said Bynum would discuss their problems with others instead of keeping things quiet.
"I didn't call my mother and father and tell them about the problems we were having," he said.
Bynum, who has been divorced before, said during an appearance on Fox TV's Divorce Court that she tried to live with the problems in her troubled marriage.
"You are trained in the traditional sense of religion to be the person that is always fine," Bynum said. "I found myself trying to live up to that ... I didn't want to look stupid."
But after the attack, Bynum said she could no longer pretend that she was happily married. She said she got so depressed afterwards, she considered suicide. "Suicide crossed my mind, jumping out of the window crosses your mind," Bynum said. "I felt hopeless."
Divorce will not close the chapter on the couple's problems altogether.
It could open up new wounds for them and their followers. Healing could take some time for everyone, says David Key, director of Baptist Studies at Emory University's Candler School of Theology.
"A divorce is like any kind of loss," said Key. "There is a grieving process."
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Single parents create happy new homes after divorce
By H.M. CAULEY Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published on: 05/29/08
With the divorce rate hovering around 50 percent, it's no surprise that many of Stephanie Andrews' design clients find themselves starting over again. Unlike the recent grad who's just rented a new apartment or newlyweds moving into a starter home, the newly single often come with bits and pieces of their past to sort through, as well as a passion to put their own imprint on their surroundings quickly.
"There's so much psychology that goes into designing a home," said Andrews, owner of the Candler Park-based Balance Design. "Newly single people want to explore who they are and put that in their house. It's a chance for them to show their own personal style."
There's also something liberating about putting together a home without anyone else's approval. "They have full control and there's no need for compromise, which is very freeing for them," said Andrews. "They can have fun. About the only compromise they may have to make ends up being the cost."
For divorced parents, there's the additional desire to make a house a home very quickly for the children. And there are considerations such as where the family will spend time together. Where will the kids do their homework?
Here's a peek inside three Atlanta residences where single parents have put their own style on a new space.
Getting more for less in Doraville
Graphic designer Gabrielle LeBlanc's post-divorce budget made finding a new home in her 8-year-old's school district a challenge. But after 18 months in a Dunwoody apartment, she uncovered a 1960s brick ranch in Doraville that needed a bit of TLC."I knew I could make it work," she said.
LeBlanc ripped out carpeting and refinished the wood floors. She painted the trim and ceilings; installed new light fixtures; and added her own small details, such as replacing the wall switch covers. Her thriftiness extended to the furnishings. An inexpensive, three-tiered chandelier she found at IKEA got an upgrade when she added rows of crystals. A friend donated her kids' old crayon-covered art table that LeBlanc refinished to show off the wood. Instead of payment for a job, she traded her work for a futon. And she picked up some framed artworks for $1 at a yard sale.
LeBlanc scoured stores for decor deals and snagged several. A crescent-shaped table with repairable scratches was $90 at Ballard Designs. A low, glass-fronted buffet in the red dining room came from Crate and Barrel. A green suede sofa was a steal from World Market. Inexpensive cube shelving from IKEA created a storage unit for her son's toys.
LeBlanc warmed the house with personal items. Framed photos of New Orleans, her hometown, line the halls. A portrait of her grandmother, painted by her grandfather on their wedding day, graces her home office.
"I wanted a fresh slate," said LeBlanc. "And I liked being able to create my own space without having to ask anyone's permission."
Kids come first in Avondale Estates
Attorney Sheryl McCalla gave her real estate agent a short list of requirements when she went house shopping five years ago. She wanted to be close to her job in Midtown and near the intown school that her two children attend. Though the three-bedroom house in Avondale Estates wasn't an exact fit, McCalla knew it was a terrific place to start over after a divorce.
"I was looking for a family friendly house in a nice neighborhood," said McCalla. "Here, we can walk to the pool and playground and I have the support of other parents in the neighborhood."
The 1950s house had already undergone an extensive renovation, including the addition of a second floor and an open kitchen and family room. "That was key, because I wasn't in a position to do that kind of work," said McCalla.
In the large foyer, the base of the staircase leads to the second floor and into the family room as well. A former living room, with a fireplace, is now the red dining room. McCalla turned the old glass-enclosed porch into the art room, where her kids are free to paint on the walls, floors or windows as their creativity moves them.
The expanded kitchen has cherry cabinets and an island where the kids can do their homework while McCalla cooks. A corner eating area has a banquette for cozy seating. An adjacent small room holds all of the kids' toys and several musical instruments, while a former first-floor bedroom is now the TV room.
McCalla decorated her son's room with a space theme and had an artist paint her daughter's favorite flowers and garden scenes around her bed.
The move meant buying all new furniture. "The only things I had were a king-sized bed, two night stands, a dresser and an exercise bike," said McCalla. But she took her time tracking down the large wood dining table, with chairs and bench seating; a beige sofa and two chocolate chairs around the family room fireplace; and a round dining table in the breakfast nook.
The kids' artwork on various walls and framed playbills from New York shows that McCalla's parents collected are constant reminders of family connections.
"Simplicity was my goal," said McCalla. "But it was also important to make the house comfortable. And it had to feel like home."
At home at Dad's
Attorney Doug Kertscher started his search for a post-divorce house for his two young children by drawing a 10-mile circle around their primary residence. The perfect place turned up in the form of a 6-year-old house in Morningside.
"The house had been well-maintained, which was important because I work a lot of long hours, and I didn't want to have my children with me while I was fixing the roof," said Kertscher.
The three-story house came with enough open spaces for his children to run around and several areas that double as adult and kid areas. In the library, book shelves are lined with Dad's collection on the top rows; all of the kids' favorites are within their short reach below. A large rectangular ottoman opens to reveal a toy chest.
Kertscher was also insistent that the bedrooms be on the same level so the children would be close by. "And I wanted their rooms to have neat things," he said. In his boy's room, there's an outdoor theme with stars on the ceiling, star lights and camping knick-knacks. His daughter's room, painted in pinks and greens, has stick-on fairies and her name on the walls. The third level of the house has one big room outfitted with a desk and computer, including two kid-sized chairs that double as recliners. Another corner holds a drawing area and chalk boards where the kids can get creative.
A sun room houses the entertainment center in front of an over-sized chaise lounge big enough Kertscher and his tykes. "This is where we do our night-time reading," he said.
Kertscher furnished the house with new pieces, including the large-screen plasma on the wall of the living area, and what he describes as "strong, male colors."
"They're blues and grays, with some greens and reds, that are strong but still warm," he said.
Most of his attention was devoted to creating a home that was functional for him while also being a comfort zone for his kids.
"It was very important to have a place where they'd want to come," he said. "They love coming to Daddy's house; sometimes they'd rather come here than go to the park. And I've been really happy about that."
Tips for making a house a home fast:
• Instead of ordering furniture, ask about buying a floor sample that you can take home immediately. Not only can you get it right away, you may get a discount.
• Shop for ready-made items, such as curtains, drapes and bedding that can punch up a room in minutes.
• The biggest bang for your makeover buck is color. Select a color scheme that will flow throughout the house and make you feel good every time you enter.
• Make it personal by displaying your favorite items that have good memories.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Lisa Clark Gonzalez's bid to gain custody of the baby she had with her teenage boyfriend was settled Tuesday, but details weren't immediately available."They did not get custody, but they are pleased with today's developments," said Jan Young, Lisa Gonzalez' publicist.Attorneys for Gonzalez and Angela Perkins, Gonzalez' one-time friend and co-worker who has custody of the boy, reached a temporary decision on custody prior to a scheduled hearing at the Douglas County Courthouse. The lawyers will continue to negotiate the rights of both sides and the child.Young said the Gonzalezes did not have more comment on the advice of their attorney.
Friday, April 18, 2008
By MICHELLE HISKEY
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The signs of Rob and Karen Byers' marriage have been bleak the past three months.He's been living apart from her and their 1-year-old son.Last week, morning commuters near Emory University passed dozens of these signs posted by Rob Byers. "I made a big mistake," he says of what led to their separate homes in Decatur.They've been married for 11 years, college friends for a decade before. They were the quiet pair who always hung back at parties.
He's 38 and still in his head too much.She's 39, angry and confused by him, long wanting more emotion from him.In an effort to come home, he dreamed up something really big.
"I'm going to surprise you tomorrow," he told her by phone one night early last week. "And you're really going to like it."
The first yellow signs were stuck under her car wiper blades."Rob Loves Karen.""Karen I'm Sorry."Perplexed, she drove off — along the same route she takes every morning to her favorite bagel shop.
The same six words shouted from telephone poles along busy Clairmont and North Druid Hills roads. Along this popular commuting route to Emory University, the posters burst in the color of war ribbons.
He was wrong: She didn't really like it.At all.Have a loved one's best intentions ever ended up making you even madder? Then you know how she felt.
"Totally freaked," she said. "I felt like it was advertising to the world we had problems. I felt embarrassed that that was thrown out into the world. These are things I have only told a handful of close friends."
She tore down the first few, but "there were so, so many and the baby was in the car, I knew I was getting nowhere."She thought back on their pattern: his bad timing, her disappointment.
"It was like when he proposed," she says. "I was weak and in bed with a cold, and he got me out of bed and I was in my bathrobe when asked me. And I was furious that this is what I would remember forever."
He was at work when she called to vent about the posters: "If that was a surprise, it was really lame!"Her view changed after she talked to friends, who urged her to see his gestures as sweet and romantic, if misguided.
He did express how he felt, just not the way she ever imagined.Making something private so public opened up her eyes to a hidden truth."People have been so supportive and opened up," she says. "Everyone has problems even though they act like everything is fine."
Even though they don't know exactly where their marriage is headed or how they will get there, after all this, they realize that neither wants to give up.And both agree that's a good sign.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- A soldier's widow has succeeded in having sperm taken from his body and frozen four days after he was slain in Iraq, though medical experts said it's highly unlikely she would be able to bear his child.
Sgt. Dayne Darren Dhanoolal, 26, died March 31 when an explosive detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad. He had talked often with his wife, Kynesha, about having children, according to court papers filed by her lawyer.
On Friday, a federal judge in Columbus, Georgia, granted her request for a temporary restraining order preventing the military from embalming the body until samples of Dhanoolal's sperm were extracted. The samples were taken later that day and are in the custody of a medical representative for the widow, who is hoping to be inseminated, even though fertility experts said the procedure almost certainly would not work with her late husband's sperm.
"It's not viable," Dr. Andrew McCullough, associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine, said Monday.
Sperm maintain nearly normal movement and some function for the first three hours after a man's death. After that, their movement and viability declines, according to the Web site for the department of urology at Cornell University's Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College.
Dr. John Park, a fertility expert and assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said there have been reports of viable sperm being retrieved up to 36 hours after a man's death. But he said it is "highly unlikely" any viable sperm could be retrieved four days later.
Recovery of viable sperm appears relatively uncommon after 24 hours post-mortem unless the body has been cooled, the Cornell site says. It was not known what, if any, precautions were taken to keep Dhanoolal's body sufficiently cool before his sperm were extracted. Despite the odds, Kynesha Dhanoolal persuaded the judge to allow the sperm to be collected. Dhanoolal did not have a will but had signed a military form designating his mother, Monica Brown, to handle the disposition of his remains.
His widow asserted in court papers that Brown initially did not agree with her wishes. However, "There's no battle anymore," Kynesha Dhanoolal said Monday after speaking with her mother-in-law over the weekend.
The widow's attorney, Frank Myers, said emotions got in the way of reaching an agreement earlier. Now, "I think everybody is on the same page," he said. Brown did not return two calls to her Killeen, Texas, home on Monday. As of Monday, no agreement had been filed with the court, which will determine who gets possession of the sperm.
"Hopefully, the peace will last and everybody will be happy in the end," Myers said. Sgt. Dhanoolal was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, in west Georgia. Fort Benning spokeswoman Monica Manganaro said she was not aware of another time where the widow of a soldier stationed at the base made such a request.
"This is strictly a personal choice of the family and not something we're involved with," Manganaro said. Dhanoolal's body was to be flown Monday from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to Texas, where a funeral is planned this Friday, according to the widow's family. The widow's mother, Yvonne Watkins, said her daughter hopes to use her husband's sperm for artificial insemination as early as this summer. "We're trying to honor my daughter and Darren's wishes," Watkins said. "All of his comrades and anyone who knew them knew he wanted children."
Thursday, March 27, 2008
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 03/26/08
Under the professional name "BT," Brian Transeau has produced Sting and Madonna.
He has scored major motion pictures like "Monster," "Stealth" and "The Fast and the Furious." He's written sound tracks for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 and other video games.
And his reputation for blending technology and rhythm have earned his albums a cult-like following.
But for the past few months, Transeau, 37, has gotten more attention for a bitter family feud with a Roswell woman, Karen Durrett, and her daughter, Ashley Duffy. It centers on the break-up of Transeau and Duffy's long relationship and custody and care of their 3-year-old daughter.
Atlanta has become the latest battleground for a struggle that's already wound its way through courts in Maryland and California.
Transeau failed late Tuesday to convince a Fulton County magistrate judge that Durrett should be kept away from his daughter. But Judge Karen Woodson gave lawyers for both sides a week to work out an order keeping the artist and Durrett apart.
"I'm asking everybody here to stop with all the blogs," Woodson said, "to stop all the e-mails, to have no have discussions at all. Nobody goes on 'Montel.' Nothing."
Transeau claimed Tuesday that he feared for his life from Durrett, a Roswell mother of three. He claimed Durrett had threatened him on the phone and posted disturbing messages on the Internet over the past several months.
Transeau and Weinstock said the artist has reason to fear Durrett because of a past that includes years of battering her children, extensive alcohol and drug abuse.
Durrett said her 27-year-old daughter graduated from Roswell High School before meeting Transeau at a concert and eventually moving to Los Angeles.
She testified that she has reformed her life and is now a church-going suburban mother who is no danger to Transeau.
"I did not make any threats to Mr. Transeau," she said, explaining that any blog postings that seemed threatening were just a mother venting anger and not real threats.
Her lawyer, Jason Coffman, argued Transeau was using his client's past as a smear campaign to settle personal scores, not because she's dangerous.
A California court ordered Transeau and Duffy to share custody last year, testimony showed. But in mid-December, Duffy disappeared with the couple's toddler daughter after a custodial visit in Maryland.
Six weeks later, federal authorities, Transeau and private investigators he had hired found Duffy, their little girl and Durrett in a rented apartment in California, according to testimony. Transeau got his daughter back. Duffy was arrested, and said she spent four days in jail before being released without charges.
The couple continue to spar over custody in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Transeau moved the battle to Atlanta because Durrett lives in Roswell.
Earliert his month, Transeau filed suit in Fulton County Superior Court against Durrett, accusing her of defamation and interference with custody.
The suit claims Durrett has damaged Transeau's ability to earn a living by waging a withering online attack on him and helping to arrange for Duffy to take his daughter earlier this year.
He claims some job opportunities have dried up because of postings Durrett placed on various blogs calling Transeau an abuser and someone who emotes "darkness and evil."
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
By ELLEN LYON
Associated Press Published on: 03/24/08
It's been nearly a year since Sherman Smith's 33-year marriage ended in a divorce that, he said, his ex-wife wanted after she realized she didn't love him in the same way anymore. "A divorce is kind of like a death, but she's still there and I can't have her," said Smith, 55, of Elliottsburg, Pa. "I was really looking forward to retiring some day and spending more time with her." Smith has spent 18 months in a divorce support group. "I'm not 100 percent, but I'm pretty doggone good," he said. Annie, 69, of Enola, Pa., who didn't want her last name used, has been divorced since September after her husband of 47 years left her for an old high school flame. Annie said she had considered their marriage a happy one. Divorce simply wasn't in the realm of possibilities for them.
"It hit me in the face like a two-ton truck," she said. "I hadn't a clue. It was the most absolutely horrible thing that ever happened to me. I'm still not over it. I'll never be over it." Although the divorce rate is highest among men ages 30 to 34 and women ages 25 to 29, attorneys, marriage counselors and researchers say that increasingly, people in their 50s, 60s and 70s are grappling with what has come to be known as "gray divorce."
Higher incomes, advanced education and longer lives contribute to the trend, said Gordon Nelson, an associate professor of human development and family studies at Penn State. "People might be becoming increasingly more independent," he said. Mature people in long-term marriages often have multiple and complex reasons for calling it quits.
The '60s generation, more focused on happiness and personal fulfillment and less inhibited about divorce, is moving into its 60s, New Cumberland, Pa., psychologist and marriage and family therapist Sally Tice noted. And as people live longer "there's more years to think of putting up" with unhappy marriages, she said. Raising children can take a toll, too.
"It's very typical for couples to grow apart during the adolescent years of their children," Tice said. And if they haven't renewed their relationship, it can fall by the wayside. Carlisle, Pa., divorce and family law attorney Carol Lindsay identified one age-old reason for gray divorce: the midlife crisis. This temporary emotional upheaval is seldom referred to as such by anyone in the midst of one, and it's typically a male phenomenon, she said. "There's this vague longing. Mortality is calling," Lindsay said. "People throw over things they have. ... There's this sense that I missed something."
But it's not always true that older men find it easier to remarry, said Camp Hill attorney Corky Goldstein — whose oldest divorce client was 81 and "very, very unhappy" in a 44-year marriage. "If you don't really have any money, a man in his 70s is not going to attract a younger woman," he said. Yet, while divorce at midlife used to be more of a "male deal," increasingly women are initiating it, Lindsay said. A 2004 AARP study of persons who had divorced between the ages of 40 and 70 confirmed Lindsay's observations: 66 percent of the women surveyed said they had asked for the divorce, compared with 41 percent of the men.
Lindsay believes a different kind of midlife event is often at work with women who, for years, cared for their husband and children. "The hormone for taking care of people goes away and they're sick of it," she said. "They're just not in the nurturing mode any more." Sometimes it has to do with women getting jobs and having the money to leave, coupled with a softening of the taboo against divorce, Lindsay said. Gray divorces generally don't have the grueling, heart-rending custody issues common in younger couple's divorces, but they can be wrought with the complications of property ownership and division of assets.
In Smith's case, his ex-wife had her own pension plan, he said. Annie, a retired teacher, also has her own pension and Social Security, but she resents how the divorce has changed her financial situation. "When my husband and I were together we had enough money to do whatever we wanted and now I'm strapped," she said. Some older couples show their maturity in the way they handle their divorce. "Sometimes there are graceful older people and you are so grateful for them as clients," Lindsay said. "I always think a long marriage deserves to be honored with a
• Join a support group.
Sources: DivorceCare support group leaders Beth and Wayne Janis, Mechanicsburg, Pa.; attorney Jeanne Costopoulos, Camp Hill, Pa., attorney Corky Goldstein.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
How Much Life Insurance Do You Need After Divorce?
(provided by Ann O'Flanagan, Esq.)
Experts believe that a surviving spouse with children needs at least $100,000.00 worth of insurance for every $500.00 of pre-tax income. If you require $3,000.00 a month ($36,000.00 per year) to cover your expenses, your spouse should have $600,000.00 of life insurance. ($3,000.00/500.00 = 6; 6 x 100,000.00 = $600,000.00) of insurance to meet your bills. The surviving souse would invest the $600,000.00 at a conservative interest rate of 6 % which would generate $36,000.00 a year in interest before taxes. Because the surviving spouse and children would be living off the interest, rather than the principal. the income would last forever. Many people feel that $50.000.00 worth of insurance, that's commonly part of, an employee benefit's package. is enough. It is not.Therefore, at the time of divorce, it is imperative that additional insurance be obtained so that, in the event that your spouse dies, and alimony and child support ceases, the surviving spouse and children have sufficient funds to live on.To get life insurance "by telephone or on line" the following sources can be considered:
InsuranceQuote Services 800-972-1104
Information provided by: Ann O'Flanagan located at http://www.divorcesource.com/NJ/oflanagan.html
Saturday, March 15, 2008
While divorcing couples frequently carry credit card debt, often little attention is paid to these debts beyond their being assigned to one spouse or the other in the divorce judgment. Care must be taken that a spouse will not be held responsible for additional credit card debts incurred by the other, and that each spouse is protected to the maximum extent possible if the other fails to make payments and ultimately to pay off their share of any joint credit card debt. Remember: Creditors are not obligated to respect the terms of your divorce judgment.
Often the parties to a divorce will assign to each spouse the responsibility for specific credit cards and their associated debt. To help ensure that all joint debts are identified, including any credit cards which may have been taken out by one spouse without the other's knowledge, it may be beneficial to get copies of the credit reports of the divorcing couple, and to make sure that the debt from any creditor not paid off in full is assigned to one spouse or the other.
When you divorce, you should make sure that you either close any joint credit cards, or that at a minimum you have your name removed from any joint accounts which will continue to be used by your spouse. This will not end your liability for debts incurred up to that point, but should end your responsibility for any new debts incurred on those accounts by your spouse. Similarly, if you hold any accounts in your own name for which your spouse is an authorized signer, you should revoke the authorization.
It is not unusual after a divorce for one spouse to fail to pay off a joint credit card debt which predates the divorce. If appropriate steps weren't taken to cut off liability, sometimes a joint account will remain open with both spouses liable for the new charges, even though the new charges are made after divorce. The debt load on these cards, delinquent payments, and any default or referral to a collection agency, will appear on the credit reports of both account holders. The creditor will also be able to pursue either or both account holders for payment, including interest, penalties, and possibly legal fees. The creditor does not have to be fair - if it wants, it can direct all of its collection efforts at the innocent spouse.
Thus, a divorce judgment should include a deadline by which the joint credit card debts allocated to each spouse will be paid off in full, and provide for appropriate remedies in the event that repayment does not occur. Note that refinancing credit card debt is often as simple as applying for a new credit card and requesting a balance transfer.
There should be a "hold harmless" clause in the divorce judgment which prevents the spouse who is responsible for the debt from trying to shift any responsibility back onto the other spouse, and an "indemnification" clause which requires the spouse who is responsible for the debt to repay any losses suffered by the other spouse, including any payments made toward the debt by that spouse, or legal fees incurred in defending against a collection action or returning to court to compel compliance with the terms of the divorce judgment.
There is also language which can be included in a divorce judgment, which can help protect an ex-spouse from being left without recourse if the other spouse declares bankruptcy before paying off the credit card debts. Ask your lawyer if it is possible to include language which will make the spouse's obligations under the divorce judgment non-dischargeable, or significantly less likely to be discharged, based upon the manner in which the debt and repayment obligation are characterized in the divorce judgment, for example by characterizing the timely payment of the debt as being necessary for the support of the other spouse.
Monday, March 10, 2008
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
National evangelist Juanita Bynum on Monday finally met with her estranged husband, Bishop Thomas W. Weeks III, and his attorney for a deposition in preparation for divorce proceedings. The meeting, which began at 9 a.m. in the law office of Randy Kessler, attorney for Weeks, lasted for more than six hours. Bynum came to the deposition with her attorney, Karla Walker, of Valdosta. Weeks, who will face criminal charges Tuesday for allegedly beating Bynum, also attended the meeting. So did Ed Garland, his defense attorney in the criminal case.
The deposition lasted for about three hours, but the group continued a closed-door discussion afterwards. Weeks emerged from the law office about 3:40 p.m. smiling.
"Things are good, they are always good," he said as the elevator doors closed behind him. Ten minutes later, Bynum appeared in black coat and tinted sunglasses. When asked was the divorce resolved she said "no," and would not comment further.
Kessler sought a court order to sit Bynum down for a deposition after several attempts to meet with the pastor failed because of scheduling conflicts. He said he wanted an opportunity to talk with Bynum on the record about allegations of cruelty in the marriage before the divorce case went to court. The couple has been separated since June.
Kessler said he asked Bynum what she would accuse Weeks of and what Bynum did to Weeks in their stormy marriage. "This was a normal standard deposition," Kessler said. "There was no yelling and arguing. I think it was helpful for everybody."
At about 1:50 p.m. the attorneys Kessler, Walker and Garland left the law office to go to lunch and talk. Garland would not say why he attended the proceedings.
Bynum and Weeks remained in the law office while their lawyers, who didn't return by the close of the business day, were away. A lawyer at Kessler's firm, Monica Hanrahan said she later joined the couple but would not say what was being discussed.
Kessler returned alone after 5 p.m. and said the divorce case and criminal case share similarities. Bynum also has alleged abuse in the divorce case. She is seeking divorce for "cruel treatment." "The facts are the same," Kessler said. "She is claiming mental cruelty based on the incident that occurred on Aug. 21."
On that day Weeks allegedly assaulted Bynum in the Renaissance Concourse Hotel parking lot near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Garland was in the law office while Bynum was deposed, which allowed him to hear the testimony of the main witness in the criminal case the day before trial, scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. today in Fulton County Superior Court.
Garland will be representing Weeks as he faces charges of aggravated assault, terroristic threats and simple battery. Weeks has pleaded not guilty and has said that he has been a victim of domestic violence in his marriage to Bynum.
Friday, March 7, 2008
Composite case from actual examples
The parents of Amy (age 10) and Kevin (age 7) are divorcing after 13 years of marriage. Their father, by temporary stipulation, has moved from the marital home. He is entitled to visit with the children on alternating weekends and one evening, during the week. Soon, the children begin to refuse to go with him. At first, they do not want to leave Mom; they say that they are afraid to go. When Dad comes to the house, Mom tells him that she\he will "not force the children to go." "Visitation is up to them." and she\he will "not interfere in their decision".
The children refuse to talk with him on the phone. Mom calls him names when he telephones and complains constantly about her financial situation, blaming him, all within hearing of the children.Dad attempts to talk with the children about the situation, then to bribe them with movies, shopping trips, toys. They become more and more sullen with him and resistant to coming. Anything, routine doctor visits, invitations from a friend, a visit to Aunt Beth, serves as an excuse to avoid visits.A court appointed guardian ad litem learns from the children that "Dad is abusive and mean to us. " They do not want to go on visits. However, when asked to give specific examples of how he is abusive, their stories are not convincing, "He yells too loud when we make noise." "He made me climb all the way to the top of a mountain." "He gets mad at me about my homework." "He makes me wear my bike helmet." "He pounds the wall to get us up in the morning and it makes me afraid that he'll hit me." They say that he has never hit them, although they state that they are very afraid that he will. These children are in the process of becoming alienated from their father.An increasing number of children are experiencing the divorce of their parents or litigation over their custody some time during their minority. Some children experience the concerted, albeit often unconscious or unintended, attempt of one parent to alienate them from their other parent. It is the purpose of this article to alert lawyers, judges and parents involved in divorce and custody wars to the serious nature of parental alienation and to provide suggestions for court based intervention.
II. Harm to The Child
III. Motivation for Alienation
IV. Recognition of Alienating Behaviors
2. Mild Alienation cases
4. The Parent Evaluation
5. Severe: The Fully Enmeshed Child
Information provided by: Dr. Peggie Ward located at http://www.divorcesource.com/NH/DS/ward.html
What a lawyer thinks of as a “perfect client” in the domestic relations sense is a client who helps the process of the dissolution, custody, or support matter along. We know how hard this process is to be going through, but it can be a much more difficult process the longer it drags on — and a much more expensive one for you. (Although we like getting paid as much as anyone else, we believe we should be problem-solvers, not problem-creators.)
Good attorneys will always treat their clients — all of their clients — with the same professionalism and respect they treat any other client. However, by helping us help you, you can make the process smoother, lower your costs, and get a better result! Here are some things you can do to help your attorney in your domestic relations case, to make things run more smoothly.
Tell us everything — the good, the bad, the ugly. We want to know the nastiest things the other side might throw at us, true or not. If you have hidden sources of income, a stake in Anna Nicole Smith’s love nest in the Bahamas, or a rare coin collection, we need to know and plan accordingly.
Provide us with your tax, banking, investment, insurance, titles to cars and whatnot, and any other requested information quickly in the process (if you can bring this stuff to your first meeting, we might very well cry with joy). If you’re not in a place where you can get the information, sign a release that allows the attorney to request the information on your behalf.
Keep in contact with us. We’ll provide you with frequent updates, but there are times when we need to get in contact with you quickly, too.
Similarly, let us know the best way to contact you. If you’re one of those people who hates checking her voicemail but lives on her computer (wait, that would be me when I’m at home), let us know your email address and if that’s a better way to stay in touch.
Understand that a contested divorce may take a while, even if it ultimately settles. We want closure for you as soon as we can get it, too, but not at the expense of a good settlement for you.
If your case involves child custody, parenting time, or support, sign up and follow through with the mandatory education classes as soon as you can.
Remember that your attorney is there to give you expert advice and recommendations, but isn’t going to be able to make the final decision about whether or not you should take a settlement. He can and will tell you if it’s a good idea or a bad idea, and what the benefits and pitfalls of an offer might entail, but the ultimate decision is going to be yours. Also, if you don’t like the way negotiations may be headed, if you change your mind about the way the case is going, or if you’re just generally unhappy about something, please say so. We’d much rather know about it (and fix it) than to find out much, much later that you’d been unhappy for a very long time.
Advice aside, we know that this may be the, or one of the most difficult times of your life. We treat all of our clients as we would hope to be treated under the same circumstances: with diligence to their case, courtesy, the utmost respect, and the highest level of customer service possible.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Georgia law provides that alimony, or spousal support, may be awarded to one spouse in the event of a divorce or separation. At times, spousal support is awarded on a temporary basis before the divorce is final. Alimony may be paid to either a husband or a wife. Georgia law provides 8 factors which the court determine alimony.
1. The standard of living established during the marriage;
2. The duration of the marriage;
3. The age and the physical and emotional condition of both parties;
4. The financial resources of each party;
5. Where applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable him to find appropriate employment;
6. The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party;
7. The condition of the parties, including the separate estate, earning capacity, and fixed liabilities of the parties; and
8. Such other relevant factors as the court deems equitable and proper.
Alimony may not be awarded to a requesting spouse if the separation between the parties was caused by that party's adultery or desertion. There are also other, variable factors that will influence a judge’s decision to award alimony. Some of these factors are within the client’s control such as:
- A party’s behavior during trial;
- A party’s willingness to be open and honest in disclosing financial information
- The age of the children of the marriage, if any
- Both parties’ employment status / prospects
Georgia Code §19-6-1 & §19-6-5
Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
The Celebrity Dissolution [abridged version]
Aissa Wayne, Esq., T. Elizabeth Fields, Esq., and Kathryne Clark. Esq. co-authored the below.
The lives of celebrities are both fascinating and challenging. When involved in a family law proceeding, celebrities face unique and serious issues, which tend to make the already difficult family law proceedings even more complex and perilous for celebrity clients. Hence, when representing a celebrity client, many issues exist for the average family law practitioner that might not otherwise arise. Below, are just but a few of the challenges that a conscientious practitioner must keep in mind when guiding and advising a celebrity through a high profile case in a family law proceeding.
When representing a celebrity client, a lawyer must be comfortable breaking away from usual attorney-client protocols. For example, celebrities may insist on a particular partner of the firm personally handling all aspects of a case including simple court appearances such as requests for continuances. Moreover, a celebrity may make enormous demands on the resources and personnel of the firm. This kind of personal catering to the celebrity’s preferences is important to assist the client through a very difficult time.
Another unique aspect of representing a celebrity involves utilizing effectively the plethora of professionals which assist the celebrity in daily life such as agents and managers. Oftentimes they can be of paramount assistance to the lawyer since they know many of the relevant facts, handle the celebrities schedule and pay the celebrities bills, such as attorney fees. Further, since the celebrity’s image is essentially the agent’s and manager’s livelihood, they will frequently want to be involved in the decision making. The lawyer must engender confidence in the celebrity’s support personnel to allow them to entrust him/her with their concerns. It is important for the lawyer to be sensitive to their concerns and to cultivate their loyalty and assistance to ensure cohesiveness, a united front and for the greater common good of the celebrity’s wellbeing. Nonetheless, while having these people as allies will make a lawyer’s job much easier, the lawyer must always insure that the case is not run by the agent and/or manager.
Additionally, the lawyer should also keep in mind that communications with the celebrity’s employees and agents and some of the experts hired by the lawyer are subject to the attorney-client privilege.
In addition to managing the support personnel, the lawyer will have to keep an ever vigilant eye on how the case is affecting the celebrity’s image in the public and how the stream of information is being funneled to the media. Public relations consultants and firms may be invaluable to a lawyer to assist in handling this aspect of the case. They can assist the lawyer in devising a plan for not only the intentional dissemination of information to the media, but also in the event of a public relations crisis. Being prepared for such a crisis is well worth the time and energy in advance.
In addition to the celebrity’s public persona, a separate public relations consultant can assist the lawyer in developing the lawyer’s public persona. The public will look to the lawyer for guidance and insight as to how the celebrity will handle the case. Hence, to some extent, the lawyer is launched into show business him/herself. In this capacity, the lawyer may want to be perceived as a competent "force to be reckoned with" without appearing too overbearing. If the lawyer is not perceived as credible and competent, the lawyer may jeopardize the celebrity’s position since the celebrity is also being tried in the Court of Public Opinion. The public relations consultants can host mock media interviews with the lawyer and conduct market research into how to best handle before the public troubling aspects of the case. Unlike the lawyer, they should have years of experience handling public relations and can become an invaluable resource for the lawyer throughout the high profile case.
However, the lawyer must balance the plans of a public relations team with the rules limiting the information that the lawyer may convey to the media during a high profile case.
Even unfounded and dismissed accusations levied against a celebrity in family court may damage a celebrity’s public image long after the family law case concludes. Therefore, one of the most effective methods of averting a public relations crisis is keeping unfavorable information private.
Generally, the Court will seldom close family law proceedings to the public or seal a family law file. However, in high profile cases where celebrities are involved, a Court may be elect to do such especially if presented with a Stipulated Confidentiality Order. The parties may enter into any number of stipulations providing for the privacy of documents such as the redaction of documents and the submission of private documents to the Court to be withdrawn after the conclusion of the hearing.
Even if a Court will not close the proceedings or seal the file, Courts oftentimes will seal particular documents such as damaging declarations to protect celebrities’ reputation.
If the Court will not grant the privacy sought by high profile clients, there are other options available to preserve confidentially and privacy such as a "private" or "confidential" trial through a private judge. See CRC Rule 244(g). Private Judges may afford high profile clients privacy and confidentiality while saving money and time. When a private judge is appointed, the "hearings" often occur in a private office without public notice, thereby effectively preventing the media from overseeing the details of the proceedings. This gives the parties much more control over what, if any, information is disseminated to the public.
Moreover, if the parties agree, they can participate in confidential dispute resolution through mediation which may be an effective tool for conflict management. If they reach an agreement, they can enter into a confidential marital settlement agreement that is referenced but not attached to the Judgment. In such an event, the confidentiality will be preserved and the agreement will only be exposed if enforcement procedures become necessary. Alternatively, the final resolution may also be kept from the public’s eye through having two judgments. One judgment providing for the status termination, support and reserving on all other issues. The second judgment will contain the remainder of the issues and will only be filed if either party breaches the terms of the second judgment.
To gain a litigation advantage, the opposing side may fight an effort to close the proceedings to the public. However, the opposing side may be more willing to agree to a private judge or mediation if the celebrity agrees to pay for the associated expenses. Such efforts and concessions are well worth the privacy gained, especially when custody is at issue.
In addition to assuring privacy of the court proceeding, a lawyer must take decisive actions to assure that his file is kept safe in his office, such as keeping it under lock-and-key. The attorney should also have his employees sign a confidentiality agreement and employ a shredder to destroy extra copies of file documents. The lawyer should also assure that his computer database is secure from hackers and others who might gain access to the electronic data.
Other issues to consider involve the unusual property issues inherent in dividing a celebrity’s community estate. Even though the celebrity’s business manager may want to control the property issues, it may be advisable to hire a forensic accountant and appraisers as soon as possible to work with the business manager. These experts will be able to delve through the complexities of property division, including the valuation of artistic works, residuals and works in progress, and can testify about the value of the community estate, prepare a marital balance sheet, and complete sometimes complicated tracings.
Furthermore, as with any client, once appropriate, a celebrity client will have to be advised to evaluate his/her estate plan in light of the changes inherent in a family law proceeding.These and many other considerations must be carefully weighed by an attorney navigating the potentially tumultuous waters of representing a celebrity client. The attorney must give the matter due consideration and must carefully reflect upon the unique demands, issues and pitfalls of representing high profile cases.
Co-authored by Aissa Wayne, Esq., T. Elizabeth Fields, Esq., and Kathryne Clark, Esq., Beverly Hills, California
Survival Manual for Men in Divorce (2004 Edition)
Survival Manual for Men in Divorce (2004 Edition) PDF E-book by Carol Ann Wilson & Edwin Schilling III
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The Survival Manual for Men in Divorce: 185 Questions and Answers About Your Rights
Topics covered in this book include:
Child CustodyAlimony & Debt
Child SupportRetirement Benefits
"Divorce shouldn't be a war zone. Unfortunately, sometimes it is. Survival Manual For Men In Divorce is the first step in neutralizing that zone. A must have for BOTH men and women contemplating divorce."--Judith Briles, Speaker and author of The Confidence Factor and Dollars and Sense of Divorce.
The Guardian Ad Litem, for the purpose of pending litigation puts themselves in the shoes of a legally incompetent person such as a minor child. The Guardian Ad Litem invistigates all issues associated with the case they are assigned to and files a report with the court.
Guardian Ad Litems are usually lawyers or mental health professionals, depending on the court and the circumstances. They investigate the matter, use their own judgement in determining what is in the best interest of the child, and report their findings and recommendations to the court. In contested custody and visitation cases, courts frequently appoint a Guardian Ad Litem for the children.
If you have a case in the court that requires a Guardian Ad Litem, treat him/her professionally. Return phone calls and try to be as cooperative as possible.
It isn't easy having an outsider poking their nose into your business but, at times it is necessary. It is imperative that you get past any negative feelings or resentments you have about the situation because the impression you make on the Guardian Ad Litem could have a lot to do with the outcome of your case.To not put your best foot forward will only hurt your children.
Finally, and perhaps, most importantly, the parties’ issues remain within the collaborative law setting. This discretion and confidentiality helps to reduce the stress level during an already difficult period and allow you to focus on resolving the problems at hand. As part of the Collaborative Law Institute of Georgia, Ms. Edwards is part of a select group of attorneys that are committed to an inter-disciplinary network of attorneys, mental health professionals, financial consultants and other professionals committed to representing individuals and families in a non-adversarial process.
The Mission Statement of the Collaborative Process is as follows:We are committed to a client centered process that focuses on the legal, emotional and financial elements of divorce and allows couples to negotiate in an environment free from the threat of litigation.For more information on the collaborative process, contact Ms. Edwards, or refer to www.collaborativepracticega.com.
Contact our attorneys at Edwards & Associates to determine what the best method is for your particular case.
What you should know as a father:
You have the absolute right to all parenting time ordered by the court.
You are entitled to the visitation ordered by the Court and Georgia law provides a method by which to enforce these rights. If you have been denied visitation, you should contact our attorneys immediately. You must be proactive in protecting your rights. The longer you allow your rights to be violated, the more often she will continue violating your rights. You must exercise your rights and be adamant about protecting the relationship with your children.
You are entitled to pay child support in accordance with the new 2007 child support guidelines.
In many cases, the amount of child support is calculated with inaccurate / outdated information, or relying on the old child support formula, which was devastating to non-custodial parents. The old child support law often led the noncustodial parent to pay more child support than was necessary or required. Georgia law provides a procedure to modify child support. When you apply for child support modification, Georgia law allows you to review the income and assets information of the other parent so that we can determine whether or you are paying the proper amount of support. Not every person is eligible for a modification; speak with one of our attorneys as Edwards & Associates to determine if you are eligible for an adjustment.
You can be awarded custody and you can modify custody and visitation.
Traditionally in Georgia, the mother almost always was awarded custody, absent some serious character deficiency. The father often did not have a prayer of winning custody, even if the children would be better off with him. However, recently the Courts leveling the playing field and will consider the father as the custodial parent, given the right set of facts. Edwards & Associates has obtained custody for hundreds of fathers in various counties throughout Georgia.
New Custody Law went into effect January 1st, 2008. The law affect the rights of custodial and non-custodial parents all across Georgia. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Attorneys fee awards now allowed. This should prevent parents who use custody cases as a weapon against a less financially able parent.
2. Parenting plans – Georgia Law now requires that a detailed parenting plan be utilized to ensure there are no questions about parenting time.
3. The focus of the law is not on old terms, such as custody and visitation. The more friendly term, parenting time is used to indicate both parents' invlovement in their children's lives, rather than relegating one parent to an occasional guest.