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.