The Georgia Court of Appeals continues to forge ahead despite the pandemic and the Judicial Emergency Declaration. In April 2020, the Court released one custody related opinion, and three other family law related opinions. Also, please visit my Covid-19 Pandemic: Family Law Updates and Resources page for the latest in orders, notices and other resources relevant to our family law practices.
Kasper et al. v. Judy Martin et al, Case No. A20A0244, Georgia Court of Appeals, April 3, 2020.
The minor child at issue was the subject of a Juvenile Court dependency action, and was placed in his maternal grandmother Martin’s temporary custody. Eventually, the child’s paternal aunt and uncle, the Kaspers, intervened in the dependency action. They also filed for temporary and permanent custody in the Superior Court. Martin moved to dismiss the Superior Court custody action since the dependency action, in which the Kaspers had intervened, was already pending in Juvenile Court. After hearing the motion, the Superior Court announced that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction, and that it would transfer the custody case to the Juvenile Court for adjudication. Instead, the Court’s written order simply dismissed the Superior Court custody action. The Kaspers appealed.
Reversed. Juvenile Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over dependency actions. See also, In the Interest of A.L.S., 350 Ga. App. 636, 639 (2019). In those cases, the Juvenile Court may make a temporary award of custody. However, Superior Courts have original jurisdiction over permanent custody matters. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. §15-11-15(a), the Superior Court may confer concurrent jurisdiction on the Juvenile Court by transferring the custody questions for investigation and report or determination. In the instant case, the Superior Court did not transfer the custody issues to the Juvenile Court. Thus, the Superior Court erred by dismissing the Kaspers’ petition, as it still had subject matter jurisdiction over the permanent custody issues. The trial court’s reasoning that permanent custody is equivalent to permanent guardianship (over which the Juvenile Court has jurisdiction), has no merit. And, the fact that the Juvenile Court was the first to exercise jurisdiction did not give it “priority jurisdiction.”
NOTE: Sometimes the nuances in family law get the best of us. Check out my Litigation Support for Attorneys page to see what I can do to provide support and assistance to you in developing strategies and navigating through the difficulties. The fresh perspectives and litigation support may be exactly what you need!
Related Family Law Cases Released in April 2020:
Conflict of Interest // Motion to Disqualify Attorney
Samnick v. Goodman, Case No. A20A0562, Georgia Court of Appeals, April 1, 2020.
An attorney is disqualified from representing a party against a former client in a matter that is substantially related to the prior representation, unless the former client provides written informed consent. An attorney-client relationship exists if, based on the attorney’s representations or conduct, the client has a reasonable belief that he or she is/was represented by the attorney. Matters are “substantially related” if the former representation and the pending case have both material and logical connections.
Andriola v. Mounts, Case No. A20A0726, Georgia Court of Appeals, April 16, 2020.
An order awarding attorney fees under either O.C.G.A. §19-6-2 or §9-15-14 must include an explanation of the statutory basis for the award, and the findings necessary to support the award.
Crimes Against Family Law Attorney
Maynard v. The State, Case No. A20A0460, Georgia Court of Appeals, April 30, 2020.
This case illustrates some of the perils of practicing family law. An attorney represented a client in a child support dispute against Maynard. Maynard responded with e-mails threatening the attorney and his family. The attorney appropriately demanded that Maynard cease sending harassing e-mails. But, when the e-mails continued, he obtained an ex parte temporary restraining order against Maynard. Five days later, Maynard went to the attorney’s home, understandably placing the attorney and his family in fear. Ultimately, Maynard was convicted of making harassing communications, stalking and trespassing.