The Georgia appellate courts were busy in December 2021, but they released only two opinions relevant to family law.
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Termination of Parental Rights
In the Interest of A.B., et al., children, Case No. A21A1386, Georgia Court of Appeals, December 3, 2021.
O.C.G.A. §15-11-310(a)(5) provides for the termination of parental rights if a child is dependent “due to lack of proper parental care or control by his or her parent, reasonable efforts to remedy the circumstances have been unsuccessful or were not required, such cause of dependency is likely to continue or will not likely be remedied, and the continued dependency will cause or is likely to cause serious physical, mental, emotional, or moral harm to such child.” In the analysis of harm, the trial court must consider all circumstances, including whether the child potentially will be harmed if s/he remains indefinitely in foster care, and the potential of harm if the child is returned to the parent. Finally, the ultimate question in termination of parental rights cases is whether the parent, standing alone, “is capable of mastering and utilizing the necessary skills” to handle parenting obligations.
Moot Appeal // Equitable Caregiver Statute
McAlister v. Clifton, Case No. S22A0144, Georgia Supreme Court, December 14, 2021.
In this, the first Georgia Supreme Court case in which the constitutionality of the Equitable Caregiver Statute, O.C.G.A. §19-7-3.1, is challenged, the Court never reached the merits of the issues. Instead, because the child at issue is now 18 years old, the Supreme Court declared the appeal moot, and remanded the case to the trial court with direction to dismiss it. The general rule is that a case becomes moot and must be dismissed once the remedy sought no longer benefits the party seeking the remedy. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that the constitutionality issues will evade review. Thus, since the child at issue is now legally an adult and is no longer subject to the custody order on appeal, the case is moot and will be dismissed.
Originally filed in the Georgia Court of Appeals, this case was transferred to the Georgia Supreme Court. To watch the oral arguments in the Court of Appeals, click here.
NOTE: After considering Motions for Reconsideration filed by both parties, on January 11, 2022, the Supreme Court vacated and withdrew the opinion in this case. A new opinion will issue on or before July 1, 2022. Stay tuned!
For background and recent Court of Appeals opinions regarding the Equitable Caregiver Statute, click here.