July 2022, was a slow month as only two family law cases were released by the Georgia Court of Appeals. One opinion was custody related. Scroll down for more.
Business is getting back to normal, but court rules and regulations continue to change. See updates on news, notices, orders and resources affecting family law practices on my Covid-19 Pandemic: Family Law Updates and Resources page.
Custody-Related Cases Released in July 2022:
Skelton v. Skelton, Case No. A22A0718, July 20, 2022.
The parties shared joint custody of their minor child. Mother had primary custody, and because he was epileptic, Father’s visitation was supervised. Eventually, both parties filed modifications of custody and visitation, and sought to have each other held in contempt. Prior to trial, the judge notified counsel that he set a time limit for the trial. Thus, in accordance with that ruling, before Mother’s attorney finished Father’s cross examination, and before Mother’s final witness, the trial court enforced the time limit, and did not allow her to complete presenting her evidence. Mother’s attorney objected, but to no avail. The trial court denied both parties’ modification of custody claims, but removed the supervision requirement from Father’s visitation. The trial court also held Mother in contempt for violating Father’s visitation rights, and Father in contempt for failure to pay medical expenses. Mother appealed.
Affirmed. O.C.G.A. §24-6-611(b) provides that a thorough and sifting cross-examination of a witness is a substantial right belonging to every party, and it should not be abridged by the trial court. Yet, a judge is authorized to exercise reasonable control over the presentation of evidence. To establish reversible error, Mother not only must show that the trial court erred by excluding the evidence. She must also show how the error was harmful to her. Accordingly, Mother should have made a proffer of evidence to show how the excluded evidence would have benefited her case. Moreover, Mother did not show in her appellate brief how limiting Father’s cross-examination and excluding a material witness was harmful. Notably, despite its holding, citing O.C.G.A. §24-6-611(a), the Court of Appeals commented that they are “highly skeptical of the proposition that a trial court is authorized to impose the inflexible time limits enforced in this case.”
PRACTICE NOTE: Child custody cases can be so very difficult for both the attorney, and the client. Untangling the issues and challenges in custody cases can get the best of us. Check out my Independent Custody Assessments, Litigation Support for Attorneys and Litigation Support for Clients pages to see what I can do to provide support and assistance in navigating through the difficulties, and to obtain a more favorable outcome for your client. The fresh perspectives and litigation support may be exactly what you need!
Related Family Law Cases Released in July 2022:
Military Retirement // Clarification
Torres v. Torres, Case No. A22A0507, Georgia Court of Appeals, July 1, 2022.
The parties’ settlement agreement did not specify the percentage split of Husband’s military retirement that counsel read into the record when announcing settlement. Six years later, Wife sought clarification. An agreement cannot be attacked directly once it is incorporated into a final decree. Rather, Wife was required to attack the judgment itself. However, her motion to clarify was not authorized by the Civil Practice Act, and she did not otherwise cite proper authority to effectuate the clarification. Wife attempted to invoke O.C.G.A. §9-11-60(g) which provides for correction of clerical mistakes arising from oversight or omission. However, the majority held that the evidence did not compel a finding that the omission was a clerical error. Moreover, the majority concluded that the Declaratory Judgment Act, O.C.G.A. §9-4-1 et seq. did not apply. Judge McFadden dissented, arguing that the court was authorized to grant declaratory judgment relief, or alternatively, relief under O.C.G.A. §9-11-60(g).
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