In November 2022, the Georgia Court of Appeals released three family law related opinions. None were custody related.
Family Law Related Cases Released in November 2022:
Mental Health Privilege
In re Frost, Case No. A22A0847, Georgia Court of Appeals, 11/3/22.
O.C.G.A. §24-5-501(a)(7) provides for a mental health privilege between a licensed clinical social worker and his/her patients. Upon a showing that the privileged records are necessary and critical to the issues involved in the case, the trial court may conduct an in camera review of the records. In the end, only those communications necessary and critical to the issues are admissible. The remaining communications in the records must remain privileged and inadmissible at trial.
Dependency and Non-reunification Proceedings
In the Interest of S.B., a child, Case No. A22A1565, Georgia Court of Appeals, 11/7/22.
Once a child is adjudicated as a dependent, the Juvenile Court must hold a disposition hearing regarding the child’s placement, the implementation of a case plan and other matters. Thereafter, the court must hold review hearings, at which DFCS is required to submit reunification case plans, or the factual basis as to why reunification is not appropriate. After the initial review hearing, if the court finds that the parent is not making substantial progress toward completing the case plan, it shall order DFCS to develop a case plan for non-reunification, provide notice to the parents, and schedule a hearing. DFCS bears the burden of showing, by clear and convincing evidence, that reunification services are not appropriate. Finally, a dependency order must include specific factual findings with a nexus to separate conclusions of law.
Contempt Action // Deceased Party
Estate of Suddeth v. Williams, Case No. A22A1503, Georgia Court of Appeals, 11/22/22.
In Estate of Suddeth v. Williams, 361, Ga. App. 433 (2021), the Georgia Court of Appeals held that an estate administrator is the real party in interest to sue in an action alleging that the deceased failed to comply with a divorce decree. However, in its second appellate appearance, the Court of Appeals noted that a contempt action against the estate administrator is not the proper vehicle for enforcing payment under a divorce decree. Rather, the estate administrator is not a party to the divorce decree and was not required to do anything under the decree. Moreover, the estate administrator did not take part in the alleged contemptuous conduct. Thus, the estate administrator cannot be held in contempt for the deceased’s actions.