In August 2023, the Georgia Court of Appeals released one custody related opinion, and two other opinions relevant to family law. Scroll down for more.
Custody-Related Opinions Released in August 2023:
Schatte v. McGee, Case No. A23A0831, Georgia Court of Appeals, August 3, 2023
Schatte (Mother) and McGee (Father) had a child born out of wedlock. McGee helped with medical expenses during Schatte’s pregnancy, paid for the doula to help during delivery, and provided more support to Schatte after the baby was born. McGee also visited a couple of times with the baby. When the baby was four months old, Schatte asked for child support, and McGee petitioned to legitimate the child. Schatte objected to the legitimation, alleging that it is not in the best interests of the child. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that McGee successfully raised other children, and therefore had the ability to adequately parent the child despite having acted “dishonorably” toward Schatte. Accordingly, the trial court granted McGee’s petition for legitimation. Schatte appealed.
Affirmed. When ruling on a legitimation petition, a trial court must first determine whether the biological father abandoned his opportunity interest to develop or maintain a relationship with the child. Evidence supporting the court’s finding that a father abandoned his opportunity interest includes his inaction during the pregnancy/birth, his delay in filing a legitimation petition, and a lack of contact with the child. Although the trial court’s legitimation order in the instant case is silent as to its reasoning for granting the legitimation, the evidence supported its implicit finding that McGee did not abandon his opportunity interest. Indeed, McGee provided support to or on behalf of Schatte, he visited with the baby, and he filed his legitimation action shortly after the baby’s birth. Schatte did not timely request findings of fact and conclusions of law. Thus, the appellate court is bound by the trial court’s findings, whether explicit or implicit.
Moreover, the trial court did not violate Schatte’s due process rights by failing to give adequate notice of the trial. The fundamental requirements of due process provide for notice to the parties, and an opportunity to be heard. Schatte appeared at the legitimation hearing, and it is undisputed that she had notice of the hearing. She also had the opportunity to be heard. In fact, she testified, and called witnesses to testify on her behalf. Furthermore, Schatte fully participated in the hearing, and never argued that she lacked adequate notice. She cannot acquiesce to the trial, and then later complain that she did not receive adequate notice.
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Related Family Law Cases Released in August 2023:
In the Interest of K.A.V., Case Nos. A23A0968 and A23A1040, Georgia Court of Appeals, August 4, 2023.
Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over dependency cases until all dependency issues are resolved, or the child becomes 18 years old. Once the child turns 18 years old, all orders regarding the child and in connection with the dependency proceeding terminate, the child is discharged, and the court has no further obligation or control in the case.
Arbitration // Appeal
Pappas v. Stewart, Case No. A23A0695, Georgia Court of Appeals, August 17, 2023.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. §9-9-16 of Georgia’s Arbitration Code, any arbitration order that is considered a final judgment is appealable. Generally, domestic relations cases require discretionary applications under O.C.G.A. §5-6-35(a)(2). However, pursuant to O.C.G.A. §5-6-34(a)(11), child custody cases are directly appealable. Since the appellant in the instant case agreed to the consent final order, and did not seek to vacate it, or set it aside, he is estopped from attempting to reopen the issues on appeal.