Two recent decisions by the Georgia Court of Appeals, and the Georgia Supreme Court confirms what has long been common sense advice, but that is not so commonly followed: if you want to keep custody of your children, don’t abuse your authority as the children’s primary parent.
The first case is close and dear to me, as it is my case. A case started in 2011. My client is the father, and the mother committed act after act that demeaned the father. From little things like, at the child’s daycare, each child hung a picture of their family. This child’s picture consisted of mom, and her boyfriend (large and in the center, as portrait pictures are) with the words “mom and Big Daddy” scribbled underneath it, and then her biological father, in a small 3 x 5, stuck on the side of the photos with the words “little daddy” scribbled under it, to much bigger issues, some of them just stupid. And this case became one of the most vile I have ever worked. But long and short, the mother in this case lost custody of her little girl. This mother is a successful professional, who was skiing in Utah several days a month on a whim, and could afford to put her daughter in private school, vs. dad, who could not afford to even think of doing any of that. The court however found that “the only antidote to the alienating behaviors of the mother is to allow the child to be immersed in the father’s household.”
In separate videos I have spoken about how to win child custody cases, whether father or mother. And you do so by following the law and building your case towards the law. The law of child custody in the State of Georgia is 17 elements, and one element is “to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship with the other parent consistent with the best interest of the child.” And this is the exact element that the appellate court decided in upholding my client’s award of child custody of his daughter.
In addition the court awarded my client more than $10,000 in attorney’s fees because the mother continued with abusive and frivolous motions and litigation. Her attorney argued any and everything under the sun, and all it gained her were enormous attorney’s fees, liability for more than $10,000 in my client’s fees, potential for more than $40,000 more in fees to my client, and loss of her daughter. An attorney who refuses to objectively evaluate their client, and handle the case accordingly, instead of like a pit bull, is not doing his or her client any favors, as this case demonstrates. A good attorney reads the case and does not blindly make arguments without concern for consequences or ignores their client’s behavior.
In yet another case evidencing this principal, this time the father losing custody to the mother, in Blue v. Hemmans the trial court modified custody from the father, who had primary custody, to the mother. The basis for the decision was that the Father had willfully acted to withhold visitation and has continually denied the Mother overnight visitation with no good reason. In addition, the Father had failed to notify his son’s school that the Mother had equal rights to information. These circumstances were sufficient for the court to find that a change of custody was warranted.
This is a fact pattern that is unfortunately not rare. But these sort of cases can be very frustrating. Usually it is the father who is denied visitation. Of particular note in this case, was the Fathers failure to give the Mother equal rights with their child’s school. That is objective, and discoverable evidence, that becomes impossible for the Father (as in this case) to explain away. In my experience, I have found this sort of evidence to be particularly persuasive and can enrage a judge. If you want to keep custody, list of the other parent on school and other forms. This evidence alone has been critical in winning many child custody modification cases.
I do not know if this case reached the level of parental alienation that can often exist in such fact patterns (like in the first case I discussed), but another thing of note in this case, is that the mother in this case, despite what appears to be good evidence of parental alienation, did not need to get to the issue of parental alienation to win back custody of her child. The father’s behavior of abusing his power over visitation and information from the school, by itself, was sufficient.
The other thing of note in these cases, is that you have to prove your case. Hearsay evidence is not sufficient to prove any fact. We need to gather your evidence in a legal manner so that it is admissible at trial and persuasive to the court.
Contact us or call today to learn how Shaw Law can work with you to achieve the best outcome possible for you and your children.
Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm LLC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309.