We handle a lot of family law work at The Manely Firm, P.C. Of course,
that's all we do. I suspect that we handle more family law than most.
From my position at The Firm I get to see many, many cases carried out
through all of our courts from Cherokee County to Gwinnett County to Douglas
County to Henry County and each and every point in between.
Family law issues are hard enough on the parties, as you would expect.
Divorce is no frivolous matter. Even modification, after you've gone
through a divorce, is a tough call, just deciding to re-enter the fray.
I often brag on Georgia for having non-paternalistic laws to facilitate
family law matters. But tonight I've got to go the other way. There
are so many barriers that hinder, delay and frustrate family law cases
and, thereby, hinder, delay and frustrate family law parties.
Judges have large case loads. I get that. But it is increasingly the rare
judge who has the time to hear a case without impediment or interference
under the guise of just moving the case along. All of us have much to
do but it is very much like the politician who hasn't the time to
sit with his constituents when judges haven't the time to schedule
hearings and provide litigants the access to justice that they need and,
as taxpayers, they deserve.
Processes are sometimes imposed to subvert the otherwise direct mechanics
of accomplishing a divorce. Additional forms, information required of
each and every litigant but sometimes wholly irrelevant to the specific
matter needlessly drives up costs and prolongs the stress of litigation.
Opposing counsel's, too, can prolong the drama. Too often this is motivated
by a diminishing set of potential clients available to pay the monthly
obligations so that each client becomes an ever less reliable source for
firm solvency. Sometimes opposing counsel litigates from a habitual need
to litigate, tediously, endlessly, without thought outside of that litigation
box for whether a particular approach holds any benefit to the productive
outcome of a case. In other words, sometimes opposing counsel is difficult
just to be difficult, as if that approach makes any sense in the greater
scheme of things.
All of this makes for a wicked soup in the party's world. The needful
litigant faces an often faceless legal system, fairly impossible to penetrate
with little hope of succeeding in accomplishing the intended legal objective.
Our justice system can and must do much, much better.
I guess I'm advocating some streamlining here, some way to cut to the
chase institutionally. At The Manely Firm, we do cut to the chase so that
we can make our efforts affordable and successful, but in this context
I'm referring to a paradigmatic change in the institution.
The Family Court of the Superior Court of Fulton County definitely headed
in that direction. But this Court runs afoul of the maxim that the devil
is in the details. Parties can get caught up in the sometimes rapid flow
of the Family Court process such that significant issues and needs and
available remedies can be ignored, brushed aside, considered of no consequence
when weighed against the enormity of the day's calendar. And then,
once the 60 Day Status Conference has come and gone, a case can ebb off
into an eddy, out of the flow, for a long, long time before the Court's
system can force it back into the current toward resolution.
We need a streamlined family law system throughout Georgia. But it must
be one where either litigant can file a Motion, and move the case out
of the current and quickly before the assigned Judge, (not a sit in),
who can determine the validity of the Motion's claim and the remedy
required, then return the case to the rapid current heading toward resolution.
We professionals in the family law practice, bench and bar alike, need
to vigorously identify the barriers to quick and proper family law case
resolution and root them out like the time, money and emotion wasting
hogs that they are.
Most parties, like most people generally, are not rich. They can't
afford all the falderal, the pomp and circumstance of court pretentiousness.
They need justice. They need resolution. They need it now. As members
of our society we've sworn to serve, they deserve it. As professionals
of that society, we ought to make that happen.
At the Manely Firm,
it is our mission.