Barriers in family law.

Barriers in family law.

Posted By The Manely Firm || 7-Nov-2011

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.

Michael Manely

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