Tonight's post on our Family Law Conference was written by our Wills,
Trusts and Estates Guru,
I attended the 33rd Annual Georgia Family Law Institute last month, from May 21-23, 2015.
This was the first program I had attended as a member of the Manely Firm
Team, but I have attended these annual three day seminars for family law
attorneys since 1988, missing only two or three in that stretch of 27 years.
Although my practice is increasingly estate planning and probate, I am
still active in many of the family law cases of the firm and both need
and want to fulfill my annual continuing legal education requirements
by attending this event each year. Also I have valuable collegial relationships
with divorce lawyers and Superior Court Judges throughout Georgia that
this event fosters and maintains for me.
They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Well, this "Old
Dawg" (yes, I am a proud graduate of the University of Georgia School
of Law) learns the newest and best of cutting edge "tricks"
every year at the Family Law Institute. The program grows every year and
this year's was the largest in scope by far, with 632 lawyers attending.
We had 43 separate classes, scholarly and practical, led by over 40 Georgia
family law attorneys, some with many years of experience and others who
were younger, "rising stars;" 35 judges from Georgia trial courts,
appellate courts and federal district courts; and several legislators,
psychologists, private investigators, accountants and law professors.
We learned about important cases decided by the Georgia Court of Appeals
and Supreme Court of Georgia over the previous year. We learned how judges
feel about the issues we present to them and better, more persuasive ways
to present our cases to them. We learned about cutting edge issues affecting
same sex family law relationships and electronic discovery.
Let's put this into real-world cases and situations:
* What surveillance techniques ae being used by private investigators in
* How do we introduce police reports and business under new evidence rules
passed in Georgia over the last few years?
* What new laws affecting family law cases are being considered in the
Georgia General Assembly and what impact can family lawyers have in shaping
* What happens to our clients (and even to us as their lawyers) if they
engage in illegal electronic surveillance of their spouses (and how do
we advise them to make sure they don't get themselves in trouble)?
* How do we introduce evidence from social media accounts? Ever try subpoenaing
Facebook? It's not that easy!
* What do trial judges really want and NEED to hear from us at temporary
hearings: answers to questions about temporary alimony, temporary child
custody, use of guardians ad litem (GALs), properly preparing and presenting
our clients' financial affidavits, and getting temporary attorney's
And that was just PART of Day 1 of this 3 day program! We went on the rest
of the week to learn about legal remedies in Georgia for uncoupling couples
who are either unmarried or perhaps married in another state, but living
in Georgia, where their same sex marriage is not legally recognized, yet
breakups of those families occur just as they do in "traditional"
marriages. Frozen embryos are a hot new issue in divorces (have you heard
about Sophia Vergara-Nick Loeb lawsuit?) and how do we handle those under
Georgia law? We even learned all the ins and outs of cross examination
from the expert of cross-examination: Valdosta lawyer Roger Dodd, who
is part professor and part stand-up comedian. And a federal judge specifically
addressed an important international parental kidnapping case,
Chafin v. Chafin, in which our firm and Michael Manely played the lead role in successfully
arguing before the United States Supreme Court.
What's on the horizon in Georgia family law? Administrative legitimation
will likely be reconsidered in the legislature again in 2016. We may see
more changes to fine-tune the child support guidelines and the child support
worksheets. There are many existing intersections of state and federal
law in family law case and we will likely see more in the future.
The biggest "new trick" I took away from this year's Institute,
though, was being a part of the Manely Firm Team.
As Michael has written previously, 9 of our 10 attorneys attended. We took up an entire row in the ballroom
where the classes were taught. We were able to discuss the topics and
relate the lessons to our current cases. The collegiality of our team
environment was so refreshing and intellectually challenging for a lawyer
who spent the last 20 years largely as a sole practitioner. And some of
our own young "rising stars" might have learned a few new "tricks"
from this "old dog."
All in all, it was a great program and a wonderful team-building experience.
Steve serves all of our clients; wills, trusts and estate and probate needs
in Marietta, Atlanta, Lawrenceville, Savannah, Canton and Gainesville.