Sally moved to Georgia after she met and fell in love with Joe. Sally left everything behind: her home, her family, her friends. She was young and in love. All she needed was Joe. Joe had a stable job and owned his own house. They talked about their future together. They would have a lot of children and Sally would be a stay-at-home mom. His sweet, retired parents lived down the street and could help with the babies. She would lead a charmed life and would have everything she had always dreamed of. Sally’s parents were upset that she rushed into a marriage, but they didn’t feel what she felt. Parents just don’t understand.
Or do they? Perhaps they were right.
Time passes. Things change. Or perhaps our vision just gets a little clearer.
The house was a wreck, but he promised he would remodel it. It was an old home, but it had a lot of potential. She overlooked it for the first two years, but enough was enough. Now she had a toddler she was chasing. The toddler was curious and the construction tools around the house and the exposed wires made Sally nervous. It wasn’t a safe place for a curious toddler.
Before long, those in-laws down the street criticized Sally openly and would talk about how much better Joe’s last girlfriend was. One time, Sally got in a fight with her in-laws and they told her that she wasn’t welcomed at Thanksgiving. She decided to go anyway and who was sitting at her place at the table? His ex-girlfriend! His mom just smiled cruelly at Sally.
When she confronted Joe about his ex-girlfriend, he not only admitted that affair, but many others. He taunted her and said that she had no money and no family. What was she going to do? He told her that would win the baby in the divorce. His mom was a nurse and she could take care of the baby while he worked.
Sally called her parents, desperate. Of course, they encouraged her to come home. Sally filed for divorce. She wanted to move back home to Tennessee, eight hours away.
There was an obstacle to her moving to Tennessee though.
O.C.G.A. § 19-1-1(2) provides that Georgia law “[e]njoins and restrains the parties from unilaterally causing or permitting the minor child or children of the parties to be removed from the jurisdiction of the court without the permission of the court, except in an emergency which has been created by the other party to the action. . .”
Sally filed for divorce. She took pictures of the exposed wires, of the ladders and saws in the home, the unfinished floors, the thermostat showing the temperature inside of the home to be above 80 degrees. We went to Court and asked the judge for permission to allow Sally to move home with the baby.
These sort of requests are seldom granted, but Sally had a strong case. I gave my opening statement, letting the judge know what I expected the evidence to be and what we were going to request of the Court. The Opposing Counsel gave his opening statement, quite the opposite of what I said.
The judge stopped us. He instructed both of the lawyers to leave his courtroom to go look at the house. He told us to report back.
I was shocked. I’d never heard of such a thing occurring in court.
We did what the judge instructed us to and it worked. The Opposing Counsel and I saw the home and there was no argument that the home was appropriate for a young child. (It wasn’t really even appropriate for grown people.) We were able to reach a settlement agreement, and Sally got to move back home to Tennessee. Additionally, I’m sure the judge can read between the lies and I’m sure he knows now who was lying about the condition of the home.
It’s important to consult with an attorney if you want to move out of state during a divorce. Your attorney will know the law and what constitutes a strong case. Know the law. Plan your strategy.
This story is also a reminder to be truthful to your attorney and to the Court. Honesty remains the best policy.