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Custody: This Week of Chicanery

This past season of "Better Call Saul" had an episode titled "Chicanery." What a great word! And a pretty good word to describe this particular week on our Savannah office's calendar.

Chi-can-er-y: n., the use of trickery to achieve a political, financial, or legal purpose. Google Dictionary.

Chatham County Public Schools have recently started the school year the first week of August. This year, Chatham County Public Schools start next week, August 3rd. The Superior Court Judges of Georgia have their annual conference the last week of July every year. With some exceptions, the Superior Court of Georgia has exclusive jurisdiction over family law disputes. During the week of their conference, a lower court judge will often be selected to serve for any emergencies that may arise that would ordinarily require a Superior Court Judge to determine.

And almost without fail, each year I have at least one case that exists solely because some unscrupulous non-custodial parent takes advantage of this schedule. You know, engages in chicanery.

It's almost identical every time. Non-custodial parent is coming to the close of their summer visitation. Child is to return to the custodial parent the week before school starts back so that child can get back into their regular school year routine. A day or two before the return date, non-custodial parent runs to their local courthouse and obtains an Ex Parte Emergency Order for custody of the minor child. Rather than receiving their child, the custodial parent gets served with a Court Order stripping them of ALL contact with their minor child and schedules them for a hearing at least a few weeks, if not a month later.

The strategy for the non-custodial parent is simple: by the time the temporary hearing occurs, the child will have been at the new school for two to three weeks or longer and the non-custodial parent hopes the Judge will hesitate to up root the child again. It is short minded strategy that rarely yields long term success. Inevitably, in an effort to persuade the Judge at the ex parte, the trickster will oversell his or her lies to the Judge, overplaying their hand and setting themselves up for failure at the follow-up hearing.

The strategy for the custodial parent must be to come to court for the temporary hearing "loaded for bear," as the phrase goes, and be able to show the Judge that the non-custodial parent lied under oath at the ex parte hearing. Without fail, Judges universally despise being lied to, particularly when the purpose of the lie is to snatch away custody of a child.

The custodial parent MUST be able to unveil and reveal the non-custodial parent's lies and deceit and a bright, hot spotlight must be shown upon them. That is the one tried and true method of overcoming this Week of Chicanery. Get ready. Gear Up. And let's get to work.

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