Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tips for Divorcing Parents

Divorce is not easy on anyone, especially children. Every divorcing family is different, but here are a few general tips to deal with the stress of divorcing from your child’s parent:

Take the high road and stop fighting. The sooner you can stop fighting with your child’s parent the sooner you can focus on your child. Fighting in front of your child is not good for anyone.

Encourage your children to visit their parent, their grandparents, and their extended family. Just because you may not want to be around your child’s parent anymore does not mean your children don’t need them in their life. Remember to keep your child’s best interest in mind.

Never disparage a parent or other adult in front of the children. Adult conflicts are for adults only.

Do not use your child as messenger. If you have communication for the other parent communicate with them directly.

Do keep things as consistent as possible. Keeping your child’s schedule and daily routines in place will help them with other changes.

Do not let your child think the divorce is their fault. Children of divorcing parents will have their own stress, they do not need to additional stress of feeling they are at fault for your divorce.

Georgia recognizes the importance of focusing on the children. Under Georgia law, both parents of children under the age of 18 years old in a divorce are required to attend a parenting seminar. Uniform Superior Court Rule 24.8. The divorcing parent’s seminar “focuses on the developmental needs of children, with emphasis on fostering the child’s emotional health during periods of stress.”  Gwinnett Courts Parenting Seminar.

Information on the Walton County Parenting Class can be found here: Alcovy Circuit Parenting Class.

See our website at Bechtold-Law Child Custody for more information on child custody and divorce.

Contact our office at 770.466.2700 or to schedule your free initial consultation.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms: Your Constitutional Second Amendment Right

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."   U.S. Const. amend. II.

This Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is generally referred to simply as the “right to bear arms.” The United States Supreme Court recently addressed the Second Amendment and found that, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”  District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).  Our Second Amendment right is regulated by each specific state.

Georgia’s specific law is the "Georgia Firearms and Weapons Act." O.C.G.A. § 16-11-120. In Georgia, the Judge of the Probate Court in your county has the authority to issue a valid firearms permit to qualified applicants. This firearm permit “shall authorize that person to carry any pistol or revolver in any county of this state notwithstanding any change in that person´s county of residence or state of domicile.” O.C.G.A. § 16-11-129. Qualified applicants must: (1) Be a resident of Georgia; (2) Be a United States citizen, a valid resident alien, or a permanent resident; (3) Be at least twenty one years of age; (4) have a clear mental history (no hospitalization as an inpatient in any mental hospital or alcohol or drug treatment center within five years); and (5) Clear a criminal background check. O.C.G.A. § 16-11-129.

It is important to note that Georgia carry permits refer specifically to handguns and a permit is not required to carry a “long gun” as long as you meet the requirements listed above. A Georgia permit is also not required to carry a weapon on your property – such as inside your home, inside your vehicle, or inside your place of business. O.C.G.A. § 16-11-125. On June 4, 2010 Georgia Senate Bill 308 was passed and changed some of the preexisting Georgia laws regarding where an individual is allowed to carry a firearm. Currently, with a valid permit you can carry a handgun: in a restaurant, in a bar only if the owner of the bar grants permission, in your car in the parking lot of a place of worship, and in most public places such as parks and historic areas. Georgia Senate Bill 308.

Even with a valid firearms permit you cannot carry a handgun in Georgia government buildings, including school property. It is also always illegal to carry a handgun while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
People are often curious to discover that Georgia firearms law does not require you to register your firearm, but some weapons must be registered under federal laws such as, the National Firearm Act (NFA) of 1934, and Federal Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968.

Finally, Georgia firearms law has “reciprocity” allowing those with a valid Georgia firearm permit to carry in another state. “Georgia reciprocates in recognizing firearms licenses with the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.”

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Do I have to pay Child Support?

Parents often ask if they have to pay child support, and the simple answer is yes. Georgia, like all states, believes that child support is a parental obligation based on public policy. Child support belongs to the child not to the parents; therefore parents cannot negotiate away that obligation.

Child support is paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent “or other person to whom the custody of the child or children is awarded.” O.C.G.A. § 19-6-17. The amount of child support starts with the Georgia Child Support CommissionThis organization has “the purpose of studying and collecting information and data relating to awards of child support and to create and revise the child support obligation table.” Georgia Courts. The Georgia Child Support Commission publishes child support calculators to determine a presumptive child support amount. Georgia Child Support Commission Calculators. This presumptive amount can be deviated upon judicial approval.
It is important to have the child support calculator correctly completed to determine a child’s appropriate child support amount. If you have questions about determining your child’s support amount, call our office today for your free initial 30-minute consultation! 770.466.2700

Confrontation Clause: Your Constitutional Sixth Amendment Right

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him."  U.S. Const. amend. VI.

This section of the sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution is also known as the Confrontation Clause. The idea behind this amendment is that a defendant should have the opportunity to cross-examine and challenge the credibility of people making statements about him. In general, this right only applies when hearsay evidence is offered against a criminal defendant.

The Confrontation Clause is often confusing because there are many exclusions when it does not apply. In fact, the issue of exclusion was recently brought before the United States Supreme Court. In their Michigan v. Bryant decision, the Supreme Court held that the admission of a dying man's statements was not a violation of the Confrontation Clause. SupremeCourt Michigan v. Bryant.

The majority decision stated that the Confrontation Clause was not violated because the statements were not testimonial. However, in his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that this decision created another expansive exception to the clause.ABA journal 02/28/11.

Friday, September 2, 2011

What is Physical and Legal Child Custody?

Georgia family law revolves around the best interest of your child. The court determines both physical and legal custody of your child after divorce or separation with your child’s other parent. Georgia law provides that the courts are not to give preference to either mothers or fathers when determining physical and legal custody.

Physical custody is where the child resides and typically means that the other parent will have visitation rights. Physical custody can be joint or sole. Joint physical custody means that the child takes turns residing with each parent equally. Sole physical custody means that the child resides with just one parent (the custodial parent). In Georgia, it is not common to see joint physical custody.

Legal custody gives you the authority to make decisions concerning your child’s needs. These include decisions about religion, education, and non-emergency medical care. Legal custody, like physical custody, can be joint or sole. Parents with joint legal custody share this decision making authority, however only one parent has this authority with sole legal custody. Sole legal custody is only granted in instances when one parent is deemed unfit. It is more common for parents to have joint legal custody, meaning that the child’s parents will need to work together to make decisions.

If you are in the middle of trying to determine your child’s custody contact our office @ 770.466.2700 to discuss your options. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Outstanding traffic citation in the City of Loganville? Amnesty may be your answer.

Much like the program offered in Gwinnett County in March 2011 2/28/11, the City of Loganville’s traffic citation amnesty program begins August 1, 2011.

Amnesty will be granted for persons having unpaid citations including contempt of court fees and failure to appear warrants. AJC 7/15/11. This amnesty will allow citizens to clear their cases and, in some cases, even have their contempt of court fee waived. “Each case will be evaluated based on the offense and there will be some instances where some outstanding warrants will be cleared without an arrest.” WaltonTribune 7/19/11.

Judge Brad Brownlow from the City of Loganville stated that “This will be their last opportunity to clear their cases without facing arrests and possible jail time.” WaltonTribune 7/19/11. If you have an outstanding traffic citation from the City of Loganville and you would like to take advantage of its amnesty program, contact the City of Loganville Municipal Court at 770.466.8087.

Don't wait on this offer, amnesty ends at the end of August 2011.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Revisit Your Constitutional Fourth Amendment Right

Walton County Sheriff’s Office recently found a large amount of illegal drugs in a vehicle on highway 78.  “The deputy stated the tint was so dark there no way to determine if the driver was wearing a seat belt, leading to the belief visibility was less than 32 percent. The deputy turned around and initiated a traffic stop west of Cheek Road. “ Walton Tribune 6/19/2011. After the traffic stop, the Sheriff’s deputy reported a strong odor and that the driver was breathing heavily and shaking. The driver consented to a search of both his body and his vehicle, during which time the Sheriff’s deputy “reported a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the back of the vehicle. A search of the back of the vehicle revealed two suitcases secured by padlocks.” Walton Tribune 6/19/2011. The driver then refused consent for the deputy to search the suitcases. However, the deputy obtained legal authority to search the suitcases when the vehicle was later towed to the Sheriff’s office. When the suitcases were searched, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office found  “three large ‘bricks’ of suspected marijuana . . . 1-gallon Ziploc bag with suspected marijuana as well as another ‘brick’ of suspected marijuana.” Walton Tribune 6/19/2011.

This is a good time to revisit your Constitutional Fourth Amendment Right. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states, " The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. National Archives Const Amnd.
When a police officer asks if they can look around remember that our Constitution allows us to say NO. Refusing permission to search does not mean that you are guilty, that you are hiding something, or even that the search will not happen. If the police still want to search your things and you refuse, they are then required to obtain legal authority to conduct the search.

In this case, the deputy eventually obtained legal authority to search the suitcases through a search warrant. The details of the search warrant were not listed in the article; however, the search warrant may have been allowed because the vehicle was towed to the Sheriff’s office, therefore it would have been subject to a full search under one of the exceptions to the rule, or a search warrant may have been granted because the deputy presented enough reasonable suspicion to a judge. If neither of these issues were present, the driver’s attorney will likely move to have the evidence dismissed in any charges against him. This type of balance ensures that our Constitutional right “against unreasonable searches and seizures” is protected.

See Blog Posting  Can you say no to the police? Your Constitutional Fourth Amendment Right from February 23, 2011 for more information on your Constitutional Fourth Amendment Right.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why Do I Need To Hire An Attorney?

 “Attorney: a person who has been qualified by a state or federal court to provide legal services, including appearing in court. Each state has a bar examination which is a qualifying test to practice law.”

An attorney will help you understand your legal rights and help solve your legal problem.  Attorneys give strategic advice, research legal issues, draft legal documents, and advocate on your behalf. Hiring an attorney is a valuable investment. In fact, hiring an attorney at the start of your legal issue could save you a lot of money by preventing future legal complications. Putting your legal problem in the hands of a trained legal professional will also help alleviate some of your stress.

You should contact an attorney if:
  •  you have legal questions that are not answered by do-it-yourself materials
  • your legal matter is complex
  • you want a professional to review your legal documents
  • you need advice or coaching to handle a legal issue 
  • you were injured in an accident
  • you have a family dispute
  • you plan to start your own business 
  • you were arrested
Call our office at 770.466.2700 to schedule a free initial 30-minute consultation to learn how we can help you.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Police Blotter Explained

A police blotter is a written record of daily arrests in your area. Although you may be familiar with the blotter format, some of the terminology can be confusing. Georgia’s Criminal Code is defined in O.C.G.A. §§ 17-1-1 – 17-18-2.  A brief explanation of common charges is listed below:

·         Criminal Trespass : intentionally damaging the property of another in the amount of $500 or less; or entering the property of another for an unlawful purpose or without their authorization

·         Theft: taking property from another without their consent
o   by Taking: unlawfully taking the property of another
o   by Deception: obtaining the property of another by misleading
o   by Shoplifting: taking merchandise from a retail establishment
o   by Receiving: receiving another person’s property when you know it was obtained in a criminal matter

·         Robbery: intent to commit theft in the presence of another by use of force, intimidation, or sudden snatching

·         Possess Controlled Substance: having a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance

·         Disorderly Conduct: acting in a violent manner toward another person that leaves them in reasonable fear of their safety or their property; using fighting words; or using obscene and vulgar or profane language around a child under 14 years old

·         Arson: malicious burning of someone’s house

The Walton County Sheriff’s office also has an informational website with suspect surveillance videos. If you recognize any of the people in the videos the Sheriff’s Office asks that you send them information through their website.

If you or someone you know has either been harmed or charged with any of the crimes above, contact our office to see how we can assist you.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Can My Online Profile Be Used Against Me?

YES! It is important to monitor your online profile and activity in this modern age. More and more courts are allowing online activity to be discussed in court.  “There are strictly defined legal limits on what information can be lifted and what is in the private domain and can be obtained only through legal procedures like subpoenas, depositions and discovery.” NYT 5/13/11.

Many people do not set their privacy settings high which may make their online activity in the public domain and easily used against them in court.  Even if your settings are limited, it is important to re-evaluate your settings from time to time.  Maybe one of your 300 facebook friends is also facebook friends with your future ex-spouse and they post a picture of you doing something you would rather keep private and not discussed in open court.  In fact, “sixty-six percent of the attorneys surveyed by the AAML [American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers] called Facebook the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence, followed by MySpace (15 percent) and Twitter (5 percent).” AJC 2/11/10

If you are going through a divorce or child custody issue and have questions about your online profile and security, contact our office at for professional legal advice.