Friday, December 28, 2012

Get to Know Your Alcovy Circuit Superior Court Judges

People often ask “who will hear my case?” In Georgia, the answer depends on where you and/or the defendant lives and what your case is about, however many cases are heard by the Superior Court.

There are 10 Judicial Districts in Georgia which includes 49 Superior Court Judicial Circuits. Every county in Georgia has its own Superior Court, but it may be attached to another Judicial Circuit. For example, the Gwinnett Superior Court Circuit just includes Gwinnett County while the Alcovy Superior Court Circuit includes both Newton and Walton Counties. Your Superior Court is based on the County you live in.

The Superior Court has general jurisdiction, which means the Superior Court can rule on any criminal or civil action which is not already designated to be heard by another Court, such as traffic, misdemeanors, bankruptcy, immigration, or probate. Georgia Superior Courts hear a large variety of cases including felonies, contracts, real estate, civil disputes, child custody, and divorce.

Recently, the Alcovy Circuit Court posted a Press Release announcing that, “ The judges of the Superior Courts of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit (Newton County and Walton County) were sworn in for their new four-year terms on December 21, 2012.”

The Judges for this Court include (from left to right in photo below): Judge Horace J. Johnson, Jr.; Judge William Kendall Wynne, Jr.; Judge Eugene M. Benton; Judge William M. Ray, II; Judge Samuel D. Ozburn; and Judge John M. Ott.

Information on each Judge can be found in the Press Release and on the Court website:

Christine M Bechtold, Esq. practices in the Alcovy and Gwinnett Judicial Circuits. Call or email today for your free initial consultation 770.466.2700

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sesame Street: D is for Divorce

By Chris Dyches
Dec 12, 2012 5:15 p.m.

Things are changing on Sesame Street and the writers behind the major children's series are tackling yet another tough subject... divorce.

In an new web series, the Muppet show, which is in its 44th season, will publicly talk about divorced families.

"Sesame Street has never shied away from taking on tough topics. If it's a challenge young children face in their lives, it's a challenge Sesame Street would like to help them weather," a blog posted on the Sesame Street website said.

"Over the years we have tackled everything from the death of a loved one to helping children through challenging economic times. And now Sesame Workshop is providing tools and resources to help children and parents stay resilient during divorce and separation."

Millions of young children experience divorce, and they struggle to understand what exactly is happening. Parents also struggle to explain these changes, if they are able to open up to their children about the subject at all.

"That's why Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce provides resources featuring our beloved Sesame Street Muppets that give divorced parents strategies on how to communicate with and support their children," the blog stated.

The segment itself won't air on TV - it's among Sesame Street's "targeted" programming aimed at specific populations - but it will tackle divorce directly, in a way producers hope is accessible, understandable and, well, not quite so scary.

Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro wrote the script for the video materials starring Abby Cadabby, Elmo and Rosita, and spoke about the difficulties of writing stories about such a sensitive topic.

"We never want to go too into detail with any of these," Ferraro said, "because every kid's situation is different. Every divorce is different and every family's situation is different. We want to keep it a little bit ambiguous so it's applicable to all children, but it's also Abby's story. Abby is talking about the fact that her parents are divorced. She's already at a place where she has accepted it, and that made a big difference emotionally."

"This [house] is where I live with my mommy," Abby proclaims confidently, holding up her crayon drawing in the web episode, "and this one is where I live with my daddy."

The reason? Well, you know the reason.

"Divorce means that Abby's mommy and daddy aren't married anymore," longtime Sesame Street adult Gordon explains.

"The general messages that come across," she added, "are you are not alone, we are here for you. You can talk to people about this. It's good to talk. There are many different emotions you may go through. That's OK."

Although Abby Cabaddy's parents are divorced in the story, Ferraro spoke to how important it was that Elmo, Rosita and Gordon, played by Roscoe Orman, appear in the story as well.

"We wanted there to be an adult, and that's why Gordon is in it," she said. "We wanted to show an example of a kid talking to an adult about this. Roscoe just did an incredible, wonderful job. We wanted to show there are many people in your life who can support you."

"The general messages that come across," she added, "are you are not alone, we are here for you. You can talk to people about this. It's good to talk. There are many different emotions you may go through. That's OK."

But this isn't the first time that Sesame Street, and Gordon, have attempted to tackle the subject.

In early 1992, a census report predicted that 40 percent of children would soon live in divorced homes.

Writers came up with a script and cast Snuffy, a.k.a. Mr. Snuffleupagus, for the part of child divorcee.

"With a team of its best writers, researchers, and producers, a segment was scripted and shot, a Tumblr storyboard posted on PBS' website stated. "It went through a half-dozen revisions, with input from the foremost researchers in the field. And on a typical sunny afternoon on Sesame Street, the furry, red, elephantine muppet known as Snuffy prepared to drop the bomb on his loyal preschool viewers."

"My dad is moving out of our cave," he confides to Big Bird one afternoon, distraught after knocking over a house built of blocks. "I'm not sure where," he continues, crying. "Some cave across town."

Big Bird, naturally, is horrified. "But why?" he asks his friend.

Snuffy blinks his long, dark eyelashes, and pauses. We know what's coming. Well, he explains, "because of something called a divorce."

That is where Gordon explains why divorces happen.

"Viewers learn that sometimes divorce can be 'for the best,' the Tumblr storyboard said.

"We are assured that Snuffy and his sister Alice will always be loved. And yet when Sesame Street tested the segment on preschoolers, just weeks before it was scheduled to air, it was nothing short of a disaster. The children didn't know where Snuffy was going to live. They didn't think his parents loved him. Some worried their own parents might get a divorce. They cried."

"It was really the first time we'd produced something, put all this money into it, tested it, and it just didn't work," says Susan Scheiner, a longtime Sesame researcher, who worked on the segment. "We thought we had it. We thought this was really revolutionary, and then it was just bad."

Sesame Street killed the show, and for the two decades since, producers have avoided the D-word on air - until now.

Copyright 2012 WBTV. All rights reserved.

Toys for Tots collects for annual drive

Inside a non-descript 57,000-square-foot warehouse located on Best Friend Road, a handful of volunteers empty vans and trucks filled with new, unwrapped toys.

It must mean that Toys for Tots is hard at work and this year, the greatest needs are gifts for boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 12 years old.

"We always need gifts for this age," media coordinator Cherrie Carney said. "I think we always have a problem because it's a weird age to shop for."

Friday morning's small group of workers built bikes, emptied trash bags and moved pallets -- for free.

"Everything we have is donated. Nobody gets paid," Carney said. "Everything is volunteer work. I think 95 percent of the monetary funds raised went back to buying toys last year."

The volunteers -- both in the warehouse and on the board -- work from October to January collecting, sorting and distributing toys for the boys and girls of metro Atlanta for no reason other than for smiles on Christmas Day.

Companies and individuals donate food and water for the workers. The actual warehouse space is donated year to year, although for the past four years, it has been located somewhere in Gwinnett County.

"This space was donated by a company named Prolodges, but every year we have to find space," Carney said. "If anyone has warehouse space in Gwinnett County that they're willing to donate for us to store our stuff until next season, that would be great. We have to be out of here by Jan. 15."

From the Norcross location, Toys for Tots supports 17 metro counties. Last year, the organization collected and distributed 723,000 toys, which helped 360,000 kids.

As of last Wednesday, it distributed 154,000 toys for the year.

"I know that the next two weeks are going to be the heaviest loads," Carney said. "I would say prior to this week ... there were a lot of empty bins. It's slow starting. Our goal would be to meet last year's numbers or exceed last year's numbers, but you don't have an indication at the end of the season if that happened."

And the group tries to use everything given to them.

"We received hundreds of popcorn containers that are going to be used to hold stocking stuffers," Warehouse Manager Maria Teague said while looking at the seven bins full of the containers. "We also received a ton of puzzles. We're holding on to most of them because I would hate for an agency to have all of the same things (given to them)."

When donations are brought to the warehouse, volunteers unpack the boxes, then sort the toys by age and sex. Some toys aren't up to Toys for Tots' standards in quality, so the damaged goods are either repaired and given to agencies or donated to the Salvation Army.

"Sometimes all they need is a piece of tape, and it's good as new," Teague said.

With the holidays around the corner, the nonprofit is feeling the crunch.

"The need is great everywhere (in the metro)," Carney said. "Last year, we distributed a lot of toys, but there was still demand we couldn't meet. ... We can only supply one gift and a stocking stuffer per child, but at least it's something for them."

Want to help? Today, there is a Great Toy Drop in Norcross. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Publix at the intersection of Holcomb Bridge Road and Peachtree Industrial is collecting toys. Some of the special guests during the event include U.S. Marines, former Atlanta Braves player Ron Gant, the Gwinnett Gladiators' mascot Maximus the Lion and Falcons cheerleaders.

If you can't make this event, there are more than 140 drop boxes located in metro Atlanta. Many of them can be found at a local Publix store.

Toys for Tots takes toys appropriate for ages infant to 12 years old.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How do I fill out the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit?

The purpose of the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit is to summarize your individual current income, assets, and expenses. It is used to ensure full financial disclosure and is also used to determine any child support obligation. This is a standard form used by the Court.

You can either type the information or hand-write it in.

The person completing the form is the “affiant” and the form should reflect your individual current financial situation.

This Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit will be made under oath; you are swearing to tell the truth based on the information contained in the Affidavit. After you complete the form, do not sign it until you are with a notary.

Try not to leave blank spaces on the form, if something is not applicable enter “n/a” or “$0.00.”

The figures should be good-faith numbers on your current finances. Use averages whenever possible, but if you are unsure, put in estimates and note that it is an estimate. You will not be required to produce individual bills for every item, however, be sure you can justify the amount you enter. Note that the majority of the form asks for average monthly amounts.

Section 1  
This section asks for basic information. The person completing the form is the “affiant.”

Section 2 is a summary of the rest of the document, fill out this section last; it is on the first page as a summary for the Court. Skip this section until you form is fully completed.

This section is your current income. Fill-in dollar amounts on all areas where you receive income.  Then total all sources of income to show your total gross monthly income. Be sure to attach two of your most recent wage statements if you receive regular salary or wages.

Section 3 B- Affiant’s Net Monthly Income from Employment
Use your most current pay stub to calculate the state taxes, federal taxes, and FICA which are deducted. Enter in your Net Monthly income deducting these taxes only. You may have additional deductions taken from your pay, so make sure that the net monthly income figure you provide does not include other deductions such as: health, life, or disability insurance, parking, or retirement contributions.

Enter how often you are paid, but remember that the figures above are all based on monthly amounts.

Enter in the number of tax exemptions you claim.

Section 4 – ASSETS
This section asks for your specific assets. Next to the description, list the approximate value using your best estimate.

You do not need to enter your entire bank account number, but rather, list the bank name and the last few numbers of your account.

Under “Real Estate” and “Automobiles/Vehicles” once you enter in the full value of the asset, enter in the “debt owed” directly underneath.

If you claim or agree that the entire value is a non-marital asset, then entire the entire amount under the column “Separate asset of the Husband” or “Separate Asset of the Wife.” If you clam or agree that the value should be split, then enter the amount to each party in the appropriate column.

In the final column enter in the “basis of the claim.” For most uncontested divorces which already have an agreement, then the basis of the claim is agreement. Other appropriate claims for a separate asset include: pre-marital, gift, inheritance, or source of funds.

Once you complete this section summarize all the amounts and enter in “Total Assets.”

This section walks you through all of the major Household, Automobile, Other Vehicles, Children, and Other Expenses. Keep in mind that this section asks for monthly expenses, do your best to ensure that you average out your expenses for this section.

These expenses are the bills you currently pay at your current residence, not shared bills. You should assume that that your spouse does not live with you and you should not include their expenses in this section.

The section marked “CHILDREN’S EXPENSES” applies to all children under eighteen (18) years of age living with you.
The section marked “OTHER INSURANCE” has two lines for each type of insurance. Directly next to the first line, for example “Health,” list your expense for healthcare, and on the second line “Child(ren)’s portion” enter in just the amount you pay for your child’s health insurance. This line should be the amount paid to cover the children’s portion only. You may need to contact your Human Resources Department or check your benefits to see what portion of your insurance fee is for your insurance and what amount is for your child’s coverage. Enter in those separate amounts in this section.  

Once you complete this section total all the amounts and enter in “TOTAL ABOVE EXPENSES.”

This section asks for all other expenses not listed above. This may include student loans, car payments, monthly credit card payments, and other money you owe. Enter in the Creditor’s name, the full balance due, the monthly payment (even if you are not paying the full monthly amount owed), and check the box next to who is responsible for this payment.

Once you complete this section total all the monthly payment amounts and enter in “TOTAL MONTHLY PAYMENTS TO CREDITORS.”

Add the total monthly expenses above in 5A “TOTAL ABOVE EXPENSES” to 5B “TOTAL MONTHLY PAYMENTS TO CREDITORS” and enter in the line for “TOTAL MONTHLY EXPENSES.”

Once sections 3-5 are completed, go back to page one and complete section 2 with the summaries from the rest of the document. Be sure each line is completed.

Remember to have your final completed form signed in-front of a notary.

This form can be cumbersome and frustrating, so be sure to take your time and ask questions along the way. Contact the office today at 770.466.2700 or with any questions you have about the form.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy Constitution Day!

Today, September 17, 2012 is Constitution Day! What does that mean?

Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine brave men on September 17, 1787, recognizing all who, are born in the U.S.
or by naturalization, have become citizens.” After much debate, the Constitutional Convention signed the actual document on this day in 1787. “Among the chief points at issue were how much power to allow the central government, how many representatives in Congress to allow each state, and how these representatives should be elected--directly by the people or by the state legislators.”

The framers of The Constitution drafted the document to allow for its amendment. U. S Constitution, Article V, Section 1. Many are familiar with the first ten Amendments, which are commonly referred to as the Bill of Rights, but now there are twenty seven Amendments to the Constitution.

Also, the Constitution does not give citizens rights and liberties, but rather guarantees them.

The Constitution of the United States is imperative to all citizens because it is the supreme law of the land.  U. S Constitution, Article VI, cl. 2. The full transcript of The Constitution of the United States can be found here:

Happy Constitution Day.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Contested or Uncontested Divorce?

I recently received the following email from a concerned grandfather who, like many, paid for a complicated divorce when it may not have been necessary:

“The case began when my daughter and grand kids arrived at my home leaving her husband in another state. They had no assets and the reason left no option but divorce. He was a stay at home dad and pleaded ‘no money’ to help with legal or other expenses but agreed the divorce was necessary. He soon moved to Atlanta with the help of his parents. My daughter quickly started a new job.

I contacted Christine but was referred to a high profile attorney and paid the firm $5,000 to begin the process then stepped aside and let all bills be mailed to my daughter who had moved to her new residence.  I gave them no specifications or budget. Soon I was hearing about interviews and negotiations. I learned he had to sign an agreement or go to court. So in my mind, they were preparing a divorce to his specifications. My daughter delivered the bills to me for an additional $6000 and no agreement was signed or written.

I called to pay the bill set a budget for completion. I told them my daughter needed a minimum divorce nothing else.

The agreement was prepared but the husband found some items that exceeded the minimum and red lined the agreement. The revised agreement cost an additional $900. He signed and it was almost over except for the expense of delivering this to the judge.”

When parties agree to the division of all assets and debts, as well child custody and visitation, an uncontested divorce may be the answer. This grandfather funded a contested divorce when an uncontested divorce may have been the answer. The Law Office of Christine M Bechtold offers flat fee rates for uncontested divorce for parties as an alternative to the high expenses this grandfather faced. Additionally, if your divorce is contested, I will not bill against your retainer unless you are fully aware of the fees. Contact the office today at 770.466.2700 or to schedule your free initial consultation.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Liquor sales in Loganville?

You decide!

On April 15, 2011, this blog discussed changes to local Loganville alcohol sales. Bechtold Law Blog 4/15/11. Then, Loganville voted to allow Sunday alcohol sales, and in November of 2011 it was reported that, "residents will be able to pick up a six-pack of beers while shopping in grocery stores."  Loganville Patch 11/10/11.

Loganville residence may soon vote on another change in the liquor law, specifically to allow a local liquor store."Dempsey, representing interested parties with the Loganville Citizens for Choice campaign, is pushing to place a referendum on the November ballot, which would allow the licensing and opening of a liquor store in the city limits of Loganville." Walton Tribune 7/08/12.

The option is not yet on the ballot, but Loganville residences may soon vote again on liquor sales in Loganville.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Independence Day

Independence Day, is one of the most important federal holidays in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Many people remember the popular quote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Declaration of Independence

However, later in the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson spells out in detail why the Declaration is necessary: 
  •  "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." Declaration of Independence
  • "A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people." Declaration of Independence

Our Founding Fathers undoubtedly knew the gravity of the Declaration. In a letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776, John Adams stated, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society.

Keeping Mr. Adam’s vision alive, The Loganville American Legion #233 will host a July 4th Parade on Wednesday, July 4th  at 9:50am down Main Street in the City of Loganville!

"Both the Newton County Judicial Center and Walton County Government Building will be closed on Wednesday, July 4, 2012, for Independence Day and will reopen on Thursday, July 5, 2012."

The Law Office of Christine M Bechtold, LLC will also be closed on Wednesday, July 4th in honor of this wonderful holiday, so be sure to call or email the office prior to the 4th to set-up your free initial consultation. 770.466.2700