by Georgia Lord
Georgia Lord Law
Two Fulton Superior Family judicial officers, Judges Margaret Dorsey and Gary Alembik, shared their insights with those attending the March 3, breakfast meeting of the DeKalb Bar Association Family Law Section. The judges noted that the Family Division strictly applies its rule that counsel seeking to opt out of a status conference must file a joint compliance certificate at least five business days before the scheduled date of the conference. If they fail to file the certificate in time, counsel will not be released from attending the status conference.
Judge Dorsey noted that the new Fulton e-filing system is going more smoothly than many had anticipated. She said that pro se litigants find it manageable, and she finds it workable. One lingering problem arises from a failure to enter the service information for the opposing party, as it can mean that parties do not receive timely notice of status conferences. Both judges reminded everyone that it is essential that all counsel and parties register with the system and add themselves as service contacts for each of their cases. At present, the clerk’s office staffs a satellite office on the fifth floor of the courthouse. This makes it easy to register and file when you are in the courthouse – as long as you remember that the office closes at 4:30!
A recent task force study of Fulton Superior’s Family Division made a number of recommendations, including a strong call for better case management.”
Judge Alembik described the recent task force study of Fulton Superior’s Family Division. The task force made a number of recommendations, including a strong call for better case management. Under the task force plan, case scheduling will become multi-tracked, with each case assigned to one of several timelines deemed best suited to the needs of the case. Deadlines in scheduling orders will be more stringently enforced, and extensions of time will not be granted as freely as they have been in the past. Some other changes recommended by the task force have not yet been implemented.
Both judges made specific suggestions regarding the submission of proposed orders: e.g., submit proposed orders in Word or WordPerfect, so that the court can make changes in the text; and, when submitting something via email, send a hard copy of the submission to chambers as well, so that chambers staff will be aware that a decision is needed. When filing a motion for judgment on the pleadings, remember that you must submit a supporting affidavit with the motion. At least for now, Judge Russell declines to accept motions for judgment on the pleadings in divorce cases with minor children. Judge Alembik explained that he is happy to receive emails from the counsel in the cases before him, but they should not expect him to file the motions for them: just the order. He asks submitting counsel to explain the status of the case in the email, and noted that he prefers attorneys to incorporate all the settlement provisions into one document (property division, child support, and parenting plan).
The judges explained that each judicial officer is now assigned to one particular Superior Court judge. Due to budgetary constraints, there will be one week a month in which no judicial officer is scheduled. They discussed the division’s rule 1000-4, and its impact on their ability to adjudicate certain issues.
Section Chair Kyla Lines led the meeting. The section’s sponsor spotlight featured Beth Garrett, a partner in the divorce litigation support practice at Frazier & Deeter. Beth primarily assists divorcing individuals (and their lawyers) with the division of financial and real estate assets. Beth reminded attendees that Frazier & Deeter can also provide valuable assistance in actions seeking modification of child support. They have sometimes been able to uncover sufficient unreported income to make a significant difference in the amount of support awarded.