Chandler, Britt & Jay, LLC.


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Always Be the Bigger Person

First of all, right off the bat, I have to clear something up.  Being the bigger person does not mean letting someone bully you or walk all over you.  Being the bigger person means always doing the right thing, even if someone else is being childish.  Being the bigger person means keeping your eyes on the true goal and not getting distracted by the other person’s pettiness and bad behavior.

A long time ago, I was angry at something my ex did.  What he did is not important.  I was angry, and my anger was ruining my time with my friend.  My friend asked if my ex was acting the way he had always acted.  When I said that he was, my friend said that my ex wasn’t the one that had a problem.  I had a problem.  I still expected my ex to change his behavior, even though this is the way he has always acted.  I had to learn to change the way I reacted when my ex did something.

When you continue to allow your ex’s behavior to influence your behavior, they are controlling you.  You will continue to let their behavior influence your day.  You are no longer in a relationship with that person for a reason.  Stop letting their behavior and reactions control your day.

Don’t let their behavior control yours.  You can’t control how the other person acts, you can only control how you react to their behavior. Make the decision to act appropriately, regardless of how they act or react.  This is what I mean when I say, “Be the bigger person.”

The goal in a family law case is not to beat your ex or soon-to-be ex.  The goal in a family law case is to build the best future for you and your family.  Keep your eyes on that prize.  During your case, continue to “be the bigger person” and do what is right so the judge likes you best.  Freely give your attorney all the evidence and documentation they need to best represent you, so they are prepared. Disclose everything to the court that you are required to do, regardless of whether your ex or soon-to-be ex has.  Why?  By being the bigger person and complying with the rules of the court or the laws of your State,  the judge is more likely to believe your testimony and is more likely to do what you are asking for.  Having the judge do what you are asking for is winning your case, this is your goal, not ‘beating’ your ex or stooping down to their level.  Be the bigger person.

Why Do I Have to File a Financial Affidavit

You must file a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (DRFA) in every family law case involving money before you can have a hearing on the issues in your case. This means if you are involved in a case involving divorce, child support, alimony, contempt of court order payments, or a request for attorney’s fees, you are going to have to sit down, look at your budget, and fill out a DRFA.So, what is a DRFA?  A Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (or DRFA), is supposed to be an accurate description of your income and expenses. Click here to see what a DRFA looks like. It is not supposed to be a representation of what you should pay, and you shouldn’t manipulate your expenses so that it looks like you have a lot of expenses, less income, or a lot of disposable income.  There isn’t any goal with the financial affidavit other than to be as accurate as possible.

A DRFA is one of the most important forms you will fill out because a judge will use the figures you list on the DRFA form to decide all of the financial questions in your case. It is important that the figures in the DRFA are accurate so that the judge can understand your individual financial situation in determining issues such as child support, property division, alimony, and who is to pay attorney’s fees. Remember, the DRFA is an affidavit; it is signed under oath, and the opposing attorney can cross-examine you on what you write in the DRFA. If you don’t fill it out accurately, you can look like you are hiding something when you are confronted about it on cross-examination, which never goes over well with the judge. So, make sure you are honest!

If you have questions on how to complete a DRFA, call us and ask. We are happy to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

Tools of the Trade: How Calendars Can Help You Win Your Family Law Case

My calendar is my lifeline. I don’t know where I would be without the calendar on my phone. It helps me keep up with client deadlines, trials and hearings, family events, beauty appointments, and life appointments. It is synced to my computer, my tablet, and my Alexa so that I can stay on top of my calendar wherever I am.

Calendars can also be your lifeline during and after your family law case. Whether you like technology or prefer paper, a calendar is an extremely effective tool to explain your situation to the judge and to help your attorney reach your desired result. A calendar can also help you after your case is final and may be the key to winning any future case if your ex refuses to follow the court orders.

While it doesn’t matter if you prefer technology or paper, these tips work best with a “month at a glance” calendar. A monthly calendar keeps you focused on the big picture, keeps your notes short, ensures you write down only the important details and can help show the judge either a pattern of behavior or a timeline of events. You can find a great paper on Amazon here. Or here, if you are a dog lover like me (the dog calendar is a 5-year calendar! If you are not a dog person, you can find other multi-year calendars on Amazon).

If you like technology, you can use your phone calendar, Outlook calendar, Google calendar, or any other free monthly online calendar. If you want something specifically for co-parenting (especially if you and your ex have difficulty co-parenting), you may want to pay for the calendars and app designed specifically for co-parenting. Our Family Wizard is well-vetted and used frequently in the Metro Atlanta courts. Also check out CustodyXChange, AppClose: Co-Parenting App, and Co-Parently; each has a free version and a subscription version so you can try them out before you subscribe.

No matter which calendar you choose, you MUST make sure that you can easily print off or save a monthly view of your appointments/notes on your online calendar before you start the calendar or it won’t be as effective (screenshots are fine as long as you can get them to your attorney, who will then show them to the judge.)

Here are ways you can help your attorney win your family law case using a calendar before, during, and after your case:

Calendar the events in your case as they occur.

This is number 1 on the list because this is the most important way a calendar can help your attorney win your family law case. Your ex is not paying child support? Use a calendar to track payments due and payments paid (color code payments due in Red and payments paid in Green). Your children are making statements about your ex that are concerning you? Write down what your children said in your calendar. Your ex is not following the parenting plan? Put a short note on your calendar detailing what happened on the date that it happened.

Why does this tip get the number 1 spot? Because you are creating credible evidence that can be used by your attorney at trial.  It also forces you to be precise about the issues in your case because there is just not a lot of room to write or type out what happened. Many clients think that if they journal something and write down every detail of a problem with their ex, it will help win their case; however, it often hurts their case because the judge (and your attorney) doesn’t have time to weed through the details of your stream of consciousness journaling to get to the issue. You want to be short and sweet with the judge and get to the point of what happened; a calendar helps you do that. Don’t stop journaling. You can always testify about the specific details of what happened if an explanation is needed, and your journal will help you with the specific details.

Calendar your Parenting Plan.

At the end of your case, the Judge will enter a Parenting Plan Order setting out the schedule of parenting time between you and your ex. Do not procrastinate; when you get your Order, mark your and your ex’s parenting time for the next year on a month-at-a-glance calendar. This works especially well if you are a visual person. Try using color coding (for example, red for your parenting time and blue for your ex’s parenting time). Calendaring your Parenting Plan Order is extremely helpful when you are trying to schedule vacations, camps, daycare, and extracurricular activities. This technique can also help young children understand their new routine after separation or with a new court order. In fact, here’s a calendar that is made especially for children who are having a hard time adjusting to their new schedule: Mighty and Bright Custody Calendar for Kids.

By the way, calendaring your Parenting Plan also serves a second purpose should problems arise with your ex. You can use that same calendar to write down any problems that arise so that you can use your calendar to prove your case later if needed (see the number 1 way calendars can help you win your family law case above).

Use calendars to Co-Parent.

Children’s schedules are crazy – especially as they get older. If you and your ex are amicable and technologically savvy, you can use online calendars to share parenting time schedules to make sure everyone knows the children’s scheduled activities and appointments. Or, you can keep it simple and create events for all of your children’s doctor’s appointments, school responsibilities, and extracurricular activities on your online calendar and “invite” your ex via email to the event. This method may also be helpful for co-parents that are technologically savvy but not amicable since by sending regular “invites”, both parents know the children’s schedules without having to talk via text or email regularly – keeping arguments, attitudes, and egos out of the equation.

Calendar your case deadlines, appointments, and court dates.

Your family law case will likely feel like a part-time job. You will need to produce documents and information by certain deadlines to help your attorney. You will have to miss actual work to attend hearings, mediation, depositions, and the trial. You will have to meet with your attorney regularly, either by email, phone or in person. It is important to stay organized and write all of your case obligations and deadlines in a calendar. That way, you can be sure to be where you need to be, when you need to be there, and with the information and documents you need to make sure your attorney has everything they need to win your family law case.

What Do I Do Now That I Have Decided to File For Divorce?

Deciding that you want to divorce your spouse is a big step and one that involves a lot of soul-searching and heartache. Now that you’ve made that decision, one that has undoubtedly taken all of your mental processing for some time, what do you do?  How do you move forward?

A lot of people close to you will give you practical advice about the divorce process when they learn you are getting divorced, such as information-gathering strategies and schedules for your children.  This is not what you need to do first.

The first thing you need to work on letting the past go. Your decision to divorce your spouse took a lot of weighing your past against your future.  You’ve spent a lot of time reviewing the past: your past actions and your spouse’s past actions. However, in making the decision to divorce, you’ve decided that you want a new future.  A significant number of people get stuck in the past and let the past color their decisions as they try to shape their future through the divorce process. The most important first step you must take after you decide to divorce is letting the past go in order to build the better future you want.

When people get stuck carrying their past around, they focus on the things their spouse did wrong in the past: how they never spent time with the children before, how they never wanted to go to the children’s medical appointments before or be involved with the school.  They look at how they never wanted to save for retirement or go on vacations.  However, just because they were never interested in those activities before, doesn’t mean that they can’t be interested in those activities now. Once you decide you want to divorce, you have to let go of the past behavior of your spouse during the marriage. You’ve decided you want a new future.

The key is to not think about the past but think about your future and how you want your spouse to be with your children in the future.  Would you like your soon-to-be ex-spouse to help your children with their homework and projects? Would you like your soon-to-be ex-spouse to be active with your children’s extra-curricular activities?  Then, you have to let the past go and give your soon-to-be ex-spouse the time and the opportunity to develop the relationship you would like them to have with the children. Letting go in this way also gives you the chance to have friends again and have a life outside of your children.  (Obviously, this advice does NOT apply to situations of abuse or neglect. In those situations, you should protect your children above all else, as past behavior predicts future behavior in these grave instances). The time to focus on your future and your children’s future is now.  Give them the gift of having two involved parents, assuming your soon-to-be ex-spouse wants to take on that role.  Give yourself the gift of time alone, discovering (or rediscovering) hobbies you love, and spending time with your friends.

Keep your eyes on the future you want and make decisions in your divorce based on your best future, not the mistakes or shortcomings of your past.  When you search for an attorney to represent you, pick one that has the same goals in mind for you and can help you meet those goals.  When you’re ready to take that step, give our firm a call.

Everyone Needs A Therapist

If you are reading my post, chances are someone you previously trusted enough to create a life with has done something significant enough that you are ending that relationship, or they have decided to end your relationship with them.  You are dealing with the death of a relationship: a marriage, a committed relationship with a significant other, a co-parenting relationship.  You need to find a therapist you like and see them regularly.  This is just as important as finding a good, experienced attorney that you trust.  Your attorney is your guide through the legal system.  Your therapist is there to help you move on from the death of this relationship.  As I have said many times before, your family law attorney is there to help you create the best future for yourself possible.  You can’t have your best future if you haven’t healed from your past and don’t know what you want out of your future.

The biggest reason that people come back to me after their initial proceeding (divorce, legitimation, paternity case, etc.) is because one party never moved on from that case.  One or both parties are still hanging on to anger and hurt feelings from things that happened before or during that first case.  Since they can’t move on, it colors all their interactions with the other party, and the parties make bad decisions that impact their children or their prior spouse/ partner, and those bad decisions cause further legal battles.

Making the decision to go to therapy is not an admission that you are the one who did something wrong or that something is wrong with you.  Making the decision to go to therapy is an admission that you need someone to talk to that can help you navigate through the emotional issues you are having.  Even when you have resolved your emotional issues, if the other person has not, it can be very difficult to know how to communicate with them.  Maybe the other person in your family law case has serious mental health issues.  Therapists can help identify the other person’s issues and teach you skills to cope with and effectively communicate with the other person.  Once you have worked through these issues, it is easier to focus on the logical resolutions to the dispute.  This is the area your attorney should excel in.

In family law litigation, it is important to be the bigger person, as this makes the best impression on the judge and other court personnel involved in your case. Many decisions are left to the judge’s “discretion;” this is a legal term that means that there isn’t a strict rule for how the judge should make a decision, and the judge has to use their best judgment to make a decision based on the evidence and conduct of the parties.  When you have consistently been the bigger person, you have a distinct advantage over the other party in your case. In order for this to be possible, you have to have resolved your emotional trauma.  Go find a therapist you like. A therapist is cheaper and more qualified than your attorney to help you deal with the emotional trauma of family law litigation.

How to Prevent a Family Law Emergency

There is nothing quite like getting a phone call from a client at four o’clock on a Friday, with a visitation issue that has to be dealt with before the weekend. I know that my clients have tried to work this issue out with the other parent before calling me, but in almost every situation, if the parties had started talking about the issue earlier in the week, it would not have turned into a four o’clock problem. You know that saying about the five P’s — Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

If you are co-parenting a child or children, start a process where you email the other parent regularly.
1. Send an email setting out the children’s upcoming events, and what you believe the parenting schedule for the week should be. If there is an upcoming holiday, start the conversation about that holiday’s parenting time early. You can also include concerns you have about the child and copies of receipts that you need to be reimbursed for in the same email.
2. If you receive one of these emails, take time to really think through the issues and questions asked. Don’t fire off an answer before you check your schedule, the Parenting Plan, or whatever necessary resource.
3. BE RESPECTFUL in your communication with the other parent. I know I need to do another post on this but be brief and business-like in your email. Use the same language and care with the email as you do when emailing your boss or your most important customer. And, most importantly, delay sending an email when you feel emotional or upset. Take a few hours (or a day, if needed) to revisit the email before sending it to make sure your communication is something you wouldn’t mind a judge reading.

You may also want to think about getting a shared calendar with the other parent or using the calendar options available to you already. I did some research on shared calendars recently, and the regular digital calendar you already use is probably your best resource Did you know you can send an invitation to another person for events you set on your calendar on your phone? When you set an appointment for your child on your calendar, check and see if you can send an invitation to the other parent to the event that way everyone has the same information at the same time.

In Gwinnett County, we have an Advanced Co-Parenting Course available to everyone. It is also something that parties in some cases get ordered to take. This course is a small group counseling session where you talk about your communication problems with the other parent, and the counselor advises you on how to make things better. The Advanced Co-Parenting Course recommends regular communication with the other parent in a calm and reasoned way. This class is a great resource for learning the best way to communicate with the other parent (even when they won’t communicate with you).

So, the simple answer really is to communicate respectfully and regularly with the other parent. Hopefully, it will prevent future problems.

Moving On: How to Communicate with a Difficult EX

If I had to guess, you and your Ex probably have a difficult time communicating. And these communication issues were a problem well before the end of your relationship. But now you’ve split up, and you still have to communicate with your Ex, at least until the youngest turns 18. This is hard and frustrating.

As an attorney, I have often had to communicate about serious issues and decisions with people that I don’t necessarily get along with or communicate well with. Over time, I have learned some invaluable tools for effectively communicating with people who are “difficult.” Use my tools to more effectively communicate with your Ex:

1. Communicate only in writing. If you are dealing with a “difficult” person, you need to start communicating only in writing. Even if you have a phone conversation or in-person talk, you need to follow up with an email or text memorializing the discussion to make sure everything is in writing. They will forget what they’ve agreed to do, and this way, you control the contract.

2. It’s business, baby. Treat communications with your Ex like you treat communications with your boss or your customers. Make sure you check your tone and leave emotions or emotional statements out of it. Instead of using accusatory statements such as “I can’t believe you would let our child watch a PG-13 movie,” use questions such as “[insert child’s name] came home and said he watched a PG-13 movie at your house. Can we discuss this?” If you need a guide for what is appropriate, before hitting send, imagine the judge reading your correspondence out loud, in front of whoever happens to be in the courtroom. If you would cringe if it was read out loud or if it makes you sound bad, revise your communication until it’s courtroom-ready.

3. Keep it short. You want to get your point across using as few words as possible. If your communication is paragraphs long, it is inappropriate (and the judge is not going to waste their time reading paragraphs of your correspondence without judging you). Long communications tend to have too much detail and emotion with a few facts sprinkled in. Try to make it a competition with yourself to write as little as possible, while still getting your point across.

4. Wait and edit. Because we live with technology that instantly delivers other people’s messages, we often feel that we need to immediately respond as soon as we receive communication. This is especially the case when we receive a communication that makes us emotional; we tend to fire back a response immediately, while we are still caught up in the emotion. Wait to send a response. Generally, a response within 48 hours is reasonable, unless the request is time sensitive. Use that 48 hours to draft your response, sleep on it, and edit the emotions (curse words, accusations, extra detail, and information) out of your response (review tips 2 and 3 for editing help). Put all of the stuff that you really

want to say in the initial draft to get it out of your system, then edit until it is as short as possible and professional.

5. Document using screenshots. When you go to court, you have to use evidence to prove your case. Your communications with your Ex are evidence to prove your case in court and are almost always admissible at a hearing in Georgia. You want to make sure to save relevant “problem” communications with your Ex in an organized fashion so that you can send them to your attorney if you need them for litigation. Screenshots of text or e-mail communications work well; however, you need to make sure that you haven’t saved your Ex under “Asshole” or “Baby Mama” because that probably won’t go over well with the judge. Document storage sites such as Dropbox and Google Drive can help you keep all screenshots safely organized so that you can instantly send them to your attorney if needed. Save all screenshots using dates to help your attorney create a timeline. You should make sure your name and contact information and your Ex’s name and contact information are clearly visible in the screenshot. It’s also important that the date and time are clearly visible in the screenshot, and there are no gaps in time or conversation in the screenshot conversations you capture.

Hopefully, these tips will help you co-parent more effectively with a “difficult” Ex. If you want tailored advice on how to communicate more effectively with your Ex, please schedule a consultation.

The Basics of Adult Adoption

An adult adoption is the legal process to create a parent – child relationship that you’ve always recognized, but that isn’t a biological relationship. What is the purpose of an adult adoption, since adults don’t need a legal parent? Well, some people want their last name to be the same as a parent figure in their life. Other people want to make sure that a child figure in their life can inherit from them when they are deceased. Have you always recognized your stepparent as your parent, and you want to make it official? No matter the reason you are looking into adult adoptions, engaging a family law attorney can help ensure the process is smooth, and you get the outcome you are looking for.

In Georgia, an adult (any individual over the age of 18) may be adopted by another adult. An important thing to know about adult adoptions is that both adults most consent to the adult adoption. If you would like to surprise someone that you want to adopt you, we can start the process for you, but the adult being adopted will have to know about it and consent to it in order for it to be “official.” The adult adopting the other adult will be the client and the “Plaintiff” in the action; the attorney cannot represent the adult being adopted, and the adult being adopted should seek outside advice from an attorney if unsure about the process.

The family law attorneys at Chandler, Britt & Jay, LLC, can help you and your loved one through the adult adoption process to make sure you reach your desired outcome smoothly and efficiently.

5 Things To Do Before You Say “I want a Divorce”

If you are thinking about divorcing your spouse, you might be anxiously preparing how and when you are going to tell your spouse “I want a Divorce.” Or you might not be prepared at all and one day just blow up during an argument, announcing “I want a Divorce” without any forethought or planning. Before you say the words “I want a Divorce,” make sure you check the following items off your to-do list so that you and your attorney are as prepared as possible for the divorce process. 

  1. Gather your documents. During your divorce, you must give your attorney all of your bank statements, tax statements, debt statements, real estate purchase statements, and other documents and evidence relevant to your case and financial circumstances. It is important for you to locate these documents and scan these documents to a secure, password-protected location (such as a Dropbox or Google Drive account) so that you can easily access them and send them to your attorney. Try to organize the documents in different folders for easy access and recall by you and your attorney. Organizing your documents and having them readily available to your attorney from the initial consultation will not only reduce your attorney’s fees, but it will also make it easier for your attorney to get you what you are asking for in the divorce.
  2. Change your passwords on your accounts and devices. You and your attorney will be communicating throughout the divorce process via email on your computer, tablet, or phone. You will have documents relevant to your divorce case on your devices as well. You want these communications and documents to remain secure from your spouse. The best way to do that is to change your passwords on your accounts and your devices. Pro tip –  set up a free google account, giving you a new email address and access to document sharing and storage through Google Drive, so that you can communicate with your attorney without fear of your spouse reading your confidential communications. 
  3. Video, photo, and secure your property. Many people are worried that once they move out of the house or leave their belongings with their spouse, those belongings will be thrown away or damaged by their spouse. The best way to ensure that your most important and sentimental belongings do not disappear during the divorce is to secure them in another location prior to announcing “I want a Divorce.” A court cannot give back your great grandma’s china that has been destroyed or thrown away (they can only give you money), so make sure you store sentimental items in a secure place to ensure you can enjoy them long after the divorce is over. I also advise my clients to video or photograph their personal items and residences so that they can prove the existence and condition of the items and residence should any damage occur or should items go missing. 
  4. Make a budget. During your divorce, you will have to make a budget listing your assets and debts and file it with the court so the court can easily assess your financial situation. It’s a great idea to get a head start by making yourself a budget and quick list of assets and debts before you say “I want a Divorce.” This will also give you a clear picture of what you will need to make during and after the divorce process to maintain your same standard of living. Here is a link to the financial form we have to file with the court in all divorces. It’s best to start out by filling out this form as completely as you can to figure out what your income/expenses/debt ratio looks like (and bonus – you will spend less on attorney’s fees because your attorney won’t have to start filling out this form from scratch). 
  5. Make an exit strategy. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that you may need an exit strategy after you announce “I want a Divorce”. Sometimes, a spouse will become violent when hearing those words. Other times, it is just plain uncomfortable to continue to live with your spouse while you are suing them in court for divorce. It is important for you to think of an exit strategy in case things go south. This may mean that you wait to speak to your spouse about a divorce until you are able to save some money or rent an apartment. This may mean you need to talk to close, trustworthy family or friends about staying with them to help you get on your feet. You will also want to talk to your attorney about how and when the divorce documents are served, so you can ensure everything is in place, and you are in control of the situation.

The divorce process can be a rollercoaster, and you cannot predict everything that you may encounter after you tell your spouse “I want a Divorce.” However, these 5 strategies should help you feel more in control of the situation and will help you get everything you deserve out of your divorce. 

If you are thinking of telling your spouse “I want a Divorce,” fill out my intake form to schedule a consultation with me. I will help you develop a personalized strategy for getting your life in order before telling your spouse “I want a Divorce.”