Monthly Archives: April 2014

Don’t be a Stranger in a Strange Land

A recent poll asked “If you ever tried to represent yourself, was the judge biased against you for not understanding the law or courtroom procedure?” 95% of people who answered said “Yes”, and almost half of people felt that the judge turned against them for not knowing the proper procedures.

Think about it another way; imagine you and a friend were traveling to China. Your friend speaks Chinese fluently, and you only know a few phrases. At the first store you go to, you try to ask the cashier what you think is a simple question, but her response is like a tidal wave of information, all in Chinese. Wouldn’t you ask your fluent friend to help translate? And don’t you think the cashier might be happier to talk with someone who really knows the language, not just a few words?

Law practice is very similar to learning to communicate in a foreign language. Lawyers and most judges have gone to law school, sat for an extensive bar exam, practiced enough to sustain an income and have had to pursue continuing legal education every year. We know court procedure and the law.  We know how to present a case effectively to the judge, as well as how to defend against the opposing party. We know the language in this foreign land.

With so much at stake in a court case (your money, your home and your family), can you really afford to be a stranger in a strange land?

by Caitlin Herndon, Attorney at Law.

Violence & Threats

Not only is divorce the time when people show their worst side, it can also be the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship.  When an abuser begins to feel he is losing control of his or her spouse is when the most violence occurs.   The Georgia Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-334-2836.

It’s important to carefully evaluate your situation and decide how best to proceed with initiating a divorce when any kind of abuse has occurred.  Verbal abuse and control is abuse.  Abuse rarely gets better and usually escalates.  Getting counseling to ascertain your desires and to evaluate your options is wise prior to talking divorce to an abusive spouse.  In addition, making a safety plan for you and any children involved is necessary.

Even if you feel that your partner will never be abusive to you again, it’s important to be prepared.  Have a safety plan in place in case you need to flee.

  • Tell someone you trust about the abuse.
  • Decide how you and your children will get out.
  • Make a plan for how you can escape from each room in your house, in case of emergency.
  • Set aside emergency money, cash if possible.
  • Create a false trail.
  • Create an escape route from your place of employment.
  • If you need help in a public place, yell “FIRE” as this draws more attention than “HELP”.
  • Teach your children how to dial 911 and where to go in an emergency.

Remember, the Justice Café is your safe source for legal advice.  Starting at $75 you can receive help with paperwork as well as the legal counsel you need to keep your family safe.  Knowing where you stand legally and what steps to take will give you additional security.   When you are able, contact us for a confidential appointment to determine your legal rights.  You don’t want to have to navigate the court system alone and you don’t want an abusive spouse to take advantage of you.

And, in addition to the above, stash an emergency suitcase either in your home or with a trusted friend so that if you need to make a sudden escape you have the necessary items to do so.  When it’s possible, original documentation is preferred, however, copies are helpful in a pinch.  NOTE: In an emergency, get out right away!  Only if you have time, gather and keep the following, or copies, in a safe place.

Here is a short list of what to pack in your emergency suitcase (again, if you have time):

  • Protective Order
  • ATM and Credit Cards
  • Cash/Checkbook
  • Passports
  • Driver’s License and Registration
  • Social Security Cards
  • Green Card, VISA, or Work Permit
  • Cell Phone and Charger
  • Important addresses & phone numbers
  • Medical Records
  • Your Partner’s Social Security Number
  • Insurance Policies
  • Important Legal Documents
  • Medications
  • Change of Clothing
  • Lease
  • Birth Certificates, Marriage Licenses, Wills
  • School Records
  • Police Records (if reported)
  • Spare Car Keys
  • Special Personal Items (Photos, Jewelry, etc.) 

The Georgia Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-334-2836, available 24 hours every day.   They provide support, advice, and shelterIn addition there are potentially free legal resources with Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers, Partners Against Domestic Violence, and Cobb Legal AidThese resources are confidential and do not charge for their services.  These organizations have great experience at providing resources, support networks and safety planning.  They can help either independently or with Justice Café attorneys working in partnership with them.  The Justice Cafe will afford-ably supplement those free resources and can provide the family law assistance that isn’t readily available for free or at a comparable rate.

She’s an Attorney – Not Your BFF

You know it’s so easy to call 678-791-0734, schedule a convenient time and location to meet with a Justice Cafe attorney, and pre-pay for an affordable $75.  In fact when you meet with your skilled, compassionate, and likable attorney, you just might want to ask him or her to meet you for lunch!

It’s tempting to lean heavily on your Justice Cafe attorney because those unbundled, affordable services are such a good deal – and they are such nice people.   But it is counter-productive.  Your attorney’s strength is helping you navigate the legal system.  Just remember, keeping that attorney doing just the legal part though is good money management.

Instead of leaning on your attorney to help you feel better, find a good therapist.  (Oh, and you aren’t crazy just because you are seeing someone to help you sort through your emotions.)  If you are involved in almost any of the weighty matters handled in The Justice Café, a little bit of crazy and overwhelm just comes with your situation.)  You’ve been smart enough to choose The Justice Café to resolve your simple legal issues, now be smart enough to add another resource to your team.

The following are nonprofits that offer subsidized, affordable, or free care and support groups:

DivorceCare; Christian divorce support for adults & children

Richmont University; low cost Christian counseling in GA and TN

Odyssey Family Counseling; subsidized counseling

Metropolitan Counseling Services; low cost counseling

Visions Anew Institute, divorce resources, support groups, & weekends

The Link Counseling Center; affordable non-profit counseling

Trillium Springs LLC; free divorce support groups for abused women

Shalom Bayit free abuse support; 770-677-9322