Letter to Legislators: Please Support the Proposed Amendment to O.C.G.A. 19-9-3

We are asking all supporters to email legislators starting now about amending O.C.G.A. 19-9-3 (2010) this session.  Please forward as appropriate.

The attached language is here to use as a “go by” if needed.

Our mission this session is to get a key but simple change made.  The statute should instruct court officials to put evidence to use, as needed to provide protections from both real abuse and from false allegations.

Ignoring key evidence harms good parents and our children.  The full text of the statute can be found here: http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2010/title-19/chapter-9/article-1/19-9-3

Making this change will require judges to consider all relevant evidence in making child custody determinations.  

Under the current statute judges have the discretion to ignore evidence including evidence relating to child care, historical parenting, the stability of the child’s living arrangements and other factors including issues of child abuse.  Courts must be required to consider all evidence in making a determination as to the best interest of a child in a custody dispute.  We want the legislature to amend the statute to say ‘shall’ rather than May.

Here is the link to find your legislators:

http://www.house.ga.gov/Representatives/en-US/HouseMembersList.aspx

We have been told there is still time, and that it is possible to get this passed.  More civic, business and press support is expected once this is filed.

This is where you can see the statute with the wording highlighted in green where it needs to be changed:  http://mac2014.wpengine.com/what-we-do/policy-change-needed-to-support-children/

Thank you for your support and time!  Please email if you have questions.

Deb Beacham, My Advocate Center, Inc.

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We are part of a larger National group of advocates and are working collaboratively with various organizations across the country, with our focus on solutions to help improve this process and to help more families and children recover.

As a part of an incredible team effort, we have supported & analyzed many cases, and gathered data to support this reform for several years, across jurisdictions and in ways that support all good parents, both mothers and fathers.

This proposed amendment is a first step in Georgia, and is part of an overall plan for increasing transparency, accountability, and most importantly, protections for children and nurturing parents.

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“Dear Representative ___________

 RE: Proposed Amendment to O.C.G.A. 19-9-3

 This proposed amendment is urgently needed to protect our children & good parents in Family Court. 

The proposed wording change is as follows, with this line being one example from the statute:  Substitute “may” for “shall” in all lines pertaining to evidence that is available in determining child custody.

                                        “(3) In addition to other factors that a court may consider in a proceeding in which the custody of a child or visitation by a parent is at issue and in which the court has made a finding of family violence:”

Why is this change so gravely needed?  Because, as the statute reads, family court judges & custody experts can use the word “may” to disallow and ignore evidence of child sexual, mental or physical abuse, criminal history of a parent, substance abuse of a parent, etc.

Examples:

In Fulton County a judge & the GAL disallowed clear evidence of substantiated claims of child sexual abuse & the possession of child pornography, and put the child in the custody of the molester.  

The GAL admitted having no expertise on these issues, but neither he nor the judge were required to consider the evidence.  The GAL billed close to $160,000.00 while ignoring the evidence of crimes against a child.  They also ignored the evidence of a medical illness while denying the child treatment.

In another case, an innocent father is condemned as evidence is left out — evidence that would exonerate him of the allegations of violence, and prove the fraud being committed by his wife.  His child is being used as financial leverage while he is not allowed to defend himself.

On a third case with actual domestic violence, the victim is a prominent attorney who was visibly injured with bruises. This mother tried to protect her child but the evidence was ignored. This act of blocking or ignoring evidence of misconduct led to further abuse & more damage to the child.

I am confident the intent of the legislature is not to allow courts to ignore such facts. 

These are just a few real-life examples, but indicative of what goes on in Georgia Family Law Courts all across our state. More information on these issues can be seen here: www.MyAdvocateCenter.com.

Please support this amendment so that evidence can count for the protection of good parents and children.

Respectfully,

_______________________________”

 

Other letters being sent include wording such as this:

“Please consider sponsoring and supporting this step toward much needed reform in our Family Court system.  

I am part of a growing group of concerned citizens who sees this proposed amendment as a solid first step, one that can help save lives this year.

I have witnessed this myself, and am asking for your intervention with this straightforward change in how evidence is treated.”