The Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia was formally created on June 5, 1976, making it the 13th section in State Bar history. In 1975, eight lawyers petitioned the State Bar to establish the Family Law Section. Those lawyers included Jack P. Turner, Atlanta (first chair of the section); Harry Hall, Atlanta; Bob Reinhart, Tifton (second chair of the section); Paul V. Kilpatrick, Columbus (fourth chair of the section); former Supreme Court of Georgia Justice, G. Conley Ingram (third chair of the section). The Board of Governors approved the formation of the section in 1976. The original dues to become a member of the section were $3 per year.
The practice of family law in Georgia had its beginnings in an era where it was disorganized and not viewed by other litigators as a respected area of practice. Through the organization of the section and the professional pride among family lawyers, the practice of family law has evolved to receiving high recognition among lawyers the judiciary in the state. Today, the section membership stands at more than 1,600, making it the third largest section of the State Bar. The seminars conducted by the Family Law Section are some of the most advanced and sophisticated in the country in the area of family law. The section continues to be committed to excellent educational programs for its members and active in mobilizing the section to heighten awareness of the legislative and appellant issues in the area of family law.
The Family Law Review
An early task of the section was to publish a newsletter. In 1976, Jack Turner embarked on this task. Originally, Jack copied and distributed the newsletter himself. His early goal was to reduce aggressive litigation through further knowledge and understanding of family law. After the section took over the publication, Jack was named editor. He continued on as the editor until 2000, when Richard Nolen was named editor. In 2001 under Richard's direction, the Family Law Review was published on the section's website. In 2005, Randy Kessler became editor, and in 2009 his partner Marvin Solomiany became co-editor of the Family Law Review. They continue in those roles today. The Family Law Review is typically published on a quarterly basis. It has been an important tool in continuing the education of lawyers regarding family law issues and to help promote professionalism throughout the Bar. It includes recent case law summaries, as well as articles regarding legislative changes and changes to the Uniform Superior Rules and other "hot topics," interviews with members of the judiciary, as well as other section news and information. Online access to the Family Law Review can be found here.
The Family Law Institute and Other Section Seminars
The annual Family Law Institute, held every May, is one of the most well attended seminars of all of the sections of the Bar. (View the program archive here.) The Institute was first held in March of 1983. It was initiated by M.T. Simmons (chair 1982-83) and chaired by C. Wilbur Warner (1983-84), which created the tradition of having the incoming chair organize the Institute. The goal was to provide an advanced seminar for experienced lawyers as well as enable family lawyers an opportunity to socialize together. The Institute is attended by hundreds of lawyers from around the state in an effort to become more involved in family law. In 2007, the Institute was attended by all of the Supreme Court Justices and more than four hundred lawyers.
The Nuts and Bolts seminar is another annual seminar hosted by the section. Compared to the Family Law Institute, the Nuts and Bolts curriculum provides attendees "the basics" in family law. The seminar is organized by the incoming secretary of the section and historically is held in both Savannah and Atlanta (which is telecast around the state on GPTV).
In 2009, the section began the annual tradition of hosting another seminar in conjunction with the State Bar Midyear Meeting and the section reception at which the nominated officers selected by the nominating committee for the coming year are announced. The seminar includes a panel discussion among judges throughout the state.
Legislative and Judicial Events
The section has been extremely influential in enacting changes in Georgia law. There is a cooperative relationship between the section and the Legislature and appellate courts. The section has been invited to file numerous Amicus Brief's with the appellate courts and has been involved in many legislative and judicial committees. Shiel Edlin (2006-07) was the first legislative liaison. Some key changes as a result of the continuing efforts of the section include the following:
First Child Support Guidelines in 1986;
Creation of the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit during Martin Huddleston's tenure (1991-92);
Extension of duration of child support to age 20, also during Huddleston's term;
The Supreme Court of Georgia's Pilot Project in 2003;
Enactment of Guardian Ad Litem USCR 24.9 in 2005, amended in 2009;
New Child Support Guidelines written by section members Sandy Bair, Tina Roddenbery and Carol Walker in 2007;
Modification of Child Custody Statute in 2008; and
New Domestic Relations Long Arm Statute in 2010
Awards and Accomplishments
The section has been awarded Section of the Year from the State Bar on five occasions. It first received this honor under Nancy F. Lawler (1995-96). During Nancy's tenure the section grew to be the second largest section among the Bar. It went on to win Section of the Year under the chairs: Elizabeth Green Lindsey (2001-02); Stephen C. Steele (2005-06); Shiel Edlin (2006-07); and Edward Coleman (2008-09). The section was also awarded the Section Achievement Award during Tina Shadix Roddenbery's term (2009-10).
Many former chairs of the Family Law Section have continued to serve the Bar. Paul V. Kilpatrick Jr. (1980-81) and Bob Reinhart (1978-79) both served as presidents of the State Bar and Tina Shadix Roddenbery (2009-10) served as the president of the Young Lawyers Division (1993-94).
Several former chairs have become members of the judiciary. Hon. G. Conley Ingram (1979-80) was a Supreme Court of Georgia Justice prior to serving as a superior court judge in Cobb County. Several other chairs have become judges, including Hon. John E. Girardeau (1984-85) of Gainesville, who also is considered the father of the Child Support Guidelines in Georgia. The section's first female chair, Hon. Elizabeth Glazebrook (1989-90), was a former superior court and juvenile court judge in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit of North Georgia; and Hon. Martha C. Christian (1993-94) of Macon also became a superior court judge after serving as chair of the section.
The section annually bestows the Joseph T. Tuggle Jr. Professionalism Award and the Jack P. Turner Award to recognize outstanding contribution and achievement in the area of family law.
John C. Mayoue (1992-93) began the Family Law Convocation on Professionalism in 1992 in response to the Supreme Court's initiative on professionalism. The Convocation is held annually and involves discussion and analysis of issues regarding judicial and lawyer professionalism. The professionalism award is given in recognition of the family lawyer who has most exemplified the aspirational qualities of professionalism in their practice as a lawyer and/or a judge. Having a demonstrated a lifetime of such exceptional professionalism, in 1999, the Section Professionalism Award was formally named after Joseph T. Tuggle Jr. (1996-97).
The Jack P. Turner Award was also established in 1992. The award receives its title from Jack P. Turner who was the first recipient of the award and is recognized for his significant contributions to the practice of family law in Georgia.
Recipients of both awards are listed below.
Recipients of the Jack P. Turner Award, est. 1992
H. Martin Huddleston
Carl S. Pedigo
Hon. Cynthia D. Wright
Christopher D. Olmstead
H. William Sams
Hon. G. Conley Ingram
Baxter L. Davis
C. Wilbur Warner Jr.
Carl E. Westmoreland
M.T. Simmons Jr.
Jack P. Turner
Recipients of the Joseph T. Tuggle Jr. Professionalism Award, est. 1995
(named for Joseph J. Tuggle in 1999)
Edward E. Bates Jr.
Carol Ann Walker
Jill O. Radwin
Deborah A. Johnson
Hon. Carol W. Hunstein
John C. Mayoue
H. Martin Huddleston
Hon. Louisa Abbot
Hon. Mary E. Staley
Hon. Cynthia D. Wright
Joseph T. Tuggle Jr.
M.T. Simmons Jr.
Debra A. Segal
Hon. Elizabeth R. Glazebrook
Hon. Hilton M. Fuller Jr.
Community Service and Pro Bono
In 2009, the Family Law Section awarded scholarships to encourage Pro Bono representation through Georgia Legal Services. The State Bar Family Law Section offered $1,000 scholarships to five Family Law Section members to attend the 2010 Family Law Institute in Destin, Fla., May 27-29. In exchange for receiving the scholarship, the applicants chosen were required to accept one pro bono domestic violence and/or divorce case referral from the Georgia Legal Services Program before Dec. 31, 2010.
In 2005, the Family Law Committee of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar was established by Jonathan J. Tuggle. In addition to providing networking opportunity to young lawyers and generating interest in the practice of family law, the Family Law Committee of the YLD provides extensive community service. Beginning in 2006 and held each year thereafter, the Supreme Cork fundraiser is held to benefit The Bridge, a home for abused and neglected adolescents. To date, the Supreme Cork event has raised more than $70,000 for this charitable cause.
On Feb. 26, 2010, the section celebrated 35 years of history at a black-tie dinner honoring its past chairs. Hosted by the Section Executive Committee, the event was attended by almost all past living chairs who shared memories from their respective terms.