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We Settled, Now My Ex Won’t Sign the Settlement Agreement

Posted By Joette Melendez, Friday, July 10, 2020


Couples can agree on the terms of their divorce at any time before the ruling of the Court. Finally reaching an agreement can bring a sigh of relief in divorce cases. On the other hand, reaching an agreement can also bring a wave of wary to some parties after they realize that the agreement will become enforceable by the court. Great care and regard should be taken when reaching an agreement in a divorce case.


But, what do you do when it is your ex that refuses to formalize the reached final agreement?


Enforcing a settlement agreement is a matter of contract law. If there is a meeting of the minds in writing then you most likely have an enforceable agreement. Most agreements are reached during mediation. A mediated agreement is almost always drawn up with the correct language to bind the parties to the agreed upon terms. If your ex has had a change of heart then you can file a Motion to Enforce with the court to request that the terms of the written agreement be made an order of the court. For your ex to successfully defeat your motion, your ex would have to have legal grounds to argue why the agreement is not legally-binding, for example:


  • Duress
  • Lack of Capacity
  • Undue Influence
  • Fraud

Most times, parties refuse to sign the formal settlement documents for reasons other than the above legal grounds. If you have an attorney, you also have the right to request attorney fees for the expense of having to bring the Motion.


This content was written by one of our panel members, Yolvondra Martin Brown an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia.


***If you or someone you know is faced with family law issues, please call

Atlanta Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service at 404-521-0777.***

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Frequently Asked Questions

Posted By Joette Melendez, Wednesday, May 6, 2020

       How much is my auto accident claim worth?


There are two components to compensation for an auto/trucking accident: #1. Bodily Injury, and #2. Vehicle Damage. The bodily injury portion of your personal claim includes: pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical bills, to name a few. The vehicle damage portion often includes obtaining the market value of your vehicle. Contact us for a free evaluation of your claim.

Should I try to handle my personal injury case on my own?

Cases that involve substantial vehicle damage, serious injury, or death require the expertise of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney. Studies have shown that in most cases, when an attorney is involved in a personal injury case, the attorney will obtain more money for the claim— even after the attorney’s fees are deducted— than the individual would obtain on his or her own.

  What can I do if I am in an accident with an uninsured or under-insured driver?

Normally, when you have an injury caused by another person’s negligence, you are entitled to pursue a lawsuit for all your damages, as set forth under the law. It’s important for an accident victim to remember that from the moment he or she is involved in an accident, their best interests are often the opposite of the best interests of their insurance carrier. Consulting a knowledgeable and experienced attorney is a must!

What should I do after a slip and fall accident?

First, seek medical attention if necessary. Next, make a report at the business or residential location where you fell. It’s essential that you let the store manager, landlord, or homeowner know that you fell, where you fell, and what caused you to fall (if you are too injured to make a report immediately, call the next day to report the accident). Take note of with whom you spoke. Next, take photos of the exact area where the fall occurred, any substance on the floor that may have caused your fall, pictures of your injuries, and any damage to your clothing. Finally, contact an attorney with experience in slip and fall cases.

Can you sue, if you or your child is bitten by another person's dog in Georgia?

The short answer is: Yes! Under Georgia law, to recover for a dog bite, you must show either that the dog had a history of dangerous behavior and/or that the dog was not on a leash when the bite occurred, but was required to be on a leash under city or county ordinances. Therefore, the leash laws in the area where the bite or attack occurred can have a significant effect on your case. It’s important that you do not rush into a settlement without consulting with an attorney.

 This content was written by one of our panel members, Willie Buddy Huntley, an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia.

***If you or someone you know is faced with personal injury issues, please call

Atlanta Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service at 404-521-0777.***



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Financial Resources During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted By Joette Melendez, Wednesday, April 22, 2020


5 Financial Resources During the COVID-19 Pandemic


We are living in unprecedented times. And, if you were already struggling with debt before this outbreak, then you’re likely even more worried now, as you try to figure out if Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is an option – or if you have any means to resolve your debt. Worse, with lay-offs and furloughs, if you’ll lose your home and all your belongings while trying to stay healthy in a global pandemic.


Fortunately, you have some options that you may not know about. In response to lay-offs and temporary business closures, many financial institutions and lenders are implementing special programs to help people in need. Whether you already have a lot of bad debt or you’re looking at a period of financial insecurity, these resources may help you keep your head above water, even in quarantine.


Beware of Scams


Before we get to those resources, as much as we hate it, we have to talk about the threat of scams that could leave you in worse financial shape than you’re already in. Scammers are still out there – even in this terrible time. Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who calls you claiming to have a solution for your debts. And, if you receive an email from a suspicious account, don’t click on any links and do not give them any requested information. If you aren’t sure if a communication is from your bank or another credible institution, call or email them directly and ask about the message you received.


In all likelihood, though, you probably won’t have creditors or anyone else reaching out to help you in advance. But you do have some means to protect yourself, even if you have no income at this time.


Expanded Unemployment Benefits

If you’ve been laid off, and you are not collecting income right now, you can go ahead and file for unemployment with the Georgia Department of Labor. The federal government’s recent economic stimulus package includes provisions for expanded unemployment benefits to help people in need right now. So, even if you were not working for a business that paid unemployment insurance before you were impacted by the pandemic, you may still qualify for benefits.


Find Out if Your Student Loans are on Hold

According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, federal student loans are now on hold, as of March 27. If your student loans are federally held, you do not need to apply to have them suspended, and interest will not accrue on your loans while suspended. You can learn more here.


Creditors, Utility Companies, and Any Other Lenders

Of course, not all of your debts are associated with or held by the federal government. What can you do about credit cards, your mortgage, and other private loans? Debt resolution is a great way to simplify life and consolidate your debts into a single monthly payment, but you may not be there yet.


And, if you talk to your creditors now, you may not need to take that route in the future. A lot of mortgage lenders, landlords, credit card companies, and utilities companies are anticipating that people like you may have issues paying their bills in the coming months. As a result, many have already set up programs to assist you. Contact them now and you may be able to take a load off until you get back to work.


Other Resources


These organizations and companies are helping people in financial distress right now, and one or more of them may be able to help you:


· The Giving Kitchen is a nonprofit organization, established to help food service and hospitality workers in need.


· Walmart, Starbucks, Target, and other corporations are offering assistance for their employees who’ve been laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.


· The United States Small Business Association (SBA) offers disaster assistance for small business owners. According to Gov. Kemp in a press conference on April 1, Georgia is one of the first states to have been approved for expanded small business loans, which could help if your business is temporarily shut down due to the pandemic.


 This content was written by one of our panel members, Willie Buddy Huntley, an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia.

***If you or someone you know is faced with bankruptcy issues, please call 

 Atlanta Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service at 404-521-0777.*** 

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Posted By Joette Melendez, Wednesday, April 8, 2020


On March 14, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA, H.R. 6201), in part to expand protections for employees affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. On March 18, the Senate passed the FFCRA by a vote of 90-8 and the bill was signed into law by President Trump. The provisions will take effect within a couple of weeks, and we expect by then that regulations will have been developed to gap-fill the missing pieces.


Here's what we know for now, and what you need to know about the FFCRA (subject to updates):


What Will the FFCRA Do for Employees?


Through December 31st, 2020, the FFCRA will do 2 main things for employees 


1. Emergency Paid Sick Leave: applies to ALL employees, regardless of length of employment or full- or part-time status, if they unable to work or telework because of COVID-19 as outlined below.


Covered employers will be required to pay eligible employees for up to 10 days of sick leave at their regular rate of pay for their regular number of work hours (up to $511 per day, $5,110 max) if they require self-care because:


• Quarantined by government order related to COVID-19

• Quarantined by healthcare provider because of COVID-19

• Seeking care or diagnosis because of COVID-19 symptoms


Covered employers will also be required to pay eligible employees ⅔ of their regular rate of pay (up to $200 per day, $2,000 max) for up to 10 days of sick leave to care for a covered family member if such family member is:


• Quarantined by government order related to COVID-19

• Quarantined by healthcare provider because of COVID-19

• A child under 18 in need of care when childcare is unavailable because of COVID-19


The Emergency Paid Sick Leave is in addition to any paid sick leave the employer may already provide, and failure of employees to comply is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. There is also an anti-retaliation provision that will help protect employees from termination for requesting this relief.


2. Emergency Expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 


Covered employers will have to provide eligible employees who are unable to work or telework up to 2 weeks of unpaid leave and up to 10 additional weeks of paid leave for those who have a son or daughter under 18, the school or place of care for the child has been closed, or the child care provider for the child is unavailable because of COVID-19.


• Eligible employees under the FMLA expansion need only have been working for 30 calendar days.

• Although the first 10 days of FMLA leave is unpaid, the employee can elect to be paid for that period from any available accrued paid leave, such as vacation time, personal time, medical leave or sick time, or the emergency paid sick leave at ⅔ their regular rate of pay, as outlined above, up to $2,000.

• The 10-week FMLA extension for childcare is paid at ⅔ the employee's regular rate, up to $200 per day, $10,000 max.

• For employees with varying hours, the pay rate will likely be based on a 6-month average.

• In general, an employer must also make reasonable efforts to restore an employee to an equivalent position when the employee returns to work, with some exceptions for employers with fewer than 25 employees.

• Which Employers are Covered Employers that Have to Comply with FFCRA? 

• Employers with fewer than 500 employees are subject to the FFCRA, but certain healthcare providers and emergency responders may be excluded as their continued aid will continue to be necessary. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may not be subject to certain penalties, and those with fewer than 25 employees may not be subject to certain provisions like the job restoration requirement if the viability of the business is threatened.

In addition to the FFCRA, the Georgia Department of Labor has just released new information about filing for unemployment online versus in person and mandatory filing by employers for partial claims where hours have been cut or work has been halted temporarily. 


This content was written by Attorney Amanda Farahany a LRIS panel member since 2008.


***If you or someone you know is faced with Labor Law issues, please call the Atlanta Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service at 404-521-0777. ***


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Georgia Aviation Law

Posted By Joette Melendez, Tuesday, February 11, 2020


Those afraid of flying are often comforted by the knowledge that air travel is statistically much safer than traveling by car. While there is some truth to this statement, when aviation accidents do happen, the results are often far more devastating to the passengers aboard. People involved in plane crashes are far likelier to suffer from fatal injuries compared to victims of car accidents.


If you have been injured in an aviation accident, you face a variety of overwhelming obstacles. Physical injuries, medical expenses, loss of a loved one, and lost wages can all add to the devastation of the initial accident. After a plane crash, contact a lawyer right away. You may be able to pursue a claim for financial compensation and hold the parties that caused your injuries legally responsible for their negligence.


Common Causes of Aviation Accidents 


While aircraft manufacturers, airlines, mechanics, crews, and individuals who operate planes work to make sure that flying is a safe experience, not every flight goes as intended. Though accidents can be caused by a variety of factors, the following are common causes of airplane crashes:


Human error – This can include a pilot’s error during the flight or while taxiing on the runway. Additionally, crew members servicing the plane during preflight preparation could miss important maintenance cues.

Defective Equipment – About 20% of aviation accidents are caused by mechanical failure of some kind. Many parts of airplanes are dependent on other systems to work properly. For this reason, a mechanical issue with one plane system can have a domino effect on the plane’s functionality – and safety – as a whole.

 FAA Violations – The Federal Aviation Administration puts regulations in place to hold airlines and plane owners to suitable safety standards. Violations of these regulations could mean that a plane isn’t safe to travel, doesn’t have the correct registration, is flying in unsafe areas, or other issues that place passengers in danger.

Design Issues – If a plane was poorly designed, it may have inherent flaws that put its passengers at risk.

 Weather Conditions – When traveling by plane, the weather can be a serious threat to a plane’s safe travel. While crews and air traffic control plan as best as possible, irregular weather can put additional strain on the structural integrity of planes. These are just a few common causes of airplane accidents. If you have been injured in an aviation accident caused by these or other incidents, you should reach out to an attorney right away.


Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Plane Crash? 


Establishing responsibility for an accident is an important step in recovering financial compensation. The distinct factors of each case will determine who is ultimately held liable.


Aviation issues are often more complex than other injury cases because airlines and carriers are governed by different laws at the state and federal level. The following are examples of parties that may be held accountable for accidents: 


• Airlines – Many major airlines are classified by law as “common carriers.” Compared to private or chartered airlines, common carriers face the strictest rules and regulations since they transport anyone who is able to purchase a ticket. The FAA is responsible for regulating common carriers. When filing a claim against an airline, it’s best to have the help of a lawyer well-versed in FAA regulations.


• Owner or Operator – The owner of a plane or another type of aircraft is held to a high legal standard when people are injured in or around their property. Even if the owner of the plane was not operating it at the time of the accident, if the pilot injured others because of reckless or negligent behavior, the owner of the plane could be held accountable under the concept of vicarious liability or negligent entrustment, for example.


• Manufacturer – The manufacturer responsible for the design, planning, and assembly of the plane could be held accountable for the accident. It must be proven, however, that a manufacturing issue, defective part, or defective design was ultimately the cause. Under strict liability in Georgia, negligence does not need to be proven if there was a malfunctioning or dangerous part caused by manufacturing. The responsibility for an aviation accident can fall to numerous parties. It is possible to hold multiple parties accountable for your injuries.


Investigating Aviation Accidents 


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent government agency that plays an important role in investigating both commercial and civilian aviation accidents. In some instances, the FAA will step in for investigations, but the NTSB is typically the first line for investigating the events surrounding an aviation incident.


A lawyer can also play an important role in investigating an accident. Looking into the chain of events that led to an accident can reveal what the ultimate cause was, as well as identify the liable parties. A full and thorough investigation will help your lawyer understand what exactly happened the day you were injured so that they can better represent your case.


To fully investigate a plane accident, many sources and documents must be considered, like FAA documentation, manufacturing and aircraft design, flight logs, aircraft maintenance information, employment information, statements from any involved crew, victims, and witnesses, and more.


Compensation After Aviation Accidents 


Victims of aviation accidents may be eligible to recover compensation for a variety of economic and non-economic losses. Some common kinds of compensation are:


Medical expenses, past and future 


Lost wages, lost profits, and damage to earning potential

Property damage

Rehabilitative expenses

Pain and suffering

Emotional pain Loss of consortium

Punitive damages


Those who have lost a loved one because of an aviation accident can pursue a wrongful death claim. In addition to seeking compensation for the financial support that a deceased loved one once provided, wrongful death claims can help families recover financial resources for burial costs and any medical attention administered before death. In Georgia, surviving family members have up to two years to pursue a wrongful death claim. 


Aircraft Accident Claims 


While there is a rigorous process for investigating and recording each commercial flight accident, it has long since been suspected that accidents regarding private planes happen more often than people think. 


Because they are not subjected to regulations and scrutiny in the same way that commercial flights are, private plane accidents go underreported and unnoticed by the large majority of people. In addition to private plane accidents, the aviation attorney may also consider the following accident claims:


• Commercial flights – These public flights are under a large amount of scrutiny and investigation in the event of an accident.


• Airport accidents – Accidents in the terminal and on the jet bridge due to defective equipment, collisions, or slick surfaces are often to blame for injuries.


• In-flight accidents – Accidents that occur during the course of a flight, like an unsecured overhead bin or severe turbulence, are often the cause of injury for passengers.


• Corporate and charter flights – These can include smaller planes or even large business jets. These flights are typically commissioned for travel by individuals or companies for a smaller number of passengers.


• Helicopters – The services of a helicopter may be hired for public or private business needs, military use, or medical care. Helicopters are susceptible to accidents due to the structure of their rotor system.


• Hang gliders – Structures like hang gliders don’t provide operators with the external protection that a plane or helicopter may. For this reason, when there are accidents, the risk to operators are substantially increased.


As long as your aviation accident was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to hold that party financially responsible for your resulting expenses. 



This content was written by Attorney Alan Cleveland (Adamson & Cleveland, LLC), a LRIS panel member since 2004. Thank you, Attorney Alan Cleveland, for your continuous support to the LRIS program and the community of Atlanta.


***If you or someone you know is faced with Aviation Law issues, please call Atlanta Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service at 404-521-0777. ***

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Divorce & Family Law

Posted By Joette Melendez, Monday, December 9, 2019

Contempt and Enforcement


The ending of a family relationship can have severe emotional impacts on the entire family. Getting a divorce is often a confusing and stressful process. Families differ from one another and the circumstances under which they find themselves getting a divorce also vary. There is no hard and fast rule for settlement of such family issues. If you are thinking about divorce or separation, it is always best to ensure that you are fully informed of your different legal options and related issues that you will have to consider throughout the divorce/separation process. Outcomes can vary depending upon the situation you are in.


After your divorce is finalized, you may require an additional legal counsel to enforce an order. For example, you may not be receiving the spousal support or child support that you were awarded and are entitled to receive. When a party fails to comply with the Court’s order, the Court can hold the non-compliant party in contempt upon request of the wronged party.


The most common contempt issues in family cases include failure to execute the settlement agreement, to pay child support or spousal support, to reimburse children’s expenses, or to honor the parenting plan.


To be found in contempt, the court must find that that the non-complaint party both did not follow the order and also that the failure to follow the order was willful. For example, if the non-compliant party did not pay child support as ordered, but it was because he or she was in the hospital and unable to work, the court may find that the failure to pay support was not willful. In that case, the party would not be held in contempt.


If the non-compliant party is found in contempt, the court can order a number of remedies ranging from requiring compliance with the court’s order to incarceration until the party complies with the order. The non-compliant party can be ordered to pay the wronged party’s attorney’s fees.


If you need to enforce an order, our attorneys can help you file a contempt action and advise you on the remedies available to you. If you served with a contempt action, an attorney can help you minimize the risk of incarceration or other negative consequences.


Alternate Dispute Resolution


Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to a number of processes that help parties resolve their issues without a trial or without involving the Court at all. The most common ADR processes include mediation, arbitration, collaborative family law, parental coordination, and neutral evaluation. ADR is generally a less-formal approach which is kept confidential and is often less stressful than traditional methods involving lengthy Court proceedings. Other potential advantages include speeding up the settlement process and saving money spent on attorney’s fees.


The types of ADR that our clients engage in most frequently are:


• Mediation: This is a process by which a neutral, third-party is appointed by the parties in order to assist in resolving a dispute. In mediation, the parties have the ability to resolve their own disputes resulting in creative solutions, more satisfaction, lasting fruitful outcomes, and improved relationships. The mediator will help draft an agreement that can be incorporated into a final order.


• Arbitration: In arbitration, a neutral person called an arbitrator listens to evidence and arguments from both sides and then makes a decision. In “binding arbitration,” the parties agree to accept the decision of the arbitrator. In “non-binding arbitration,” the parties can request a trial if they do not feel satisfied with the arbitrator’s decision.


• Collaborative Family Law: In this approach, a couple seeks to end their marriage in a cooperative manner without involving the Court. At the same time, each party has an attorney, a financial professional, and/or a coach offering them proper guidance and support. However, if one of the spouses decides to go to court, then both parties must hire new attorneys. This condition motivates people to continue working under this approach.


• Neutral Evaluation: In this process, a neutral person evaluates both parties’ arguments on the basis of each side’s weak and strong points. The evaluator may also provide settlement assistance and case planning guidance with the two parties’ consent.


• Parental Coordination: This approach involves an experienced legal professional who assists high-conflict parents with carrying out their parenting plan. The parenting coordinator makes final decisions within the scope of their contract or the Court’s scope. This method is helpful for parents to resolve their issues in a timely manner and promote a meaningful relationship with their children.


This content was written by the LRIS Vice-Chair, JoAnna Smith, an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia. 


***If you or someone you know is faced with Family Law issues, please call Atlanta Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service at 404-521-0777. ***

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Establishing Parenting Time for Unmarried Fathers

Posted By Joette Melendez, Monday, November 25, 2019


It is a common misconception in Georgia that when a father signs the birth certificate, that he has legal rights to his child. The fact is that when a father has a child born out of wedlock in Georgia, the father is legally obligated to pay child support for the upbringing of the child but has no rights to see the child or even access to the child’s medical or educational information. He is only the biological father, not the legal father.  


A father can legitimate his child in one of two ways. 


First, the father can legitimate the child by filing an action with the court requesting the child be legitimated and can also include a request for parenting time up to and including a request for primary custody. Generally, this action is filed in the Superior Court of the county in which the mother resides. Through this court filed legitimation action, the court can grant the father’s request for legitimation, grant the father his legal custody rights and set out an enforceable parenting time schedule for the father and child. It is critical for father to file a Petition for Legitimation as soon as possible because in some instances a court can deny a legitimation petition. If the biological father delays making any effort to develop a relationship with the child or support the child financially, a court may find that he abandoned his “opportunity and interest” in legitimation.


The second method is for the father to marry the mother. Of course, this is not an option for every father or even in the best interest of the child in some cases. 


Effective July 1, 2016, the Administrative Acknowledgement of Legitimation has been repealed. Parents of a child born out of wedlock can no longer legitimate the child at the time of the child’s birth at the hospital by signing a form. 


The legitimation process can be complex, especially if the mother is not willing to agree to the terms that the father is seeking.


This content was written by one of our panel members, Yolvondra Martin Brown, an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia.


***If you or someone you know is faced with Custody issues, please call Atlanta Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service at 404-521-0777. ***



The LRIS program is extending a special gratitude to the LRIS panel attorneys who participate in the Atlanta Bar Association Modest Means Program. Your continued support and aid to the community of Atlanta have made a positive impact to those individuals who reach out to the LRIS for affordable legal representation. Thank you!

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First Meeting of Creditors

Posted By Joette Melendez, Monday, October 7, 2019

About First Meeting of Creditors

Under the Bankruptcy Code, the United States Trustee must convene and preside at a meeting of creditors, which is often referred to as the Section 341 meeting. This must occur within a reasonable time after the order for relief in a case. However, the court may order the United States trustee not to convene a meeting of creditors or equity security holders if the debtor has filed a plan for which the debtor solicited acceptances prepetition.


Debtor’s duties at and after the meeting of creditors

The debtor is required to attend the meeting and submit to examination under oath. The purpose of the meeting is to give creditors and the trustee an opportunity to examine the debtor regarding the debtor’s acts and property, and to address any other matter that may affect the debtor’s right to a discharge or the administration of the bankruptcy estate. An individual chapter 7 debtor shall not retain possession of personal property in which a creditor has a purchase-money security interest unless the debtor, within 45 days after the first meeting of creditors under section 341(a), either enters into a reaffirmation agreement on the creditor’s claim or redeems the property. If the debtor fails to so act, the automatic stay with respect to such property is terminated, the property is no longer property of the estate, and the creditor can take whatever action with respect to the property is permitted by applicable nonbankruptcy law. However, the court, on motion of the trustee, may find that the property is of consequential value or benefit to the estate and order delivery of the property to the trustee.


Chapter 7 Creditors’ Committees

An important purpose of the Section 341 meeting in a Chapter 7 case is the election of a creditors’ committee. A creditors’ committee may consult with the trustee or the United States Trustee in connection with the administration of the estate, make recommendations to the trustee or United States Trustee respecting the performance of the trustee’s duties, and submit questions to the court or the United States Trustee concerning the administration of the estate. Only creditors with undisputed general unsecured claims can join Chapter 7 creditors’ committees. 


Chapter 11 Creditors’ Committees 

In Chapter 11 cases, creditors’ committees play a prominent role in many cases and the members are selected by the United States Trustee. The committee functions as the representative of creditors who hold allowable, unsecured, nonpriority claims. Governmental entities are generally excluded from participation on Chapter 11 creditors’ committees. 


This content was written by one of our panel members, Shonterria Martin Stokes, an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia.


***If you or someone you know is faced with Bankruptcy issues, please call Atlanta Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service at 404-521-0777.***



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Care for Elderly Family Members – Guardians or Conservators

Posted By Joette Melendez, Thursday, August 15, 2019

Guardians and conservators are charged with caring for elderly family members who have become incapacitated. As a guardian or conservator, your job is to manage your loved one’s resources and protect them from exploitation. Both roles carry important responsibilities that you need to know, ideally before you agree to take them on.


The Difference Between Guardianship And Conservatorship 


In many cases, you can become both a guardian and conservator for a loved one. However, these roles are distinctly different:


  • A guardian protects the personal interests of another person who is incapable of caring for their own interests. Common responsibilities include arranging suitable housing, making health care appointments and facilitating doctor visits, and generally providing for the ward’s personal needs.
  • A conservator supervises an individual’s financial affairs. This could include everything from paying their bills to making financial investments on their behalf using approved funds for this purpose.

Choosing Someone You Can Trust 


As you can see, the court places a significant amount of trust on the guardian or conservator to do the right thing and not abuse their position. For that reason, it’s important to choose a guardian or conservator you trust now, before circumstances force the court to appoint one for you. You can include your wishes in your estate planning documents. By planning ahead before incapacity, you may be able to prevent a guardianship or conservatorship hearing from ever occurring and having your affairs managed by a pre-selected person you chose through proper estate planning.


Becoming a Guardian 


Selecting a guardian or conservator can be a complicated process, where emotions often run high. To become a guardian or conservator, you must file a petition with the local probate court where your loved one currently resides. The proposed ward (the person for whom guardianship is sought) will be informed of the petition and given the opportunity to hire his or her own lawyer. He or she will also undergo a mental evaluation by a doctor, psychologist or licensed clinical social worker.


Then, a hearing will be scheduled to review and finalize the petition. The court must approve someone who will best serve the interests of the proposed ward. In general, it follows this order of preference when choosing a guardian:


  • The person chosen by the ward, in writing, when he or she was of sound mind
  • The spouse of the proposed ward, an adult child or parent (in the case of minor guardianship) of the proposed ward
  • A previously appointed guardian in Georgia or another state
  • A capable volunteer the court finds suitable to the task
  • A county guardian, who is a public official appointed by the county to stand in as guardian, if no other suitable candidate is found

This process usually takes about a month, though it may be sped up if you have reason to believe your loved one is in real danger by filing an emergency guardianship. A temporary guardian can possibly be appointed within a week if necessary to protect your loved one. 


An Often Overlooked Issue In Guardianship Petitions 


Many people do not realize that as a conservator in Georgia, you must have a bond of insurance in addition to a willing heart. The bond serves to protect the financial interests of the proposed ward in case the conservator breaches his or her fiduciary duty with respect to the ward’s assets.


What If We Don’t Agree On Guardianship? 


Petitioning for guardianship of another person can be difficult for the entire family, especially if relatives do not agree on who should be appointed guardian or conservator. What starts out as a wish to protect mom from financial predators can become a fight over control of mom’s money.


This content was written by one of our panel members, Robert Turner, an attorney in

Atlanta, Georgia.


***If you or someone you know is faced with Probate issues, please call

Atlanta Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service

at 404-521-0777.***


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Debt Resolution vs. Bankruptcy

Posted By Joette Melendez, Thursday, August 15, 2019

Both debt resolution and bankruptcy are strategies that can help you pay off credit card debt, meaning both strategies can stop harassing phone calls and threats from creditors. However, there is a difference between the two! Each strategy provides different risks and protections. The following are a few examples: 


Debt Resolution

Debt resolution is when you attempt to negotiate a resolution of your debt for a lower amount than what you owe. As a general rule, people who pursue debt settlement can’t afford to pay off all their debts at once and cannot afford to make monthly minimum payments, which allows interest to accrue. A settlement allows debtors to stop the debt amount from increasing and resolves the debt without paying the full amount up-front. This typically saves debtors hundreds if not thousands of dollars while simultaneously improving their credit scores, although Debt Resolution does not guarantee results. Once a settlement is paid, the account is resolved. There is no negative impact on your credit report. However, creditors are not required to enter into a settlement agreement. They can pursue any legal action to collect the debt.



Bankruptcy, on the other hand, provides legal protection. Through Bankruptcy, you can either reorganize your debt to enable you to pay it off or get rid of the debt completely. Bankruptcy requires you to file a petition with your local federal court, which you certify under oath. Bankruptcy also requires you to pay attorney fees and costs associated with filing in court.


a) Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a debt repayment plan. Under Chapter 13, debts such as student loans, property taxes and spousal support obligations are made through a repayment schedule that lasts between 3-5 years. Debts, such as credit card debt, are terminated, completed or reorganized. Once you file for bankruptcy protection, creditors are no longer able to contact you directly or charge interest or late fees on your debt. 


b) Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is the liquidation chapter. It covers debtors who have unsecured debts that exceed their income. Typically, unsecured debts are accumulated after divorce, illness and job loss. A popular myth about Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is that you will automatically lose your stuff. This is not true! During your free consultation, we will analyze and determine if your property is exempt. Filing for either form of bankruptcy will provide immediate protection from repossessions, court proceedings and wage garnishments. Filing bankruptcy may impact your credit report for up to 10 years after filing.


Don’t risk attempting to file your petition alone in an attempt to save money. You face a high risk of having your petition rejected if you are unsure how to navigate the Bankruptcy Code.


This content was written by one of our panel members, Willie “Buddy” Huntley III, an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia.


***If you or someone you know is faced with Bankruptcy issues, please call

Atlanta Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service

at 404-521-0777.***


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