Atlanta-Based Attorney at Law

Harmon Caldwell

“My goal in every case is to obtain the best possible result for the client.”

Harmon Caldwell has practiced divorce and family law in Atlanta for 38 years. He has been repeatedly recognized as one of the best trial lawyers in Georgia. He has handled over a thousand contested divorce cases, he has tried over a hundred and fifty jury cases in communities throughout the state, and he has been involved in more than 70 cases in the Georgia appellate courts.

Blog

26 Dec
2015

As I discussed with 11Alive, many individuals wait until after the New Year to file for divorce for many reasons, including worrying about causing emotional distress to their kids during what is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.” However, studies show a majority of kids handle divorce much better than previously expected.

B1B28205-CFE6-4F57-89D8034EA2CFDA76

A study at the University of Virginia, published in Scientific American, found only a minority of kids suffer from divorce long term. Though kids do, unfortunately, suffer short-term negative affects – such as anxiety, anger and shock – these emotions often dissipate by the end of the second year. Another study from Pennsylvania State University followed children of divorce and non-divorce through childhood, adolescence and teenage years. There were very few differences in emotional and behavioral problems, delinquency, academic achievement and social relationship between the two types of kids. Lastly, one study found children from high-discord families even welcomed divorce with relief as a break from their parents’ fighting.

This holiday season, don’t let the idea of tearing apart your family be the reason you deter filing for divorce. Children are much more resilient than we give them credit. Just like you, your children will bounce back from divorce.

If you are celebrating this holiday season in the midst of a divorce or as newly divorced, there are ways to ensure your children feel at ease during the chaos.

Try to maintain routine: Kids of divorce often feel stress due to routine disruption, thus lack of security. Talk with your child before the disruption about your holiday plans and stick to your normal schedule as much as possible.

Celebrate traditions: While the family isn’t together like it used to be, still celebrate traditions, even if it means adaption. For example, keep an Elf on the Shelf at both homes. Though everything isn’t the same in a child’s life, some things can still be constant. Additionally, don’t be afraid to also start new traditions that can make kids feel extra loved, like gifting him or her a new ornament every Christmas Eve.

Avoid Conflict: This goes without saying, but be especially cognizant of situations that may erupt in conflict. You may mean you need to watch alcohol consumption around your ex or avoid putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, like both attending a friend’s Christmas party to ensure conflict is subsided.

This holiday season, look at the silver lining of your divorce. You have the opportunity to celebrate new traditions and a new beginning, while avoiding the conflict of the past. Happy holidays from my family to yours!

09 Dec
2015

The Sims Get Married

Over the years, people have developed a near obsession with understanding divorce trends. Weekly reports emerge revealing the new divorce rate, long-term studies follow couples to see “where they went wrong” and endless television shows highlight the journey of divorce.

However, one of the most unique pieces examining divorce has recently emerged. “Why ‘The Sims’ Have Low Divorce Rates” focuses on how video game users who play the popular The Sims only have a 6 percent divorce rate among their 93 million Sims, 34 percent lower than the U.S. average, according to the Vice News piece.

A player meets a computer-generated player, then the two go from friends to dating to marriage. There’s a lot on the line in the game to get married, you receive points, but there’s also a lot to lose as players forgo a significant amount of points if they choose to divorce.

People who know the game best, the designers, attribute the difference to users being more engaged in the game than individuals are in the real world.

“When you’re playing The Sims, you’re paying a lot more attention and trying to make it work. In real life, life takes over and you can end up with two people looking at each other saying ‘how did we get here?'” said Rod Humble, the former head of The Sims Studio who worked on The Sims 2 and 3.

However, Humble also attributes part of the variance in divorce rates to the obvious – it’s only a video game.

“People aren’t going to get cancer,” said Humble. “They’re not going to have all these things in life that are particularly dark. It’s an optimism simulator.” He also mentions that people program their characters overly romantic and cheery, while rarely including evil or mean characteristics.

Psychotherapists also have their opinions on why Sims – and real life couples – have a messy relationship and divorce.

“We’re hearing more and more stories of couples trying to have a healthy divorce, but more often than not one person wants it (the divorce) when (the other spouse) doesn’t, you might have a third party involved and infidelity,” said Rachel Sussman, a psychotherapist specializing in relationships. “It can be very painful.”

Sussman also extrapolates how The Sims steers people into marriage, rather than have the users think of why they want to get married, to be applicable in the real world.

“The divorce rates for second marriages are even higher than first marriages, and I think that is because people don’t take the time to stop and see the mistakes they made the first time around,” she said. “There’s a pressure from society, to get married and remarried.”

Even if a video game can’t teach us much about relationships, this specific one teaches you that whether you’re in the virtual world or the real world, take time to think about who you’re marrying, the possible long-term consequences and taking the time to work on your relationship.

07 Dec
2015

If you’re considering a divorce, the holiday season certainly doesn’t make the decision any easier. Many of my clients tell me they want to wait until after the holidays to file for divorce. Therefore, it’s no surprise that I file more divorce cases in January, February and March of each year than I do the entire remainder of the year. I understand the reasoning. Spouses want to keep their family “together” and not “ruin” the season.

Harmon Caldwell featured on 11Alive

I recently shared my opinion with 11Alive on if someone should wait until after the holiday season to file for divorce:

Pros of waiting until after the holiday season to file for divorce:

  • The holidays can often bring people together. There is always a chance you may reconnect with your spouse and decide you don’t want a divorce.
  • Waiting until after the holidays will allow you more time to move forward with a clear head – and without the stress and emotions of the holiday season.
  • If you’re unsure of your financial worth, waiting until after the holidays will provide you with more time to gather and prepare comprehensive information on your assets, which include bank accounts, brokerage accounts, property, trusts, tangible valuables, retirement funds and more.

Cons of waiting until after the holiday season:

  • You prolong what may become an intolerable situation.
  • The longer you wait, the greater likelihood of your spouse finding out about your plans for divorce. If your spouse finds out, that may give him or her the opportunity to conceal assets in which you are entitled to share, or to file a divorce complaint before you do – thereby putting you on the defensive.
  • By waiting, you’re betting your current situation will not change for the worse. However, your spouse could lose his or her job, could fall ill or a myriad of other things that might delay your divorce filing, which could compromise your ability to obtain the best possible resolution. And it could ultimately postpone your moving on with your life.

More often than not, the holidays create even more tension and what should be the happiest of times isn’t at all. If you’re ready for a divorce, I recommend ushering in the New Year as newly single, and preparing for a new life.

Whether you pursue the divorce now or later, the initial, vital steps remain the same: don’t talk with your spouse about your plans before talking to a lawyer and gather as much information about your assets as possible.

09 Nov
2015

Many people say “I do” with just one document: a marriage certificate, even though I always recommend having a prenup. However, when a marriage dissolves, you need to be better armed with documentation to help you with estate planning as newly single.

In the years you built a life together with someone, both your name and your ex-spouse’s name were most likely linked, from the small things, like a gym membership, to the most vital, such as an advanced directive giving permission to your spouse to make end-of-life decisions for you. Revisiting your estate plan after a divorce is an absolute must. To get you thinking about what needs to be done, here are three documents you need to safeguard your wealth and health in your new post-divorce era.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

People often confuse a healthcare power of attorney and living will. A living will or advanced directive is limited to deathbed requests if there’s no hope for recovery, while a power of attorney covers all healthcare decisions and lasts only for as long as you can’t make healthcare decisions. Following a divorce, revisit your healthcare power of attorney to address important medical concerns such as dialysis, blood transfusion and other crucial concerns.

Living Will/Advanced Directive

advanced directives

An advanced directive covers the most serious of medical concerns, such as a DNR. Some people feel more comfortable changing their advanced directive when the divorce complaint is filed. If something were to happen to you during divorce proceedings, your soon-to-be ex-spouse will be the one making the literal life-or-death decision on your behalf.

Updated Will

If you don’t want your ex-spouse to receive a portion of your estate, you likely need to update your will. You should also name new beneficiaries to your life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and pay-on-death bank accounts. You will also want to name a new executor that will be in charge of carrying out the wishes in your will. If you don’t have a will to change, now’s the time to get one.

In naming a new power of attorney and executor, while also setting up a living will, make sure to sit down with the people you name to spell out exactly what you want so they won’t be blindsided if they’re ever called upon.

These documents are crucial not only for your wealth, but also for your well-being. Set up an appointment with your family attorney to make sure you’re protecting yourself and your family in every possible way.

03 Nov
2015

Stereotypes of divorce have historically included hysterically thrown dishware, screaming matches in lawyers’ offices and using children as pawns. However, as I discussed last week in “The New Push for Amicable Divorces,” divorce selfies, platonic parenting and conscious uncoupling have become immensely popular. As a result, more people are yearning to have a pain-free divorce and begin their new life on a positive path.

Is this trend of pain-free divorce evident all over the country? CompleteCase.com conducted a study to learn where in America divorces were most amicable. The online divorce document company ranked states as having “amicable,” “cordial,” or “disagreeable” divorces. The ranking was calculated by comparing couples in each state who declared they were in agreement with each other in terms of parting ways and dividing up assets against couples who were not in agreement with each other. Where are the states with the good, the bad and the ugly divorces?

The Good: Georgians take a sigh a relief. Even if your marriage is falling apart, there’s a good chance you can get through a divorce without breaking some plates. Surprisingly, one fifth of the states in the U.S. were ranked as having amicable breakups. The state most likely to have amicable divorces was the maple-producing state of Vermont.

The Not-So Bad: The majority of states, 40 to be exact, including Georgia, are likely to have “cordial” breakups.

The Ugly: Ten states across the U.S., including many Southern, Midwestern and Western states, are most likely to have a disagreeable divorce. If you call Alabama home, you are more likely to have a painful divorce than anywhere else in the U.S.

Where in America is Divorce Most Amicable?

Where in America is Divorce Most Amicable?

As I previously advised, the best way to have an amicable breakup is to execute a prenup before you walk down the aisle to avoid a messy divorce later, select a family attorney you feel at ease with for the divorce process and, lastly, consider mediation before heading to the courtroom for your divorce proceedings.