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

02 Oct
2015

Harmon at BBA Breakfast

Last week, I gave an early morning presentation titled “Preserving Wealth in Times of Transition and Crisis” to the Buckhead Business Association (BBA) during their weekly Thursday Breakfasts. I talked to a group of about 40 Buckhead professionals about how to handle a few of life’s transitions and crises, including:

  • You or a family member doesn’t have a will
  • You need to contest a will
  • You’re about to get married
  • You’re about to get divorced
  • You’re in a business dispute with a partner

I’ve been doing this for a long time and I can tell you that if it weren’t for greed and crazy, many of these problems wouldn’t exist, I would be out of a job and I wouldn’t have been giving that presentation.

I’ve represented many wealthy families from Carlos to Chandler, from Woodruff to Rollins and other high-profile Atlantans such as Frances “Tut” Woodruff in contesting the will of her father, Coca-Cola’s Georgia W. Woodruff’s. I represented Anna Stanley in her divorce from Rev. Charles Stanley. I represented Bernice and Martin Luther King III in their dispute with their brother Dexter over their mother Coretta Scott King’s Estate. No matter the family or situation, the issues are often the same.

After my presentation, many peoples came up and asked questions about loved ones who desperately needed a will, friends who needed to inquire about the first steps for divorce and more. Oftentimes, people ignore these topics until it’s too late. By becoming educated, these professionals recognize what steps they needed to take to preserve their wealth.

Though discussing divorce, death, estate disputes and inheritance protection aren’t comfortable topics, these topics need to be addressed so people can ensure they are preserving their wealth for themselves and their family. Don’t ever underestimate human nature’s ability to create havoc with the best intentions. If you don’t have a plan to protect your assets, know that somebody else will.

If you would like me to speak to your group, please contact my assistant Wanda Sharretts at 404-843-4111. Based on your needs, we can hone in on a specific topic, such as wills or divorce, that your audience is interested in.

22 Sep
2015

Gwyneth Paltrow famously announced her and husband Chris Martin would be 'consciously uncoupling'

Gwyenth Platrow and Chris Martin put “conscious uncoupling” on the map.

Last week, The Washington Post declared “the death of traditional marriage” given the rise of Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling,” the platonic parenting trend and the most recent social media phenomenon – divorce selfies. In the past two weeks, couples across the globe have been uploading pictures on social media with their ex-spouse boasting that they are now divorced … and happy with each other.

Why is the picture of divorce changing from screaming matches in a law office to smiling pictures of ex-spouses together on social media? More importantly, is an amicable divorce attainable? Is this something new? What’s going on?

What Is The Shift?

Many couples are trying to redefine divorce stereotypes. Some people say they no longer view divorce as a devastating, emotionally scarring experience that is a source of shame or failure. This is exactly right! Divorce can be a natural, amicable point of transition. This viewpoint is based on the fact that:

  • Marriage does not have to be the most defining aspect of a person’s life. Divorcing couples are entitled to reimagine what marriage is and that it “is not necessarily all-important, all-fulfilling or immutable, “The Washington Post.
  • Couples are also making a more concerted effort to put their children’s needs before their emotions in the midst of and following a divorce, a trend that has been dubbed platonic parenting. More parents are agreeing to keep their parenting relationship completely separate from their personal relationship for the sake of their children.
  • The rise of the term conscious coupling, which was first introduced by relationship therapist Katherine Wooward, according to The Huffington Post, then popularized by Gwyneth Paltrow in her divorce from Chris Martin. Since then, more people have become educated on ways to end a relationship, while still making a commitment to the family.

Has Anything Really Changed?

There is really nothing new in any of this. It all depends on the mindset of the individuals involved.

The terminology has changed, but an amicable divorce has always been possible. Many couples have amicably divorced in the past. However, an amicable divorce is not going to be possible in the vast majority of situations. Human nature is just too strong. Financial issues are too important. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t be a Gwyneth Paltrow.

There are, however, things you can do to better the chances for a successful resolution of your marriage:

  • I’ve always stressed getting a prenup before marriage for many reasons, including the fact that it will help ease emotions during a divorce. Create a prenup before you walk down the aisle, when you’re still in love and on the same page. This will curb some fiery emotions later on as you have what each receives in writing.
  • Pick a family attorney that you feel at ease with. You should always select a family lawyer you feel comfortable with and you believe has your best interest at heart. Knowing you have someone on your side will help calm the stress.
  • Consider mediation first. Before heading the courtroom, talk with your lawyer about going to mediation. It will be less expensive and less stressful, leading to a smoother divorce.

Whether you’re prepared for a calm divorce or dreading a more emotional one, contact a family lawyer who can help ease the divorce process and put you on a new path to renewed happiness.

21 Sep
2015

When the millions of Ashley Madison accounts were leaked, the term “divorce” was popping up in newspaper headlines and search engines all over the world. Since then, the legal term has only been more talked about. From divorce selfies to discussing divorce in the Catholic Church to the creation of an online divorce museum, it’s clear divorce is continuing to lose its negative stigma as people are talking more openly about it than ever. This is consistent with what I have been saying for years.

The Introduction of Divorce Selfies

The “divorce selfie” that started the trend.

 

Selfies entered new territory when ex-spouses Chris and Shannon Neuman snapped a smiling picture outside their local courthouse after finalizing their divorce and uploaded it to Facebook with a caption that stated they have respectfully, thoughtfully and honorably ended their marriage in a way that will allow them to go forward as parenting partners.

The photo received tens of thousands of shares, according to Daily Mail, and thousands of couples have followed suit with their own #divorceselfies. Rather than broadcasting the negative aspects that can come with a divorce, these couples are celebrating their last few moments of matrimony and starting their next journey on a positive note.

Pope Francis’ Streamlining the Annulment Process

The Catholic Church took a major step this month toward recognizing the dissolution of a marriage when Pope Francis announced the annulment process would be easier to attain. The Church doesn’t recognize divorce, saying a marital union sanctified by God is forever. However, church leaders can annul a marriage ruling something was missing from the relationship when vows were initially exchanged, such as infidelity, mental illness or a spouse’s unwillingness to have children. The process, notoriously known for being a lengthy and expensive process, will now be reduced by many months, according to The LA Times.

Divorce Museum

The “divorce capital of the world,” located in Reno, Nevada, now has a multimedia online exhibit launched by the University of Nevada to add depth to its superlative. The online museum has more than 1,000 documents, photos, articles and audio clips from around 1910-1970 when the city made a name for itself due to its relaxed marriage dissolution practices.

“It not only highlights the impact the divorce industry had on Reno’s culture and economy, but also explores how Reno changed the national attitude around divorce,” said Mella Harmon, historian and co-curator of the project at the UNR Library’s Special Collections Department in an article on ABCnews.com

Reno received the nickname in the early 1900s when the city only had a six-month waiting period for divorce while the majority of the country’s waiting period was extended to one year. In 1927, Nevada lawmakers cut the residency requirement to three months, and four years later Gov. Fred Balzar shortened it to six weeks.

Donnelyn Curtis, project co-curator and head of the school’s special collections, said the exhibit is a “treasure trove” for academics and amateur historians alike. She said it provides “important historical detail about an important cornerstone of Reno’s cultural and economic development, which helped to shape this city’s identity.”

If your marriage isn’t working, then for most, divorce is a possible event. The stigma is gone. Move on!

08 Sep
2015

From your cousin to your friends to articles in magazines, everyone seems to have an opinion on how long a courtship should be and how old two people should be before they tie the knot. But what does science say is the sweet spot for marriage?

How Old Should You Be?

Sociologist Nick Wolfinger discovered marriage “now has a U-shaped relationship to divorce.” He collected data from the National Survey of Family Growth from 2006 to 2010, and concluded that if you get married too early, the risk for divorce is higher. If you get married too late, the risk is also higher.

He concluded that late 20s and early 30s is just right – specifically, ages 28-32 have the highest chance for marital success. For each year after 32, the chance of divorce goes up 5 percent, according to his analysis. This proved true regardless of race, education level, sex, religious background and other demographic features.

perfect age to get married

“This is a marked departure from the way things used to be, when the relationship was relatively linear: the older you are when you first marry, the lower the odds of divorce. Period,” said Nick.

Read more about this pattern in his article, “Want to Avoid Divorce? Wait to Get Married, But Not Too Long.”

How Long Should You Date?

According to a blog on eHarmony, “The Science of Love,” there aren’t a lot of studies on how the length of courtship relates to the success of a marriage. However, Ted Huston, a leading researcher on transitions in relationships, marriage and parenthood, followed couples for 13 years starting in 1979 to learn about dating and marriage.

He found that couples who still said they were “happily married” by the end of the study dated for approximately 25 months before getting married. On average, according to eHarmony, today’s couples are waiting 2.8 years, or 32 months, to tie the knot.

Despite the studies, my experience has shown there is no perfect age or time together that guarantees marital success. I’ve seen couples that have known each other for a just few months outlast couples that dated for years before walking down the aisle. I’ve also seen many younger couples and older couples outlast those who get married in the “prime” age range. No matter the age or length of courtship of a couple, each marriage brings challenges that will supersede those statistics.

If you do find yourself facing a failed marriage, contact a family attorney to learn your next steps. If you are ready to make a commitment to someone, also contact a family lawyer to prepare a prenup and estate planning while you’re still blissfully in love.

01 Sep
2015

Recently, investigative reporter Dana Fowle of Fox 5 made a confession in her segment on “Good Day Atlanta.” She doesn’t have a will. Unfortunately, she is in the majority of Americans as more than 50 percent don’t have a will. Despite having a husband, a daughter, and assets that include a home and a car, she has no written plans for how her assets will be distributed, no executor and no medical directive.

Dana came to my office to discuss estate planning, the facts about online wills and why nearly everyone needs a will.

Why You Need Estate Planning

A will is a large part of any estate planning, but estate planning also includes an Advanced Medical Directive that allows you to select the person who will make decisions about your health in the event you are unable to and a Power of Attorney, which is to permit someone else to manage your assets if, again, you cannot do so.

Your will, of course, provides for the distribution of your assets but also names an executor, the individual who has the responsibility to see that your wishes are carried out.

What Happens in the Event of Your Death?

Dana and I discussed the fact that if she passed away, most of what she had would go to her husband, which is what she wants and one reason she hadn’t given too much thought to having a will. However, a portion of those assets would be held for her daughter and her husband would have to have a hearing and jump through some hoops to be appointed the administrator of Dana’s estate. He would then administer the estate the way he saw best – all while grieving.

Many times, transferring assets is not so simple. If you’re 25, unmarried, have no children and pass away, by law, your assets are divided equally between your parents and siblings. If you have been married and have children, it gets more complex. Second marriages, stepchildren, estranged siblings and other similar situations will make dividing up your estate much more complicated. I cannot over-emphasize how much financial and emotional pain a will can prevent.

Types of Wills

Dana briefly touched on online wills in her segment. There are a variety of things that can go wrong with an online will. For example, Georgia law provides for a somewhat complex will execution process to prevent fraudulent wills. It’s easy to make a mistake. Having an attorney prepare the documents will ensure that you dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Online wills are generally one-size-fits-all and not your best option.

You can also get a basic will through an attorney for as little as $200-250. While that is much better than nothing or an online will, I recommend getting a quality attorney knowledgeable and experienced with estate planning who can spend the time necessary to create the best will possible for you.

Dana proclaimed her lack of will was “an error in judgment.” If you don’t have a will, contact an attorney to ensure your assets are distributed and decisions about your health are made according to your wishes, not someone else’s.

Watch Dana’s complete segment on “Good Day Atlanta” and read the accompanying article on the Fox 5 website.