On November 17, 2008, the Supreme Court upheld Judge Batchelor’s (Gwinnett Superior Court) decision in regards to the amount of child support and alimony awarded in the case. Although the case is generally unremarkable, it did re-emphasize a point that is often overlooked by individuals that are proceeding forward with divorce, child support, alimony and other family law types of matters.
In particular, the court held that: “The standard by which findings of fact are reviewed is the ‘any evidence’ rule, under which a finding by the trial court supported by any evidence must be upheld. Furthermore, in the absence of any mathematical formula, fact finders are given a wide latitude in fixing the amount of alimony and child support… under the evidence as disclosed by the record an all the facts and circumstances of the case.” The Supreme Court also noted that “this court will not set aside the trial court’s factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous, and this Court properly gives due deference to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses.”
As I was reading the opinion, it reminded me that while attorneys are very well aware of these types of statements from the appellate courts in Georgia, most of our clients are not. In essence,what they mean is that the Supreme Court of Georgia and the Court of Appeals in Georgia rarely overturn trial court decisions on factual matters. Knowing this, and knowing that nearly all trials on family law matters come down to factual disputes, it emphasizes the point that if you want to prevail with your family law matter in Georgia, you must convince the fact finder of your factual allegations because they, in all likelihood, will be the sole determiner for the outcome of your case and you will not get a second bite at the apple.