Judge Kimberly A. Childs is the newest Judge to grace the Cobb County bench and brings with her a wide-range of experiences, both inside and outside the courtroom. I sat down with Judge Childs to discuss what she has learned since taking the bench and what knowledge and advice she wishes to pass along to the family law community.
Background and Personal Experience
Judge Childs was elected in May 2016 and took the bench in Jan. 2017, but before her election, Judge Childs worked in private practice litigating complex commercial disputes. She understands the demands of private practice and the cost of protracted litigation. Judge Childs is married with two children, a 14-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son and brings to the bench her experiences
of raising two children. Judge Childs and her husband have always worked full time, so she understands and recognizes that quality time with your children means different things to different people. Judge Childs does not penalize working mothers and understands that the
traditional family structure of a working parent and a stay- at-home parent is no longer feasible for a lot of families.
Judge Childs hired an experienced staff attorney, Karen Bain, and urges attorneys to use Ms. Bain as their first point of contact when issues arise, such as scheduling hearings or discovery disputes. Judge Childs utilizes a specific form when scheduling hearings and/or trials which requires each attorney to give a certain time announcement. If either party believes an emergency hearing is necessary, they should contact Ms. Bain to get on the calendar. Judge Childs will then block off a specific amount of time for each case and assign each case a specific time to report. This eliminates the need for attorneys and litigants to sit through lengthy calendar calls and wait unnecessarily. But it also means attorneys must provide realistic time announcements and be available at the designated time slot.
As a general rule, if there is a true emergency, Judge Childs will allot no more than one (1) hour for the issue to be heard and will make every effort to get the parties in as soon as possible.
Judge Childs is open to hearing from parties what parenting time schedule they believe is best for their family. She believes that a 50/50 or shared parenting time arrangement can be extremely beneficial for families in certain circumstances; so can more “traditional” schedules. Factors that she considers when determining these types of cases include how close the parties live to each other and their respective abilities to co-parent. If the parties are unable to work together or live too far apart, that creates challenges for a true 50/50 custody.
Guardians ad Litem
Judge Childs frequently uses and relies upon Guardians ad Litem, especially when there is an allegation of misconduct or abuse. She prefers to appoint her own Guardian ad Litem but she is always open to input from the attorneys. While she does rely heavily on Guardians ad Litem to give her insight into the children at issue, she does not blanketly accept a Guardian’s recommendation. As far as custody evaluations are concerned, Judge Childs prefers to appoint a Guardian ad Litem who can recommend a custody evaluation be conducted if necessary, rather than appoint only a custody evaluator.
Complex Issues and Experts
As far as equitable division goes, Judge Childs generally starts every case with a 50/50 division and deviates from equal division as the facts and circumstances of the case warrant, taking into consideration any relevant conduct of the parties and the need of each party. She welcomes financial experts, especially on complex issues such as business valuations, active versus passive appreciation and separate property tracing issues. Judge Childs also welcomes counsel for each party to submit trial briefs or letter briefs on a complicated issue to assist in her understanding of the more problematic issues at trial. Judge Childs uses her own property spreadsheet and trial form when reaching a verdict and may ask the respective attorneys to draft proposed order based on her trial form.
As far as case presentation, Judge Childs appreciates a brief summary of the requested relief at the beginning of any case, in writing. This helps her narrow down the issues and determine what each party wants. Further, any discovery issues or evidentiary challenges should be dealt with prior to the commencement of trial.
While Judge Childs would prefer that counsel for the parties could work together amicably to resolve discovery disputes, she understands that will not always be possible. In those cases, she encourages parties to reach out to Ms. Bain and schedule a telephone conference with her to resolve the issue quickly. Judge Childs believes all parties should produce any documentation that can be readily accessed, such as bank statements or other financial statements and is more inclined to order a party to hand-over necessary documentation than not. If a party is being uncooperative and she is unable to schedule a telephone conference, she encourages counsel to subpoena the relevant documentation and request fees for said expenses at a later date, if the facts and circumstances so warrant. Further, Judge Childs is open to considering a confidentiality order or protective order if confidentiality is a concern for one or both clients.
Judge Childs understands that litigation is expensive and that attorneys need to be paid. She is inclined to award interim attorney’s fees to keep good attorneys on a case and understands the need for good counsel to help resolve a case. However, if you are asking for fees, you must be able to show that the money is available and that there is a need.
Judge Childs wants the family law bench to know that she is immensely enjoying her new role and appreciates all the hard work and dedication she has seen thus far. She appreciates when attorneys can work together to come to resolutions but is happy to hear the case if that is not a possibility. Finally, Judge Childs requests that all lawyers be courteous and respectful to her staff.