simple grace publishing

Ideas that Bridge the Courts and Real Life

Dear Client: You need a plan


Clients work to persuade me that the client is ready for change. Having the right words is the first step toward convincing a judge that change is indeed on the horizon. Unfortunately, words alone will not shift a judge’s perspective.

That a client can see and understand the client needs to change is ground breaking for the client. Judges, prosecutors, CPS case managers, and defense attorneys hear stories of change daily without any follow through or accomplishment. Many people working in the system become cynical and believe that no one can change.

The promise of change must be accompanied by action. What is the plan for change? How has the client taken action on this plan? Applied for and enrolled in drug rehabilitation, started therapy for survivors of domestic violence, established a relationship with a therapist and doctor to treat mental health issues, created a routine of attending AA/NA meetings for substance abuse because that’s the only help you can afford.

Words are not enough. Make a plan. Work the plan. A lawyer cannot change a client’s behavior. The prettiest words will not persuade when the words lack force and action. Documentation from these resources, the people providing services, supports the story of change.

CPS/Foster Care cases have plans ordered by the judge. Follow the case plan. Accomplish the steps.

Work with a lawyer to create a plan that will convince a judge that you are ready for change. Follow your case plan, if you have a CPS case.

Actions by a client show the court that change has happened.

© 2015 Nancee Tomlinson

Dear Client: Court Does Not Teach a Child. Parents Do.

PRINCIPAL_JUDGE_ROBE The first time a parent in juvenile court said to me, “I brought my child to court so that court would teach my child respect. But we just keep coming back and nothing changes. The Judge, DJJ they don’t do anything.” My initial response was wonder. Really, a parent thought a government agency and/or a court could fix that type of problem? Later, after several years of experience, I refined my answer. Unfortunately, neither the Court or the various government agencies are capable of “teaching respect” to a child. Parenting is challenging and an unending task, but no magic switch can be turned on to teach respect. The Court will provide resources for parents. Resources could be therapists to help parents and child communicate better. Classes for both parents and children to find a common ground of respect for each other. There will always be more court appearances, particularly if the parent and child continue to disagree and involve law enforcement or the Department of Juvenile Justice. Parents tell me, in court, that they can no longer control their child and want the government to take control of the child. The parent does not wish to participate in the services offered and the child, in the parent’s mind, is the reason. This statement usually prompts Department of Family and Children Services involvement and whole new level of government and people telling parents what to do. Honestly, parents and children must work together to respect each other from the child’s early days. If a parent decides when a child is 8-12 that the child needs to learn respect, that parent is always the teacher. Care should be taken in communicating thees lessons. Respect does not arise from corporal punishment, usually. Judges and therapists can’t be in a home 24/7 to teach or be the disciplinarian. Parents must do the work of discipline if discipline is to be learned. There are books on the topic of teaching respect; there are also family members and friends who have raised respectful children rely on those resources. The Court is not equipped to fix a child. The Court has a limited number of options to address this type of situation. Most of those options require more court appearances and parent participation to relearn parenting. Do it yourself. Don’t ask the Court to do it for you.

© 2015 Nancee Tomlinson

Caregiver’s Compass Available at Avid Bookshop


Caregiver’s Compass is now available at Avid Bookshop on Prince Avenue in Athens, GA.

Dear Client: Consequences for Using Police as Discipline for Children


Frequently, I hear parents in juvenile court state that they only wanted the police to scare the child into compliance with the parent’s rules. The parent can not understand why the matter was brought to juvenile court. Ultimately, the query to the Court is “why are we here? The police came to the house and handled the situation.”

Violating household rules and failing to follow a parent’s instructions are not usually delinquent offenses. Certainly, a parent will be mad but does that create criminal/delinquent behavior? Is this behavior that a parent wants to see on a child’s juvenile record? The long term consequences can be permanent.

First consider that the job of the police is arrest people when crimes are committed. A parent must ask of himself/herself before calling 911 about a child: has a crime been committed? Is someone injured? Is someone in fear for their life and/or safety because of a child in the household? If the answer is yes, then call 911, immediately.

If the answer is no to each of these questions, then the parent should consider why the police are necessary. If a child fails to follow instructions, does the parent truly want the government involved in the life of the family. In reality, government-the police disciplining a child generates a report. After several reports, the police can send those to juvenile court. Charges of ungovernable or unruly against a child result in court appearance that disrupt the lives of both parent and child.

Not only will families be required to go to juvenile court, the judge will likely order the parents to speak with therapists and social workers, maybe even DFCS or CPS. Is that the result the parent wanted? To have a judge telling them how to behave?

In the end, a parent must determine how to discipline a child. There are books and there a therapists who can help parents, maybe even their family’s pastor, find new strategies to manage and interact with their child.

Raising a child is difficult. No one person or program has the perfect fix for every child. A parent should consider choosing the type of help that best fits their lifestyle and comfort level before calling the police and getting help that is not optional and generates reports and records of parental and child behavior.

© 2015 Nancee Tomlinson

Dear Client: What is a Jury Trial?

During the course of a guilty plea, criminal defendants around the country answer a series of questions designed to determine whether the defendant is entering a plea knowingly, freely, and voluntarily. “Do you waive your right to a jury trial?” or some variation is one of those questions.

A local judge tends to follow up on that question with, “do you know what a jury trial is?” The answer from the criminal defendant is usually, “Yes.” Next, “what is a jury trial?” Inevitably, my client will stammer and stutter without answer, in spite of the education and coaching we’ve done around answering that particular question.

All citizens carry basic rights under the U.S. Constitution. While the public retains a general familiarity with the topics covered by the Constitution, the specific details of each right become the focus for criminal defendants facing prosecution. The cumbersome criminal justice system requires more detailed explanation for those charged with a crime.

What is a jury trial?


The short answer: when 12 (felony) or 6 (misdemeanor) citizens hear evidence and argument and law in order to determine whether a person is guilty or not guilty.

The longer answer: A jury trial is made of many parts. Some trials may take only a few hours, some can take weeks. Generally, a jury trial has these parts.

Jury Selection

Preliminary Instructions to the Jury

Opening Statement by the State

Opening Statement by the Defense

State’s Case

State Rests

Defendant’s Motion for Directed Verdict of Acquittal

Defense Case

Defendant Notified of Right to Choose to Testify or Not Testify

Defendant’s Witnesses, if any

Defendant’s Testimony, if applicable

Defendant Rests

Rebuttal Evidence, if any

Jury Charge Conference

State’s Initial Closing Argument

Defendant’s Closing Argument

State’s Final Closing Argument

Judge’s Charge to the Jury

Jury Deliberation


Sentencing, if necessary

© 2015 Nancee Tomlinson

Dear Client: Liability for Parents in Truancy Matters

images In my law practice, friends, family, and random callers seek advice and information about Georgia Law. A recent question focused on Truancy in Georgia. A rural community had a parent arrested for a child’s purported 12 or so unexcused absences. The question: does it just happen out of the blue or is there some process before a parent is arrested? Georgia law requires that children between the ages of 6 and 16 attend school. If a child has 5 or more unexcused absences that parent or guardian in control of the child can be charged with a misdemeanor, sentenced to up to 30 days in jail, community service and/or a fine of between $25 and $1000. Each unexcused absence beyond the 5 days can be treated as a separate crime. OCGA 20-2-690.1. In my experience, school systems prefer to deal with the issue by speaking with parents and resolving issues. Only when the parent and child fail to improve on the problem or provide a reasonable explanation do parents go to jail. School systems are required to have a truancy protocol to address these incidents before reaching the arrest and charging level. OCGA 20-2-690.2. Providing written excuses and communicating with the school and the Truancy team can help parents avoid arrest in most cases. Failure to get a child to school on time is the responsibility of the parent under Georgia law. Judges and schools prefer for a child to be school, learning. No one wants to do the paperwork associated with arresting someone, having to appear in court, and deal with the Court system if they don’t have to.

© 2015 Nancee Tomlinson

Caregiver’s Compass – Now Available from

After years of working with families encountering the juvenile court system, I found that foster parents and relative caregivers had no base of information to understand the who, what, how, and where of the juvenile court system and foster care.

Simple Grace Publishing proudly announces the publication of Caregiver’s Compass: Navigating Foster Care by Nancee E. Tomlinson.

A Foster Parent's Guide to Foster Care
A Foster Parent’s Guide to Foster Care

Caregiver’s Compass guides foster parents through the court system and provides information about the expectations and necessities of being a foster parent. The book includes areas to record names and contact information for professionals involved in the child’s case, to track court dates, to memorialize who a foster parent has spoken with and about what, and to manage what goals the foster parent is expected to achieve.

Available today through at Caregiver’s Compass.

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