Neal v. HibbardAnnotate this Case
In two cases, Joseph Neal, Jr. appealed the trial court’s orders modifying child custody and child support as they pertain to his two children by two different marriages. Neal and Allyson Hibbard were divorced in 2000. They had one child together, a son who was fifteen at the time of this initial action. Under the final judgment and decree of divorce, the parties had joint legal and physical custody of their son, who spent half of his time with each parent. In the divorce decree, Neal was ordered to pay child support to Hibbard in the amount of $660.00 per month, as well as certain expenses of the child. Neal and Jennifer Neal ("Jennifer"), Neal’s second wife, were divorced in 2006, remarried in 2009, and divorced again in 2010. They had one child together, a daughter who was seven at the time of the bench trial in this case. Under the 2010 final judgment and decree of divorce, the parties had joint legal and physical custody of the child, and again, the child’s time was split equally between the two parents, and Neal was ordered to pay Jennifer $1,000.00 per month in child support, as well as certain expenses of the child. In late 2011, Neal was involved with a "sexual incident" with his then-wife and their eighteen-year-old babysitter. As a result of the incident, Neal was charged with rape and other crimes; the rape charge was dismissed in 2012, although Neal was sentenced for possession of marijuana and furnishing alcohol to an underage person. Neal was a personal injury attorney in Augusta; his criminal prosecution received extensive negative media coverage; his income was negatively impacted; and he was suspended from the practice of law in South Carolina and the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. Neal then moved to Atlanta in an effort to restore his practice. Both Hibbard and Jennifer sought modification of their divorce decrees as to child custody and support. As to both cases, the Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. Common to both cases on remand, the Supreme Court found that temporary support judgments of both trial courts had to be reversed because they did not comply with OCGA 19-6-15.