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Parenting plans may not consider children's changing interests

As joint custody becomes more popular in Georgia, questions have been raised about whether child custody decisions actually reflect what children need. Who is named the custodial parent is supposed to be based on the children's best interest. Family court judges in Georgia are supposed to determine whether a child will do best in a joint- or single-custody arrangement and whether the mother or father is best suited to be the custodial parent. Once that is set, however, it can be quite difficult to modify.

The burden for modifying a divorce decree can often be quite high and most parents in Cherokee County are not willing to undertake the process alone. It is often essential to work with a family law attorney to modify any child custody order in order to ensure that it was done correctly.

One reason why a family may need to change a child custody decree is because the needs and interests of the child have changed. It is inconceivable that a child's best interests will remain the same over five, 10 or 15 years, depending on when the child's parents divorced. Making it difficult to modify an order may actually do more harm than good to a child.

Oftentimes a child may not get the opportunity to have his or her voice heard. Even supposing that he or she is willing to broach the subject of a custody change, courts often use experts and witnesses to "decipher" what a child is saying. Rather than listening to what the child is actually saying, many experts will attempt to come up with a child's best interests without even asking.

Source: The New York Times, "In Whose Best Interests?" Ruth Bettelheim, May 19, 2012

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William C. Gentry, Attorney at Law

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