When parents separate or divorce in Georgia, they need to confront the emotional issue of how child custody and visitation will be shared. You understand and accept that the relationship with your ex is over, but want to minimize the consequences for your children. You want what’s best for them. So do our divorce lawyers in Marietta at the Gentry Law Firm LLC.
Child custody in Georgia
In Georgia, there are two categories of child custody: legal child custody and physical child custody. Divorcing parents may define their own arrangement in their divorce settlement agreement, but if they cannot agree or communication breaks down, the court will issue a child custody order that it believes to be in the best interests of your children.
Legal child custody explained
Unless circumstances recommend otherwise, courts prefer to award joint legal custody, which means that both parents share the right to make decisions about the children’s upbringing together and have equal access to their school and medical records.
Although the goal is to ensure that both parents have an equal say in how the children are raised, one parent usually receives the authority to make a final decision if they cannot agree on an important matter. This right normally goes to the parent with primary physical custody.
While shared legal custody is the ideal arrangement, the court will award sole legal custody to one parent if a former couple is too hostile to communicate effectively or there is evidence of child abuse or domestic violence.
Physical custody explained
Physical custody indicates where the children live. While it can be shared, in most cases one parent becomes the primary physical custodian and the other has specified visitation rights. The courts determine a residential custody arrangement based on factors like which parent was the children’s main caregiver during the relationship.
Temporary custody motions
Either parent may request a temporary custody hearing while the divorce is in progress. At the hearing, the court will implement custody, visitation, and support orders that will remain in effect until final orders are issued at trial.
If you are concerned about your children’s wellbeing, you may have to file an emergency motion. In some counties, it can take time to get a temporary hearing. In others, like Paulding, the law requires you to mediate the action with your spouse before you will be granted a hearing. If you are worried that your child may be in danger or your foreign-born spouse may try to leave the country with them, work with lawyers of Georgia family law attorneys who can give you legal advice and help you get the necessary protection.
The Gentry Law Firm LLC will work closely with you to understand your unique needs and those of your children and fully explain your options for protecting your parental rights. Our law office will guide you through the divorce process and any other family law issues you may have while helping you reach a custody solution in your children’s best interests.
Having a team of attorneys on your side who have been involved in custody disputes in all family law courts in Cobb, Cherokee, Paulding, Bartow, and Fulton counties can be invaluable. You can rely on our child custody attorneys to protect your interests with a knowledgeable, experienced, and pragmatic approach.
What is the Best Interests of the Child Standard?
The Best Interests of the Child Standard is a legal framework that Georgia family courts use to make custody decisions. It consists of several important factors that, taken together, help a judge decide what outcome will be most beneficial for your children. While not all of them may apply in your child custody case, factors that are often taken into consideration include:
- Each parent’s wishes;
- Whether or not each parent is willing to support the child’s relationship with the other parent;
- Which parent the child wants to live with (depending on their age);
- The quality of the child’s interactions with their parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, and other key people in their lives;
- The child’s ties to their home, school, and community;
- The physical and mental health of both parents;
The existence of domestic violence in the family.
What if the parents are not married?
In Georgia, the mother of a child born out of wedlock has the sole legal right to custody of the child. The father must prove paternity in order to seek custody or visitation. This is done by a legal process known as legitimation. Simply acknowledging paternity on a birth certificate is not enough; only through legitimation does he receive a legally recognized role in his child’s life.
Can the child decide which parent they want to live with?
Children aged 14 or older can state which parent they want to live with. Their wishes will usually be respected unless the court believes that their choice is not in their best interests. For example, if your son wants to live with your ex because she lets him stay up late and skip his homework, the judge likely won’t grant the request.
What if one parent wants to relocate?
If you are the custodial parent and wish to relocate, you must provide the other parent with written notice at least 30 days before you intend to move. If they consent, both of you file a modification agreement with the court. If they do not, they can petition the court for a custody modification hearing to let a judge determine whether the move is in the child’s best interests. If the relocation is allowed, the court may modify the amount of child support paid if the non-custodial parent faces higher transportation costs to visit the children.
Contact an experienced Georgia child custody professional
When you hire child custody lawyers from the Gentry Law Firm LLC to represent you, we will use our years of experience and seasoned knowledge of Georgia child custody law to get you the results you and your children need. As child custody lawyers, we help you develop a parenting plan that maximizes your time with your children while letting them benefit from the love and attention of both parents. To schedule an initial consultation, please call our child custody attorneys 1-866-360-9263 or complete our Marietta office contact form online.