At Brenner Law Group, divorce and family law is all we do – and we do it really well.

At Brenner Law Group, we remind our clients that while you are divorcing your spouse, your children are unfortunately involved in the process as well. Minimizing conflict can reduce the effects of divorce on your children. As both a lawyer and psychologist, attorney Emily Brenner has a unique understanding of family law and what’s in the best interest of your family. You can depend on both her compassion and knowledge to provide you with calm and clarity as you navigate this process.

Attorney Emily Brenner shares her expertise in child custody and child support matters.

During a divorce or separation, couples will be faced with the following children-related issues:

Determining Child Custody & Visitation

Child custody is one of the most highly disputed issues parents will deal with during the divorce process. While it’s recommended for parents to go through alternative dispute resolution to come to an agreement, this is an issue that often requires the assistance of the court. Emily Brenner can help you understand the different types of child custody, determine what is the best option for you and your children, and fight for your rights through negotiation or in court.

Calculating Child Support

Child support is paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent after a divorce or separation. Unlike spousal support, child support is in the best interest of the child; therefore, courts will determine what the child’s needs are, as well as what both parties’ situation is financially, before deciding on the appropriate amount. While Georgia lists child support guidelines that outline appropriate amounts, hiring an  experienced firm like Brenner Law Group can help you fight for what you think is fair for your case.

Below we’ve provided useful information to help you understand the basics of the Georgia divorce process, but this information is in no way intended to be a comprehensive guide. Please contact us if you have any questions.


Child Support

Divorce changes the relationship between you and your spouse; it does not change the obligation parents have to take care of their children. Every child has the right to have their material needs provided by their parents. Understanding how child support works is an essential part of the divorce process, and it’s why you want Emily Brenner on your side.

What Is Child Support?

Child support is money that is paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the benefit of the child or children of the marriage. Child support has some features that are very distinct from alimony (spousal support). Below are the major ones that an Atlanta child support lawyer can help you with:

  • Child support is the right of the child or children, and therefore, the custodial parent cannot waive the right to receive it;
  • Child support is intended only for the benefit of the child or children. Sometimes there is a fuzzy line between what is “for the children” and what is for the custodial parent. Think of the housing, utilities paid on the housing, the car, etc. While the receiving spouse has use of those things and benefits from them, they are necessary for the children;
  • Child support is paid in after-tax dollars. That means that the paying spouse pays a net sum after paying taxes, and the receiving spouse does not count child support as income.
Little girl on swing set

“Getting a divorce is the easy part. In most cases there aren’t major legal issues. The most important time is spent helping people figure out how to coparent and divide assets.”

Brenner Law Group has considerable experience negotiating child support provisions. Because child support is paid in after-tax dollars, we like to consider child support within the context of the entire financial divide between the parties. We will help you make financially responsible decisions for your children.

Calculating Child Support in Georgia

In Georgia, there are statutory guidelines for determining the appropriate amount of child support. These are, however, just guidelines. There is a presumption that the amount is a proper amount, but that presumption may be rebutted. The Court may still use its discretion in determining support obligations, which is where Brenner Law Group can step in to help.

Some of the factors a court may weigh in deviating from the guidelines are:

  • The best interest of the child or children for whom the support is being considered
  • The circumstances of the parties
  • Special needs of the child or children
  • For children of unmarried parents, the courts will try to achieve the same economic standard of living enjoyed by children living in intact families.

The final award of child support can be decided either by the judge or by a jury in a contested case. You are entitled to a hearing to obtain an award of temporary child support while waiting for the entire case to be resolved. The temporary hearing will be in front of a judge. Normally, child support is paid in monthly or bi-monthly installments until the child reaches the age of majority or some other event of emancipation occurs. If you need one, the courts can issue an order having child support removed from the paying spouse’s salary.


Child Custody & Parenting

Of all the issues in a divorce action, there is none more difficult for most of our clients or that commands more attention from the court than the issue of child custody. In Georgia, the “best interest of the child or children” is the main concern – not the convenience or relative wealth of the parents.

Georgia law and public policy encourage both parents to “share in the rights and responsibilities of raising” their children after a divorce (O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(d)). In other words, public policy considers the children to have a right to a good relationship with both parents unless it is shown to be in their best interest to limit the relationship with one or more parents. Knowing the different types of custody and parenting plans will assist you in working through child custody issues, which is where the experience of a child custody lawyer can benefit you.

Emily Brenner has extensive knowledge and experience handling child custody disputes, managing children and families in crisis and organizing families in transition.

Brenner Law Group can help you work through child custody and visitation issues. Emily Brenner has extensive knowledge and experience handling child custody disputes, managing children and families in crisis and organizing families in transition. As both a lawyer and a psychologist, she has the unique advantage of understanding both what the law requires and what is in the best interests of the child.

Mother and child snuggling on sofa

“Family law calls for very diverse skills, from trial skills and strategy when it is complex or nasty, to mediative and counseling skills as we try to change the shape of a family without destroying it.”

Types of Child Custody

You have probably heard the terms “joint custody” or “sole custody,” but you may not know that the “custody” part of those terms can refer to either legal or physical custody.

Legal Custody

Legal custody is about decision-making authority. A child’s legal guardian has the right and responsibility to make decisions for the child’s upbringing. This includes decisions about education, extracurricular activities, religious instruction, whether the child needs tutoring or counseling, and medical and/or dental care. The default in Georgia is that both parents to share legal custody to make joint decisions int he best interest of their children. In some cases, it may be in the child’s best interest for one parent to be stripped of this authority, if you believe the other parent is unfit or unable to make decisions regarding your child’s upbringing that are in their best interests, Brenner Law Group can help you present your case.

Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody can take many forms. The parent who is the primary legal custodian might have most of the authority with regard to the children. While the other parent can have a say in decision making, the primary legal custodian often has the final decision-making authority if the parents don’t agree. Even if you do not have primary legal custody, having joint legal custody gives you the right to access medical records, report cards, legal documents, etc. without authorization from the primary custodian.

Sole Legal Custody

If parents cannot get along, a judge can order all decision-making to go through a neutral third party called a “custody coordinator.” That is an expensive solution, as the parents must pay the custody coordinator. Another solution is to give one parent sole legal custody. The court may also award sole legal custody if a parent:

  • Is too far away
  • Is neglectful or abusive
  • Doesn’t spend any time with the children

It is very important to contemplate the legal custody issue very carefully. Our attorney Emily Brenner will speak to you about possible scenarios.

Joint Physical Custody and Sole Physical Custody

Physical custody is where a child lives. It can be shared or granted to only one parent. Joint physical custody isn’t always 50-50 between two homes and this shared arrangement may not be best when parents do not get along.

Sole Custody & Visitation

When one parent is granted sole physical custody, the other parent is awarded the right to scheduled time with the kids, known as visitation or parenting time arrangements.

Be careful when deciding on legal custody to make sure that you have covered whether the legal custodian has the right to remove the children from the jurisdiction of the Court. This subject can be confusing and overwhelming, especially for parents going through the emotional turmoil of divorce. Let Brenner Law Group help clarify, schedule a consultation today online or by calling (404) 751-8868.

Emily Brenner answers the question of what is a Guardian Ad Litem?

Determining Child Custody in Georgia

In Georgia, the central question in determining child custody is, “What is in the best interest of the child?” The one who makes that decision is the judge assigned to your case. If the parents agree on how custody should be handled and the judge doesn’t see any red flags, usually the parents’ wishes are respected, and the judge will approve them.

Child custody is a very emotionally charged issue, and oftentimes, the parents and the court need a neutral third party who is qualified to gather information and make a recommendation to the court or judge. This person will either be a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) or a custody evaluator (CE). When needed, the judge will appoint the GAL or CE. Typically, both parents share in the cost, which can be substantial.

Considering the Child’s Wishes

In Georgia, a 14-year-old has the right to choose the parent with whom he or she desires to live. The child signs a notarized statement called a Custody Election Affidavit that sets out the child’s wishes. The signed election raises a strong presumption in favor of granting the child’s wishes. There are circumstances in which it is appropriate to challenge the election.

If you have a child, who has elected to live with the other parent, speak with our attorney to weigh all the many factors involved before moving forward. Again, you may want to ask for a GAL or Custody Evaluator.

Little girl writing with multi-colored pencils

What is a Parenting Plan?

All cases in Georgia involving child custody must have a formal parenting plan incorporated into the final decree. Many counties in Georgia have county-specific forms on which they like the plan to be set out. If the parents come to an agreement on a parenting plan, they can ask the court to make that plan a part of the final divorce.

As you can imagine, many parents disagree on what the parenting plan should be. Often, the judge will appoint a Guardian ad Litem, a person with special training (usually an attorney or a psychologist) whose job is to do an investigation and make a report to the court recommending what the parenting plan should be. In contested cases, the judge makes the ultimate decision on parenting after hearing the evidence.

Georgia law requires that parenting plans have the following provisions in them:  

  • A recognition that a close and continuing parent-child relationship and continuity in the child’s life will be in the child’s best interest;
  • A recognition that the child’s needs will change and grow as the child matures and demonstrate that the parents will make an effort to parent that takes this issue into account so that future modifications to the parenting plan are minimized;
  • A recognition that a parent with physical custody will make day-to-day decisions and emergency decisions while the child is residing with such parent;
  • That both parents will have access to all the child’s records and information, including, but not limited to, education, health, extracurricular activities, and religious communications.

Brenner Law Group understands that you want the optimal situation for your children even as you work through the challenging experience of divorce. Ms. Brenner is both an Atlanta child custody lawyer and psychologist who has been appointed as a Guardian ad Litem in contested cases. Please contact us today to begin the process.


Paternity Legitimation

Paternal legitimation is a process required by Georgia law for fathers to establish paternal rights when they are not married to the mother of their children. If you want to legitimate a child and assert your parental rights, get in touch with Brenner Law Group for legal representation from a Roswell divorce attorney with more than 30 years of experience.

The Importance of Legitimation

Legitimation enables a father to establish paternal rights, as Georgia law provides sole custody to the mother for all children born to unmarried parents. This means that fathers do not have the right to custody or visitation and children are not automatically entitled to inherit property or money from their fathers.

Although there are many ways to establish paternity, these are not legitimation:

  • Paternity test results
  • Child support orders or agreements
  • Naming the child in a will
  • Enrolling the child at school
  • A signature on a birth certificate for children born before 2008

Paternal legitimation is beneficial to both the parent and child. However, the legitimation process does not automatically give a parent the right to custody and visitation. You must petition the court separately for a change of custody or visitation. Our family law attorney Emily Brenner can help with this.

Father reading picture book to child sitting on his lap

“We were able to work through the process with her help and careful guidance. We have already recommended her to other friends and family.”

How to Legitimate a Child in Georgia

There are two main ways to legitimate a child. Both parents can voluntarily choose to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. The other way is for the father to file a Petition for Legitimation with the court. This requires notification of the mother and does not automatically result in a judicial order. The court must believe that legitimation is in the child’s best interests. This is where Brenner Law Group can help.


Parents’ Rights

Under Georgia law, parent’s rights vary for married and unmarried parents. When a child is born out of wedlock, sole custody is automatically given to the mother. In this situation, there are steps that must be taken for a father to have a legal right to child custody and visitation. If you need a North Atlanta family lawyer or help establishing your right as a parent, Brenner Law Group can help.

Rights & Responsibilities of Parents

Married parents have a responsibility to care for their children and a legal right to custody and visitation, in the event of a divorce. When the parents are not married, the father has no legal right to custody or visitation, although he may be ordered to pay child support. In order to enjoy parent’s rights, a father must first file a petition for legitimation.

Young boy throwing a baseball to his father

“We were in the middle of a contested child legitimization and custody case when we decided to switch to Emily from our previous attorney. Her level of communication and expertise in this area of law was significantly better than our previous counsel.”

Custody & Visitation

After legitimation, our North Atlanta parental rights attorney can file petitions for child custody and visitation. Neither legitimation nor custody are guaranteed, even if a DNA test has shown that you are the parent of the child. It is up to the discretion of the judge, based on what he or she believes is in the best interests of the child. This is where an experienced lawyer is essential. Our attorney Emily Brenner has more than 30 years of experience and a unique skill set to meet the needs of our clients.

Attorney Emily Brenner has diverse educational and professional background as:

  • A trial lawyer
  • Divorce and family law attorney
  • Seasoned mediator and negotiator
  • Nationally certified counseling psychologist
  • Ordained Rabbi

The legal system and process are complex, but Ms. Brenner has a level of knowledge and experience that can only be gained through decades of experience. She has honed the skills needed to predict the outcome of different courses of action and uses this knowledge for the benefit of her clients in the Metro Atlanta area. Don’t miss out on this valuable help!


Plans for Children With Special Needs

If you are the parent of a child with special needs, contact Brenner Law Group today. Our Roswell-based family lawyer has assisted many families in creating effective plans to safeguard their children’s’ best interests.

In addition to decades of practice as a North Atlanta family law attorney, Ms. Brenner is a counseling psychologist.

Emily Brenner has more than 30 years of experience handling complex issues and helping divorcing parents plan for the child’s current and future needs. She seeks the advice of experts, such as doctors, therapists, life planning professionals, social workers, and other professionals to strengthen your case.

Ms. Brenner will help you address key issues involving child support and a workable custody agreement to create an overall parenting plan that meets the needs of the parents and the child. She can advise you about issues related to parenting arrangements, child support, estate planning, and the child’s continuing needs in the transition to adulthood.

Mother and child holding hands

“If you don’t know what you are doing when coordinating the divorce decree and the trust, you could accidentally make a special needs child ineligible for benefits.”

Creating a Plan to Meet Your Child’s Current & Future Needs

Divorce, child support, and custody matters are always difficult. The decisions that need to be made for a child with a learning disability, physical illness, or another condition present unique challenges, both in family life and the divorce process. Parents need to have a plan in place to maximize resources for the child while avoiding decisions that unintentionally result in forfeiture of benefits to which the child is entitled.

Determining Appropriate Support for a Special Needs Child

Georgia has statutory guidelines in place for determining the appropriate amount of child support for a child. However, there are several factors that allow the court to deviate from the statutory guidelines for determining child support, including having a child with special needs. Our family law attorney Emily Brenner can step in to help.

A parenting plan should include information about:

  • The current and future medical and functional needs of the child;
  • The continued well-being of the child as he or she ages;
  • How to structure child support in light of resource limits for public benefits;
  • Use of a special needs trust to ensure that all Medicaid and SSI benefits remain intact



Are You Filing in Fulton County?

It’s important to know that Fulton County is the only county in Georgia with a separate family court. The Family Court Division has set up specific administrative procedures that must be followed in divorce cases in Fulton County.

Brenner Law Group can help nagivate this process so if you are contemplating a divorce, have been served with divorce papers, or need a divorce lawyer at any stage in the process, please contact our office.


Brenner Law Group will work with you to create solutions that are in the best interests of you and your children. If you are facing a conflict related to child support, custody or visitation, contact us at (404) 751-8868 or schedule your consultation online.

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Brenner Law Group

The award-winning boutique family law firm providing trusted advocacy to Metro-Atlanta families for over 30 years.