North Atlanta Child Custody Attorney
Georgia Child Custody & Visitation
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.
Our Atlanta child custody attorney can help you work through child custody and visitation issues. Attorney 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.
Talk to us about your case! Call (404) 418-4006 for a free introductory phone call.
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 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, our Sandy Springs family law attorney 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. Your Sandy Springs family lawyer 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 our North Atlanta child custody lawyer help clarify, schedule a consultation today. (404) 418-4006
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 the attorney to weigh all the many factors involved before moving forward. Again, you may want to ask for a GAL or Custody Evaluator.
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.
Contact Our North Atlanta Family Law Attorney
Brenner Law Group, LLC 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.
Contact us at (404) 418-4006 to schedule a consultation.