Child Custody Lawyers in Georgia Helping You Make Sense of a Complex Legal System
When it comes to family law, child custody is one of the most complex and emotionally charged issues the courts have to deal with. If you have children and are going through a divorce, a child custody case is automatically created as part of the divorce proceedings. In some cases, the parents are able to agree to custody and everything goes smoothly. However, in many others, it doesn’t take much for a full custody battle to erupt, and these cases can go on for months and even years before they are finalized. There is a lot of misinformation regarding child custody laws and how the courts deal with these cases, and it’s common for clients to believe that they will automatically be awarded custody when this is not the case. Find out how custody works and what you need to know below.
When you need to take action to protect your children, you need a child custody lawyer who has the experience and is ready to work on your behalf. Custody issues can escalate quickly, and it’s important to have representation you trust to answer questions, provide legal counsel and represent your interests.
What Are the Primary Factors That Go Into Determining Custody?
Determining child custody is a complex issue in the family court system. The courts recognize that children do best when they have frequent contact with both parents (presuming the parents are healthy), but this can prove difficult after a divorce. When determining child custody, the courts look at many factors, including:
- Which parent has been the primary caretaker
- The financial standing and stability of both parents
- Whether there have been any allegations or evidence of abuse or neglect
- Domestic violence allegations or convictions
- The ability of both parents to actively foster a relationship between the children and the other parent
The state of Georgia doesn’t have a default presumption of what’s best for custody, which means that joint or sole custody could be awarded (and either parent named the custodial parent), depending on the facts of the case.
What Is the Difference Between Physical Custody and Legal Custody?
Child custody is a blanket term that includes both physical and legal custody decisions, but it’s important to understand the difference between these two aspects of custody.
Physical custody refers to where the child spends their time. This used to be called visitation, but most of those in family law prefer to use the term parenting time, as it better exemplifies the purpose of this type of custody. Physical custody can be full or joint.
In the past, it was common for one parent to be named the custodial parent and the other parent to only get every other weekend and one weekday evening per week. However, in recent years, there has been a shift to more flexible parenting time plans, such as 2-2-3-3 schedules or week-on-week-off schedules.
Legal custody is separate from child custody and visitation. This aspect of custody focuses on who has decision-making ability when it comes to the children. This commonly includes decisions regarding the child’s health care and the child’s education, but it can expand into other issues as well. Legal custody arrangements can also either be full or joint. When a parent has full custody, they are the primary decision-maker. If the noncustodial parent disagrees with a decision the custodial parent makes, they have to file a motion with the courts. In a joint custody arrangement, the parents have equal say when it comes to decisions, and if they are unable to come to an agreement on a matter, it moves to the family court for a judge to decide.
How Do I File for Custody in Georgia?
If you want to make an initial child custody filing or need to modify an existing child custody order, you will need to start a child custody proceeding in the Georgia family courts. If you don’t already have a custody agreement in place, you can work with an attorney to draft an initial filing. Child custody must be decided as part of divorce proceedings, but there are also cases where custody is handled by itself, such as when a couple wasn’t married. If both parties can agree on a custody arrangement, a proposed parenting plan is filed, and a court date is set. If the judge agrees, they will make the parenting plan an official custody order.
In cases where there is a child custody dispute regarding an order already in place, you will need to file a motion to change the current order. You need to be able to show a compelling reason for the change, and that reason needs to align with the child’s best interests. For example, asking for a change in custody because you are moving out of state for a better job that will increase the child’s quality of life is a better reason than because you don’t want to have to see the other parent every week.
Is It Possible to Change an Existing Custody Order?
Child custody agreements are open to change, and this happens frequently due to the changing needs of children as they get older and other life changes. If you have a child custody agreement and you need to make a change, it’s best to talk with an attorney before moving forward. They can advise you on whether it might be a good idea to attempt to get the other parent to agree to the new custody arrangement before filing or whether it is likely to end up going to trial as part of a custody dispute.
Do Grandparents Have Rights in Georgia?
Grandparents’ rights cases are a controversial topic in family law, with each state deciding whether they want to provide some legal protection for grandparents to be able to get court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren. Georgia does allow grandparents’ rights cases. This means that a grandparent of a child does have the ability to file a request with the courts to have visitation with their grandchildren. However, the courts also recognize that the parents have a right to socialize their children as they see fit, so there can be contention here.
In general, grandparents need to be able to show that they have had a close and frequent relationship with the grandchild and that one or both parents is currently actively keeping them from seeing the grandchildren. Grandparents’ rights cases often involve cases where one parent has passed away, so the grandparents can’t see the children during that parent’s parenting time.
Whether you need to make a filing in regards to a child custody issue or you need to respond to a dispute already in progress, a family law attorney from Lunn Law LLC can help. Call our office at 770-762-4628 to schedule your consultation and get started.