People generally love their children, so child custody matters can be emotionally charged and legally complex. Having a good understanding of the key factors involved in child custody cases is crucial for anyone navigating the complex legal landscape in Georgia. As Atlanta child custody lawyers, we want this blog post to provide essential information on 10 important aspects of child custody in Georgia, hopefully helping parents and guardians gain a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities.
- Types of Custody: Georgia recognizes two types of child custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the authority to make important decisions regarding the child's upbringing, while physical custody refers to where the child resides at any given time.
- Best Interests of the Child: A long-established principle, the court's primary consideration in custody cases is the best interests of the child. Factors such as the child's relationship with each parent, stability, and the ability to provide a safe and nurturing environment are taken into account when the court decides custody issues.
- Types of Visitation: Custody and visitation are two different but related concepts. Visitation, also known as parenting time, allows the noncustodial parent to spend time with the child. Visitation arrangements can be agreed upon by the parents or determined by the court based on the child's best interests.
- Factors Affecting Custody Decisions: Several factors influence custody determinations, including the child's age, the mental and physical health of each parent (are there drug or alcohol issues that need to be addressed? for instance), the child's preference (if of sufficient age and maturity), and the willingness of each parent to foster a positive relationship with the other parent (are anger issues, for example, interfering with the raising of the child?).
- Parenting Plans: Parents are encouraged to create a parenting plan outlining custody and visitation schedules, decision-making responsibilities, and dispute resolution methods. A parenting plan is an agreement between the parents that governs how time with the child is apportioned. If the parents cannot agree, the court will establish a parenting plan.
- Relocation and Custody: Georgia law requires custodial parents to provide notice and seek court approval before relocating with the child. A custodial parent just can’t move with the child. The court will evaluate the proposed relocation based on the child's best interests.
- Modification of Custody Orders: Custody orders can be modified if there has been a substantial change in circumstances that affects the child's well-being. This could include issues such as parental unfitness (drugs, alcohol, mental issues), relocation, or a child's changing needs.
- Mediation: Georgia courts may require parents to participate in mediation before proceeding to trial. These processes aim to help parents reach mutually agreeable custody arrangements. Mediation can be an effective way to address many issues.
- Grandparent Visitation: Georgia law now recognizes the rights of grandparents to seek visitation with their grandchildren under certain circumstances. Courts consider factors such as the child's best interests and the previous relationship between the child and the grandparent. Did the grandparent help raise the child? What is their relationship?
- Enforcing Custody Orders: If a parent violates a custody order, the other parent can seek enforcement through the court. Remedies may include makeup visitation, modification of the custody order, or contempt proceedings.
Child custody cases in Georgia require careful consideration of the child's best interests and adherence to legal requirements. Understanding the fundamental aspects discussed in this blog post can help parents and guardians navigate the process with more confidence and make informed decisions regarding the well-being of their children. Remember, consulting with an experienced family law attorney is highly recommended to ensure the best possible outcome in child custody matters. When you need an Atlanta child custody attorney, call us immediately!