In the following article, a Cordell & Cordell Georgia child custody lawyer provides answers to frequently asked questions about child custody.
Who will get custody of our child? Do I need a Georgia child custody lawyer to help with my case?
In Georgia, there are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. In almost all cases both of the custody types are shared between the parents.
Typically, the parents are awarded joint legal custody, which means that the parents must share in decision-making regarding the children and that the parents have equal rights to the child’s medical and educational records.
Ultimately, one parent will be awarded final decision-making authority for times when the parents are unable to reach a mutual decision. Typically, final decision-making goes to the parent who has primary physical custody.
Physical custody is, in most cases, also shared. However, usually there is one parent designated as the primary physical custodian and the other parent receives secondary physical custody. The courts determine physical custody based on several factors, including, most importantly, who has been the child(ren)’s primary care giver during the course of the marriage.
If you are facing a child custody issue in Georgia, it is almost always best to ensure that you have a child custody attorney in your corner to help protect your rights. A Cordell & CordellGeorgia child custody lawyerwill be well-versed in the child support laws of Atlanta, Fayetteville, Lawrenceville, Marietta and other jurisdictions throughout Georgia.
What is joint custody? What is sole custody?
Joint legal custody is the norm in the State of Georgia. This is when the parents share decision making authority regarding the minor child.
Typically, there are four areas in which the decisions are required to be made jointly: religious upbringing of the child(ren); medical care of the child(ren); extracurricular activities; and education.
Even though a joint legal custodial arrangement requires that the parents share decision-making, the courts will designate one parent to have final decision-making authority in the event that the parties cannot agree.
Final decision-making authority does not allow for a parent to make a unilateral decision. Even though one parent is designated to have final decision-making authority, that parent must still consult with the other parent before making any major decisions regarding the child(ren).
Joint physical custody is not the norm in the State of Georgia. Joint physical custody is typically an arrangement where the parents share equal or nearly equal parenting time. Judges in Georgia have a bias against equal parenting time. Joint physical is a parenting arrangement that cantypically only be accomplished by agreement. Judges will assign one parent as the primary custodial and the other as secondary.
Sole custody is very unusual and it means (whether in terms of legal or physical custody) that all of the custodial rights are assigned to one parent and the other parent has no rights. Having sole custody, however, does not alleviate the other parent of their obligations, such as child support obligations.
If both parents share custody does anyone pay child support in Georgia?
In many cases when the parties are able to agree on equal parenting time, one parent will still continue to pay support. Because child support is calculated based on income, the parent with the higher income will still likely pay some support. The only time when there may be no support paid is in circumstances when the parties share equal parenting time and have nearly equal incomes.
Can a parent refuse to allow visitation if child support is not paid?
No. Child support and visitation are two separate rights/obligations that are not connected to one another.
When can my child decide which parent to live with?
At age 14, a child can select which parent to live with. However, the election is not an absolute. Even with the election, the parent who is not being selected by the child still has the right to present evidence that the child’s election is not in his/her best interest. It is very difficult to overcome a child’s election. It is only in the most extreme of circumstances that a court may not go with the child’s election.
Do grandparents have custody and visitation rights in Georgia?
In the State of Georgia, grandparents do not have any type of custodial rights. In the event that both parents either are deceased or are declared unfit, a grandparent will likely receive priority in a custody evaluation. However, absent death or a declaration of unfitness, grandparents have no rights to children.
What is a parenting plan, and do I need one?
The parenting plan is the portion of the final divorce decree that addresses all custodial issues in the divorce. The parenting plan must be complete. It should acknowledge the importance of a child having a relationship with both parents and address the legal custody of the child and a plan for the child’s physical care.
The plan should detail parenting time including normal visitation periods, as well as a holiday schedule. The plan must demonstrate how each parent will have access to records regarding school, health care, extracurricular activities and religious training, and it must also designate, who has responsibility for making major decisions about the child.
If my separation agreement includes custody/support can it be included in the Georgia divorce decree?
The term separation agreement is not commonly used in Georgia. Georgia does not recognize legal separation and therefore, you will not typically see separation agreements.
However, in circumstances where the parties decide to live separately but not divorce, a separate maintenance case may be filed. In a separate maintenance case, custody and support may be addressed.
However, if the parties decide to file for divorce, then it is likely that the court will keep the status quo, unless either party can show a change in circumstances that warrants a change or if the separate maintenance agreement does not meet Georgia’s guidelines for support.
Some people refer to the Final Settlement Agreement as a separation agreement. In the event of a divorce filing, the court can incorporate any agreement of the parties into the final decree of divorce.
Temporary orders are orders that govern the conduct of the parties during the pendency of a divorce action. Typically, the parties can expect that the judge will order one person to leave the house, while maintaining the status quo for the marital residence.
The court will likely order that all of the bills continue to be paid by the party who has been paying the bills. This is often very complicated particularly when there is one working party and one party who has been a stay at home parent. The court will likely order the one working party to leave the house, but continue to pay the bills.
The court will recognize that there must be some contribution from the stay at home party but that it may take time for that party to obtain employment.
As to custody, the norm in Georgia, is for one party to have primary custody while the other gets alternating weekends for visitation time. The reason that the courts typically go with the default of alternating weekends is because temporary orders are usually entered early in a case before the parties have time to gather a sufficiency of evidence to show why standard visitation is not in the child(ren)’s best interests.
When will child custody be decided?
Custody is typically decided twice. First, it is addressed at the temporary hearing. Temporary custody is usually very early in a case, a month or two in after the filing. Custody on a permanent basis is determined at the trial of the case, or at any point prior to the final hearing when the parties may be able to reach a final agreement.
When can I modify custody?
In order for custody to be changed, the moving party must show that the party to whom custody was originally awarded is no longer able or suited to retain custody or that the conditions and circumstances surrounding the child or the parent out of the custody have so changed that the welfare of the child would be substantially enhanced by modification of the original custody award.See Jones v. VanHorn, 283 Ga. App. 141 (2006); Elders v. Elders, 206 Ga. 297 (1950).
There are no time restrictions on when a modification of custody can be filed. The moving party must, however, be able to show that there has bee a change in circumstances that would warrant modification.
What if we cannot agree on a custody arrangement?
In the event that the parties cannot agree on a custody arrangement, then the judge will make the determination of custody. Even with a recommendation from a Guardian Ad Litem, the judge still has full discretion to make the custody determination based on all evidence presented at trial.
What is an ex parte order?
An ex parte order is an order from a judge without having given opportunity for both parties to be heard. The only time that one can expect to receive an ex parte order is in a situation where the children may be in severe danger and giving the opposing party time to respond may result in significant harm to the child.
How is custody decided?
The standard in Georgia is to determine custody based on the best interests of the minor child. Unless one parent has been a danger to the child, the beginning point is to typically establish who has been the primary care giver for the minor child. In most cases, the primary care giver will receive primary physical custody.
The primary care giver is the parent who wakes the child up for school, helps him/her get ready, provides meals, does bath time, takes the child to doctor’s appointments, is at parent teacher events, etc. In cases where these duties are equally shared, it is a little more difficult for the judge to determine. Factors that may be considered are work schedules, who has available time for the children, stability, ability to provide, and at a certain age, the child’s desires may also be considered.
How can I increase my chances at getting a larger custody agreement?
Do not move from the marital residence (or the home where the child is living) until there is an agreement. Many men decide that it is better for the child to be in an environment where the parties are separated than to live in a contentious environment with both parents.
Though this is noble in concept, if you move out before a custody order is in place, your rights to see your child are virtually at your wife’s discretion. Do not allow her to have that power over your relationship with the children.
From a really basic perspective, the way to increase your chances of having more custody time, is to be more involved with your child. Be there for extracurricular activities, participate in bedtime and bath time, take the children to school, etc. The easiest way to get extra custody time is to show the court that the needs of the child dictate your available presence.
What is visitation?
Visitation is the common term used for the non-custodial parent’s parenting time. Visitation may also be known as secondary physical custody.
Can a judge order supervised visitation or no visitation?
Yes, a judge has discretion to order supervised visitation. It is not very common, but in cases where it is shown that it is likely that one parent is a risk for harm to the minor child, a judge can order supervised visitation. This may mean supervision by a family member, a supervision agency, or law enforcement.
As to no visitation, it is highly unlikely that a judge would order no visitation unless parental rights have been terminated.
Do courts favor the mother over the father?
The unfortunate reality is that many judges do have a preference of mother over father. However, in determining custody, a judge must consider the evidence presented as to who is in the best position to provide for the minor child. The court must consider what is in the child’s best interests. Gender of the parent should not come in to the evaluation.
What should I know before a custody trial?
Before a trial of any type, you should know that the most important this is preparedness. In every custody battle, there is a “winner” and a “loser”. Part of being prepared is knowing what the other side is going to say to try to pin you in the “loser” category.
Be able to answer every allegation that may be made. Be able to show that you have been an active, involved parent. Be able to show any downsides that may exist for the other side. Be prepared to stand up and say to the judge, “I can and will take care of my child and custody of this child should be granted to me because that is what is in my child’s best interests.” Be able to support anything you say.
Can I collect my own evidence to use if my custody case goes to court?
Some evidence can be gathered independently by a party. However, not all documents produced by a client are admissible.
For example, original bills received by the client from a creditor may be admissible in court. However, printouts from Websites like MySpace or Facebook may not be admissible as gathered by the party. Most courts will require authentication of those types of documents and may require production directly from the Website administrator.
Photographs taken by any person other than the party will not be admissible without testimony from the person who actually took the photograph. Even a police report provided by a client is not admissible without testimony from the police officer who produced the report. It is very important for clients to gather information in the way of documents, witness lists, etc., and provide that to their attorney. The attorney will have to evaluate each document to determine if that piece of evidence is admissible in court or if an admissible version of the document should be obtained through the discovery process.
Do I need to use a Guardian ad Litem/Custody Evaluator?
Guardian ad Litems are often necessary. Because it is unlikely that the judge can or will take the time to know the intimate details of a child’s upbringing and to see who is, in fact, a better provider, it becomes necessary for a third party to do an investigation.
Guardian ad Litems spend time with the child, the parents, and third parties who are with the child and the parents and can get a much closer glimpse of the child’s best interests than an attorney would be able to present in a one-day trial. Guardians are valuable assets for any father seeking primary custody of his children.
Will my child need to appear in court?
It is very rare that a child is ever asked or expected to testify in court. In fact, in many circumstances judges will think negatively of a parent who asks a child to testify against the other parent. In the event that there is a need for a child’s voice to be heard, it is best to have a Guardian ad Litem involved who can be the voice and representative of the child.
What is the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act?
This act applies in all interstate custody actions, even when kidnapping has not been asserted. A great deal of this particular act addresses jurisdiction issues for cases when the parents have filed custody actions in two separate states. It violates federal law for two states to concurrently assume jurisdiction over the same custody matter.
According to the act, the state that will have jurisdiction is the one that: has subject matter jurisdiction over the matter under state law and is the resident state of the child or either parent.
What if my wife tries to move the kids out state?
Once a divorce action is filed and both parties have notice of the filing under Georgia law, neither parent can remove the child from the state while the divorce is pending without consent from the other parent. Upon a determination of custody, the court cannot order the custodial parent to remain in Georgia or otherwise restrict that parent’s ability to relocate.
After custody has been determined and a divorce decree entered, a decision to move the child out of the state may warrant evaluation of the wisdom of the move from Georgia. Any time a parent decides to move away, the other parent should file a modification action. That is not to say that a move will automatically change custody, but a decision to move with the children certainly is a change of circumstances that warrants review by the court.
Can a parent change the child’s last name without the other parent’s permission?
A child’s name cannot be legally changed without the consent of both parents.
If I have custody, will I receive child support?
All primary physical custodians will receive support in some form under the divorce decree. Because Georgia sees child support as a right of the child, and not the custodial parent, the right to receive child support cannot be waived.
What not to say to a guardian ad litem? ›
When talking to the guardian ad litem, you should keep conversations positive and focus on how you can provide the best environment for your child. Speaking poorly about the other parent will only reflect badly on the parent sharing the negative information.What do judges look for in child custody cases Georgia? ›
Factors in custody decisions
The judge considers each parent's: Bond with the children. Ability and desire to provide the children with affection and guidance. Familiarity with the children's needs, plus capacity to provide for those needs.
Child custody laws in Georgia require a judge to consider the following factors, and any other factor that impact's a child's best interests: each parent's home environment and ability to care for and nurture the child. each parent's physical and mental health. each parent's emotional ties to the child.At what age does a child have a say in custody in Georgia? ›
Although many lawyers question whether children in a divorcing or divorced family are unduly empowered, the law in Georgia is that a child 14 or older can elect his or her "physical custodial”, the parent with whom the child will live with more than 50% of the time.How to impress the guardian ad litem? ›
Don't Put the Child in the Middle
But, don't put pressure on the child to do things differently than they normally would. Tell the child to be honest and think of the GAL as a friend. Don't pressure the child to report on conversations between themselves and the GAL. If you need information, talk to the GAL yourself.
82.0% of all guardian ad litems are women, while 18.0% are men. The average age of an employed guardian ad litem is 46 years old. The most common ethnicity of guardian ad litems is White (75.6%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (7.8%), Asian (6.4%) and Black or African American (5.6%).How do you win a custody battle in Georgia? ›
- Compatability with the parent.
- Ability to meet the child's essential needs.
- Parents health.
- Communication between the parents.
- Child's preference, age, and sex.
Georgia law puts the child's best interest first in every child custody decision. Neither parent is favored however parents of minor children are encouraged to co-parent in the best interest of the child.How likely is 50 50 custody in Georgia? ›
Georgia judges are generally averse to granting 50-50 parenting time, since they find that a child usually benefits from having a single home. Nevertheless, equal parenting time is possible if that is the preference of both parents.Can a mother get full custody in Georgia? ›
Both parents have equal rights to custody of a child born during a marriage. What if the mother and father are separated and one wants sole custody? That parent must go to court and get legal custody. The court awards custody to the parent it decides can best raise the child.
What is the most widely used standard for determining custody? ›
The most commonly used instruments are the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2), Rorschach Inkblot Test, Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), and Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS). However, more traditional tests such as these do not directly assess parenting skills.Can a mother keep the child away from the father in Georgia? ›
Legal Definition of “Father” in Georgia
In Georgia, both the mother and father who are married have equal rights as parents. However, it is important to note that if the parents are unmarried, only the biological mother has legal and physical custody rights to the child.
Georgia parents who wish to relocate with their children must notify their child's other parent, or obtain permission from the court.At what age can a child refuse to see a parent in Georgia? ›
Prater v. Wheeler, 253 GA 649 (1984) - A child who is at least 14 can choose to stop visitation with a parent, but the decision is subject to review by the court to ensure the decision is in the child's best interests.How can a mother lose custody of her child in Georgia? ›
Under Georgia law, a parent can give up parental custody rights voluntarily or can be deemed "unfit" and lose such rights by: abandoning a child. cruelty or abusive treatment of the child, raising a child under immoral or obscene influences, or.What questions do GALs ask? ›
- Describe your history with your former partner.
- How do you characterize your parenting style, and how does it differ from that of your former partner?
- What will your former partner say about you?
- Walk me through your child's or children's daily routines.
A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an individual, sometimes an attorney or mental health professional, who acts as the child's voice throughout the child custody or child custody modification process. This ensures that the court is able to act in the child's best interests.What is the purpose of guardian ad litem? ›
When a petition is filed to establish a guardianship, the court appoints a guardian ad Litem (GAL). The GAL represents the client's best interests (not the client him or herself) in the guardianship proceeding. The GAL also acts as a neutral investigator for the court.What is the meaning of Litem? ›
The Latin translation of ad litem is "for the suit." Examples: A guardian ad litem is a guardian (usually a lawyer) appointed by the court to manage the affairs of the ward as they relate to a proceeding or particular aspect of litigation, as opposed to a guardian, who would have all legal responsibilities.What does GAL stand for? ›
Gal is used in written English to represent the word `girl' as it is pronounced in a particular accent. ... a Southern gal who wants to make it in the movies. Synonyms: girl, woman, lady, dame [old-fashioned, or derogatory, slang, or, mainly US, Canadian] More Synonyms of gal.
What is guardian ad litem CPC? ›
In light of the law laid down in the C.P.C. and thereafter in light of the law interpreted by the Apex Court it can be said that a “guardian ad litem” is a special guardian appointed by a court in which a particular litigation is pending to represent a minor/infant, etc.On what grounds can a father get full custody? ›
There are therefore usually two situations in which a father would seek custody, the first being if the parties have separated and the father just wants to have the children with him, and the second being if the father has a genuine concern about the children's welfare when living with their mother.How do you beat a mother in a custody battle? ›
- Be active with your child's education, extracurricular activities, and events. ...
- Collaborate with your co-parent. ...
- Give them their own space in your home. ...
- Exercise your parental rights. ...
- Support your co-parent's relationship with your child. ...
- Make a good impression in court.
In Georgia, it is rare for a parent to be awarded sole physical custody unless the non-custodial parent suffers from a mental illness, dependency, or some other circumstance prevents that parent from being a good and safe parent for the child.What is the number one killer of children in GA? ›
Guns are the leading cause of death among children and teens in Georgia. In Georgia, an average of 161 children and teens die by guns every year, of which 31% of these deaths are suicides and 63% are homicides.Does Georgia favor mothers in custody cases? ›
Does Georgia Favor Mothers in Custody Cases? The short answer is no, Georgia is not a “mom state” nor does it have a presumed preference for mothers in custody cases. In the past, family courts had the “tender years doctrine” which was a belief that it's better for young children to grow up in the care of their mother.Why would a judge change custody in Georgia? ›
There are two main instances where the court will modify the child custody order: One parent is no longer able or suited to retain custody. Some situations affecting the child's safety are more serious, such as if the other parent has developed a mental illness or a drug abuse problem.What is the most common custody arrangement in Georgia? ›
A common pattern is for children to split weeks between each parent's house. Other joint physical custody arrangements include alternating years or six-month periods, or spending weekends and holidays with one parent while spending weekdays with the other.How much is child support for one child in Georgia? ›
The court estimates that the cost of raising one child is $1,000 a month. The non-custodial parent's income is 66.6% of the parent's total combined income. Therefore, the non-custodial parent pays $666 per month in child support, or 66.6% of the total child support obligation.Do you have to pay child support if you have joint custody in Georgia? ›
Under Georgia law, an award of joint physical custody does not mean that child support will not be ordered. Even in cases where joint physical custody is awarded, the Georgia Child Support Guidelines still apply and it may be possible that one parent will have to pay child support.
Who has sole custody of a child in Georgia? ›
In the absence of legitimation or other legal rulings, the unmarried mother always receives sole custody, according to Georgia law. Married parents do not face this concern, but an unmarried father may be surprised to realize he has no legal rights to his child at all.How can I get full custody of my child without going to court? ›
How to get full custody of a child without going to court. In order to avoid going to court, parents should see an expert such as a psychiatrist or social worker who can assist them in resolving the issues they may have. Additionally, parents may approach the Office of the Family Advocate.How long does a father have to be absent to lose his rights in Georgia? ›
While there are several reasons why parental rights in Georgia are terminated, an absent parent who has not paid child support or communicated with a child for a year or longer is viewed as having abandoned the child and will have parental rights terminated.What are the three main factors considered for custody placement? ›
Factors Judges Use When Deciding Custody
needs of the children. each parent's ability to meet the children's needs. relationship between the children and each parent.
- Domestic Abuse and Violence. If a parent has a history of domestic abuse or violence, a judge may grant sole custody to the other parent. ...
- Ability to Provide for the Child. ...
- Stability of the Home. ...
- Other People in the Home. ...
- The Child's Preference.
According to Robert Emery, PhD and professor of child psychology at the University of Virginia, joint physical custody is “the best and worse arrangement.” Essentially, it's in the best interest of the child in theory, but research shows this kind of situation tends to be less stable than a sole custody arrangement ...What are grounds for termination of parental rights in Georgia? ›
Under Georgia Law, the court may terminate parental rights when the parent's actions have harmed or could harm the child. Situations that could cause harm include: The child has been abandoned by their parent; The child has experienced aggravated circumstances (ex.Can a custodial parent deny visitation in Georgia? ›
A custodial parent may not deny visitation to the non-custodial parent even if they are failing to make child support payments. For questions on child custody, visitation or child support laws in Georgia you may contact our office to arrange for a consultation with an attorney.Can my ex dictate who is around my child? ›
But, yes – you may be able to limit who has contact with your children while in your spouse's care and this can be either through agreement or by court order. Remember, a court will look out for the best interest of the child. The most valid reason for wanting to limit contact is abuse (sexual, verbal, physical).Who has custody of a child when the parents are not married in Georgia? ›
Under Georgia law, the child's mother has all legal custody rights when the parents are unmarried. This means that even when the father goes through all of the steps to confirm paternity and the court orders him to pay child support, he does not have any legal rights to visitation or custody.
How do I win a relocation custody case in Georgia? ›
Custodial parents have the burden of convincing a judge that the move is legitimate and will benefit the child(ren). If this parent demonstrates — with specific evidence — that the move is good for the child(ren), the judge could grant the petition.What is an ex parte emergency custody order in Georgia? ›
Emergency orders (also called "ex parte" orders) set a temporary custodial arrangement due to emergency circumstances, such as child abuse or threat of parental kidnapping. These orders may also include protective measures, require a parent to participate in drug testing or counseling, and more.Can a minor be questioned without a parent present in Georgia? ›
As a partial response to the question at the beginning of this article regarding whether the police may question a child without a parent's presence, the answer is yes, they legally can.How old does a child have to be in the state of Georgia to decide where they want to live? ›
At what age can a child choose which parent with which to live? According to GA Code § 19-9-3(5), children who are 14 years old or older may choose which parent they want to live with primarily. Once the child has made a decision, he will have to sign an Affidavit of Custody Election and submit it to the court.At what age can a child decide who to live with in Georgia? ›
Although many lawyers question whether children in a divorcing or divorced family are unduly empowered, the law in Georgia is that a child 14 or older can elect his or her "physical custodial”, the parent with whom the child will live with more than 50% of the time.Can a mother move a child out of state without father's permission Georgia? ›
Unless the father determines paternity and goes to court to arrange for joint custody or visitation rights, the mother has sole custody and responsibility for the child and is able to move out of state whenever she wants or needs to.Can you sue ad litem? ›
Can You Sue A Guardian Ad Litem? Generally, Guardian Ad Litems are immune from being sued by the parents of their clients. “Guardians ad litem and court-appointed experts, including psychiatrists, are absolutely immune from liability for damages when they act at the court's direction.How do I file a complaint against guardian ad litem GA? ›
- One option is to complete and submit an online complaint form detailing your situation. ...
- The other option is to call our office directly (404-656-4200) and discuss your case with one of our friendly staff members.
Complaints must be in writing. There is a form for filing a complaint at the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel's website at www.mochiefcounsel.org. The telephone number for the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel is (573) 635-7400.How much does a guardian ad litem cost in Wisconsin? ›
In Wisconsin, the judge decides who pays for the 'guardian ad litem'. Total costs for the GAL's services can range from $1,000 to $3,000 and can include the cost of any experts hired, tests ordered and legal fees for the GAL's time.
What is ad litem in law? ›
used to refer to someone chosen by a law court to do something for another person when that person is not able to do it themselves. Ad litem is Latin for 'for this action': A guardian ad litem is normally appointed in cases where children are involved.What is a court guardian? ›
They are appointed by the Court to represent the rights and interests of children in cases that involve social services or serious safeguarding issues. They are the independent voice of the child. The Guardian is independent of the social worker, parents, courts and everyone else involved in the case.