The sensitive issue of child custody is frequently one of the most emotional and challenging aspects of a contested divorce. Tensions run at their highest when divorcing parents cannot agree on custody arrangements. Our firm can help.
Warner Bates leads the legal profession in supporting parents engaged in a custody battle. The depth and breadth of our experience and dedication to divorce and family law, and specifically custody disputes, is unmatched. If you would like to schedule a consultation with an Atlanta child custody attorney regarding your case, we would love to help.
How Does Child Custody Work in Georgia?
All US states operate under the Uniform Child Custody Act (UCCA), which is designed to eliminate inter-state child custody issues. During child custody battles, most courts try and ensure that the children are able to see both parents and aim for a custody agreement that allows both parents to develop and maintain a strong relationship with the children (with the exception of cases where a parent is a danger to the child).
There are two types of custody, legal custody and physical custody:
- Physical custody concerns where the children reside. For example, if the children only stay with one parent, that parent has physical custody.
- Legal custody concerns who has the right to make decisions for the children about a variety of matters, including healthcare, school choices, religion, etc.
Additionally, there are two types of custody arrangements, joint custody and sole custody:
- In joint custody arrangements, children reside with both parents equally or semi-equally. For example, a custody arrangement where children spend 60% of their time with one parent and 40% with the other is still considered joint custody.
- In sole custody arrangements, the children stay with one parent at all times. In most sole custody arrangements, the parent who does not have custody of the children will engage in visitations, where they come to spend time with the children. Depending on the circumstances of the child custody arrangement, visitation may or may not be supervised by a law enforcement professional (LEP) or child services professional if the court thinks such precautions are warranted.
It's important to note that sometimes, even if a parent has sole custody and physical custody of their children, they may not have total legal custody of their children.
In Georgia, children over the age of 14 are allowed to decide which parent they live with.
How Do Courts Decide Which Parent Gets Custody?
Like divorce cases, many child custody cases are settled out of court. In situations where both parents are estranged and cannot come to a compromise, the case will be resolved in court. However, in cases where the parents are on decent terms and are willing to work together to determine a custody arrangement, most courts would prefer to have child custody cases resolved by a mediator or the parents’ attorneys.
Either way, the child custody arrangement will be determined by a parenting plan. Parenting plans include a variety of details, such as:
- A detailed arrangement for how the parents will handle custody. If the parents settle on a joint custody arrangement, the parenting plan will determine which days of the week and holidays each parent gets the children for, as well as details such as where the children will be exchanged. A detailed custody plan can help resolve any tension associated with the case.
- Details concerning legal and physical custody. For example, if the parents have shared legal custody, neither parent has the right to force their personal religious beliefs on the children or make unanimous decisions concerning medical care or schooling. The parenting plan will contain detailed provisions about these kinds of details and establish what boundaries the parents wish to set.
- Plans of action for a variety of issues. For example, what will happen if one of the parents moves to a different city or state and can't visit the children in person anymore? What sort of relationship should the children have with any new partners the parents take on? What is each parent expected to provide for the children so they can have a good quality of life? These details allow the court to ensure the parents have a comprehensive child custody plan in place that covers all their needs.
Who Gets the Children in a Divorce?
Determining child custody is a process that is designed to protect the children’s best interests. Judges investigate and analyze a family’s situation to consider what would be in the best interest of the child. Georgia judges will also consider the child’s health, safety, and comfort.
A judge may consider the following when determining child custody:
- The age of the child
- Where each parent lives
- Which parent is more involved in daily activities
- The stability of each parent
- The stability of each parent’s living situation
- What the child wants if age-appropriate
Is Georgia a Mother State?
In Georgia, if the parents are married and fit for custody, then both father and mother have equal rights to custody. The courts will not automatically grant the mother custody just because she is the mother. Rather, the courts will evaluate all the factors to determine what is in the child’s best interests.
What is Considered an Unfit Parent in Georgia?
An “unfit” parent in Georgia is defined as a parent who is not capable of caring for the child. While there must be serious circumstances that lead to the courts considering a parent as unfit, there are a few factors that will be used to determine this:
- Child abandonment
- Cruel or abusive treatment of the child
- Allowing for immoral or obscene influences in the child’s life
- Neglecting to provide for the child’s necessities
How Can a Mother Lose Custody of Her Child in Georgia?
There are a few situations that could cause a mother to lose custody of her child in Georgia. First off, if the mother is deemed unfit because of poor treatment and living provisions for the child, then she could lose custody. Additional behaviors that could lead to losing custody include:
- Alienating the other parent
- Compromising the child’s privacy
- Not cooperating with the parent you share custody with
- Manipulating the child’s opinion against the parent you share custody with
We Wrote the Book on Child Custody in Georgia
When it comes to sole, joint, or primary custody, and a multitude of other custody-related issues, our Atlanta child custody lawyers wrote the book on this area of family law.
In fact, we wrote two books to be exact:
These works continue to form the foundation for understanding and interpreting the relevant case law in Georgia regarding these matters. These books, all written by firm partners, are updated annually and are used as the standard reference guides by lawyers and judges across Georgia. You can rely on us for the experienced advocacy you can only expect from a firm with our standards and reputation for excellence.
Discover How Our Georgia Firm Can Help Your Family
Our child custody attorney in Atlanta possesses an in-depth knowledge not only of the relevant case law governing child custody issues but also of the challenges facing mothers and fathers who are going through custody disputes. Warner Bates has been helping families like yours for more than 40 years. We help parents think strategically and take the necessary steps to protect their family's future. The decisions you make now will impact your family for years to come. That's why you need the right team on your side.
Contact Warner Bates Now for a Consultation
Child custody disputes are never easy. When your family is dealing with child custody issues, be sure you're getting the very best legal representation from a top Atlanta child custody attorney to ensure the best possible outcome. Our firm would like to give you peace of mind. We help mothers, fathers, and even grandparents protect their visitation and custody rights.
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