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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Commonly Asked Questions about Child Custody in Georgia

Georgia law regarding child custody can be complicated, but we're here to help. As a family law attorney practicing in Henry County, Georgia, concerned parents and relatives frequently ask me basic questions on this topic. This blog post includes answers to some fundamental questions about child custody in Georgia: 

Are children usually placed with their mother after a divorce in Georgia?

Under Georgia law, both parents are treated as equals when it comes to custody arrangements. When it comes to child custody and visitation rights, Georgia law is focused on making an arrangement that is in child's best interest. Therefore, the best legal argument for child custody demonstrates how living with one parent over the other parent will be best for the child. Showing evidence that you are a hands-on parent who is involved in the child's daily routine will build a strong case in your favor.

What's the difference between physical and legal custody?

There are two types of child custody that can be awarded under Georgia law: physical custody and legal custody. The two are not exclusive - joint custody agreements are very common in Georgia. Physical custody describes which parent the child lives with. When both parents equally share physical custody, the child spends an equal amount of time with both parents. Legal custody is the right to make major decisions for the child, such as medical, educational, extracurricular and religious decisions. It is most common for parents to share joint legal custody unless the court finds that it is not in the child's best interest.

Can children choose which parent they want to live with?

In Georgia, children who are age 14 or older can decide which parent they prefer to live with and the court will usually grant the request unless given compelling evidence to the contrary. Children ages 11-13 are allowed to express an opinion regarding whom they would prefer to live with, but the court will ultimately determine what living arrangement is in the child's best interest.

Will a parent lose visitation rights if he or she doesn't pay child support?

No. Child support and child custody are completely separate agreements under Georgia law, and lack of payment does not legally justify withholding access to the children. Conversely, the parent ordered to pay child support is still obligated to pay even if the custodial parent is withholding visitation. The best way to address these types of issues is to speak with a family law attorney regarding possible contempt.

Can I change or modify a child custody agreement after a court ruling?

Parents can agree to any type of custody arrangement they choose at any time. But in order to be binding on both parties, and both parents agree to a reasonable modification, the modification will have to be filed in court. However, if only one parent wishes to modify a child custody agreement, it will only be granted if circumstances have changed in a way that would affect the current agreement. For example, if the parent who was originally awarded custody was no longer suited to care for the child due to a change in life circumstance, the other parent may attempt to change the child custody arrangement.

How should I prepare for a custody trial?

Knowledge is power, and preparation is key. Work with an experienced family law attorney who can advise on the best way to prepare weeks, or ideally months, beforehand. The court takes parental involvement very seriously when determining what's in "best interest of the child," and parents fighting for custodial rights need to be prepared to prove they are an active and involved parent. From school carpools and doctor visits to the bedtime routine, parents need to demonstrate how they play a vital role in their child's daily life.

For more information on child custody or other family law issues, contact Elizabeth Pool here or call (770) 775-3188 to schedule an appointment. Smith, Welch, Webb and White is recognized as a premier law firm throughout the state of Georgia. Our team of experts routinely handles a wide range of legal matters, and will provide outstanding service for you, your family or your business.

 

Any representations regarding the law in this Blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.


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