When it comes to divorces, custody arrangements regarding minor children often come into play. Uncontested divorces in Douglasville regularly have smooth and amicable agreements, including custody arrangements, and an excellent place to start the process is by learning Georgia’s custody laws.
Read on and learn more about custody laws in the Peach Tree State.
What are Georgia’s Child Custody Laws?
In a Georgia divorce, a judge decides how custody and visitation of the children will split between the parents. A judge will determine the child’s best interests when making custody decisions. But if the parents can reach an agreement, they can decide.
Georgia has two types of custody—physical and legal custody.
Also called “joint custody,” physical custody is the parent with whom the child lives. Parents have the option to share joint custody, or one parent may have sole physical custody. Parents who have joint custody arrangements share equal time with the child.
A parent with legal custody makes critical decisions regarding medical, legal, educational, or religious issues on behalf of the child. In a lot of cases, a judge awards joint legal custody to the parents. In Douglasville, Georgia, joint legal custody means that each parent can have input in all critical decisions involving their children.
What is a Primary Custodial Parent?
When parents share child custody—both legal and physical—the court designates one parent as the primary custodial parent or the one who is responsible for making the final decisions involving the child if the parents cannot agree. Typically, the court will designate the parent who spends more time with the child as the “custodial parent,” and the “noncustodial parent” will be the other.
What Do the “Best Interests of the Child” Mean in Georgia?
When parents divorce, a judge must make the child’s best interest the primary focus of any child custody decisions. Several factors play a part in the judge’s decision to determine what kind of child custody arrangements best serve the child’s needs.
Georgia’s child custody laws mandate that a judge considers the following factors and any other factors that could impact a child’s best interests:
- The home environment of each parent and their ability to care for and nurture the minor
- The parents’ physical and mental health
- The emotional ties each parent has with the child
- The ability of the parent to provide clothing, food, and medical care to the child
- The relationship among the child and their siblings who live in either parent’s home
- The familiarity each parent has about the child’s health, educational, and social needs
- The involvement each parent has in the child’s schooling and extra-curricular activities
- The willingness of each parent to cultivate a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent
- Each parent’s stability
- Any substance abuse history by either parent
- Any criminal history of either parent
- Any physical/sexual abuse or neglect of a child by either parent
Sometimes, a judge may appoint a guardian ad litem who's job is to represent the child’s interests in court. A judge can also appoint a custody evaluator to sit down with the family and then make a child custody recommendation to the judge. While a judge does not need to follow the recommendation of the guardian ad litem or the custody evaluator, a judge still gives their input significant consideration when determining the child’s best interests.
What is a Parenting Plan?
In Georgia, a parenting plan is the set of arrangements divorcing parents submit to the court. The parents can submit a joint parenting plan or separate parenting plans. This set of arrangements outlines the child’s needs and how the child’s time should get divided between the parents. It explains the parents' parameters of access to the child and allocates decision-making authority between the parents.
When determining the child's best interests, a judge will consider the information presented in the parents’ proposed parenting plan or plans. Both parents and potential witnesses may testify if the court holds a court hearing.
Can a Child Choose Custody in Georgia?
While a child’s choice of custodial parent does not control Georgia courts' custody decision, a child who is 11 or older may expressly state their preference as to which parent with whom they wish to live. A judge will take an older child’s preference into account with several other factors to decide on the custody arrangements best suited to the child’s needs.
How Do You Modify Child Custody in Douglasville, Georgia?
Under Georgia law, the judge’s custody orders regarding custody arrangements are final until a child reaches 18 or the order is modified. A parent will face sanctions if they choose to violate a custody order.
A petition to modify the custody arrangements can get filed by either parent. But before a judge grants a change to the custody order, the parent petitioning for the change must prove there is a circumstantial or material change that impacts the child’s well-being or because of the amount of time that has elapsed since the issuance of the last custody order.
If the court decides that a custody adjustment is in the child’s best interests, it will grant the modification.
If you need help figuring out custody arrangements or need assistance with your divorce, then the uncontested divorce attorneys at Cheap Uncontested Divorces can help. With offices throughout Georgia, our Douglasville uncontested divorce lawyers provide fast, hassle-free service and offer a free consultation with 24/7 availability. Do not hesitate. Contact Cheap Uncontested Divorces now!