Protecting Your Time With Your Children Is Critical
One of the most difficult issues to address in a divorce is child custody. Before a divorce can be granted in Georgia, however, the spouses must agree on a parenting plan for child custody and visitation, or the court will make that determination for the parents. The best way to avoid the emotional fallout of a contentious child custody battle is to consult an experienced family law attorney.
For over 30 years, E.N. Banks-Ware Law Firm, LLC, has been providing representation to clients who are resolving child custody issues. During this time, Georgia child custody laws have evolved and now recognize that children can benefit from having the guidance and support of both parents. Our objective is to help you preserve the bonds with your children, protect your interests as a parent, and devise the best solution for the family.
Child Custody In Atlanta, Georgia
In Georgia, as in most states, there are two types of custody – legal custody and physical custody.
- Legal custody – the right of each parent to make decisions for the child, such as education, health care, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities
- Physical custody – which parent the child will live with and the parenting time/visitation rights of the other parent
Today, the Georgia courts prefer to award joint legal custody unless there are circumstances that make a parent incapable of handling custodial responsibilities. The court may consider a parent with a history of alcohol or drug use unfit for child custody, for example, in which case sole legal custody can be awarded to the other parent.
On the other hand, it is not as common for the court to award joint physical custody. Often, joint custody may not be practical, particularly when the parents do not live near one another or because a parent has a problematic work schedule. Therefore, it is critically important for parents to work together to agree to a parenting plan that suits their situation.
If the parents fail to reach an agreement, the court will make a determination that is in the best interests of the child. Factors the court will consider in approving a parenting plan or making its determination about child custody include:
- The child’s physical, emotional, religious, and social needs
- The ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs
- The love, bond, and emotional ties between the child and each parent
- The importance of maintaining a stable environment and continuity of care
- The willingness and ability for each parent to foster a continuing relationship between the other parent and the child
In addition, children ages 14 or older can request which parent they prefer to live with, but the court will make the final decision. Finally, it is worth noting that Georgia law recognizes the importance of the relationship between a grandparent and a child, and grandparents have the right to seek visitation when a parent does not get visitation with the children.
Is Custody Granted 50/50?
This is a common question for parents. In Georgia, a 50/50 custody split is not the norm. Even when the judge grants parents joint custody, that does not always mean that they will share that time 50/50. The judge will consider whether it is in the child’s best interests to split time equally between two homes. Often, it does not make sense to have the child spending half of their time with a parent who doesn’t live close to the school and the child’s friends and activities.
It is not impossible to get this arrangement, but you will have to show the judge how it is better for your child than a different parenting time schedule.
Resolving Child Custody Disputes In Georgia
While child custody disputes are typically associated with divorce proceedings, unmarried parents also need assistance in resolving child custody issues. Regardless of your situation, it takes a skilled child custody attorney who will listen to your concerns and help you find the best solution.
Backed by her extensive experience and certification in collaborative law, attorney E. Noreen Banks-Ware is keenly aware that children can benefit from seeing their parents work together. This is why she encourages families to find solutions through a negotiated settlement or through the mediation process. By working closely with you and understanding your family dynamics, she can help craft a parenting agreement that works best for your family and will meet with the court’s approval.
Avoiding Parental Alienation
Custody battles are often contentious and the negative feelings that parents have for each other carry over after the case is concluded. Sometimes this leads to parental alienation, a situation in which one parent harshly criticizes the other to the child. They may belittle the other parent and tell lies about them in an attempt to cause the child to not want to spend time with that parent. They may also withhold the child from the other parent. This causes the child serious emotional harm as they may feel conflicted, depressed, guilty, or scared.
Stopping parental alienation is not easy, but for the child’s sake, it must be done. To avoid parental alienation from the start, parents can practice modeling good behavior, such as:
- Not criticizing the other parent to the child
- Not withholding affection from the child
- Not keeping the child from spending time with the other parent
- Keeping negative thoughts about the other parent to yourself
- Ensuring other family members do not express negative thoughts about the other parent
- Planning ways to spend time as a family and making it a positive experience
If you think your child is a victim of parental alienation, you can speak with a lawyer to discuss your options.
Modification Of Custody
It is not uncommon for divorced parents to request a modification of the child custody order or agreement. To grant a modification, the court must find that there has been a material change in circumstances, such as:
- A parent is seeking to relocate to a distant community or out of state.
- A parent is failing to adhere to the terms of the custody order.
- There are allegations of child abuse or substance abuse.
Contact Our Atlanta-Area Custody Lawyer
Going through a divorce is a painful experience for a family, and children are often caught in the middle of a contentious marital breakup. The best thing you can do to protect your interests as a parent and the well-being of your children is to work with an empathic family law attorney. After over 30 years of being on the frontlines of child custody battles, attorney E. Noreen Banks-Ware is keenly aware that children have rights, too, and deserve our protection.
Whether you are involved in a highly contested divorce, an unmarried couple seeking to establish paternity and custody rights, or a grandparent seeking visitation rights, she will provide you with the advice and support you need to make the best decisions for yourself, your family, and most of all, your children. If you are involved in a child custody dispute, contact our office online today or call 770-679-2617 to discuss your situation.