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.
E.N. Banks-Ware Law Firm, LLC has been helping clients resolve child custody issues for over 30 years. 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 Dekalb County, 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, healthcare, 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.