Georgia Child Custody Law

Often in a Georgia contested divorce, the most complex and contested issue between the parents revolves around child custody.  Recognizing the important role that both parents play in the lives of their children, Georgia child custody law ensures that your children continue to have contact with any parent who has shown the ability to act in the children’s best interests.

Georgia encourages parents to “share in the rights and responsibilities of raising” their children after a divorce or the dissolution of their relationship. O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(d).

Types of Child Custody in Georgia

Broadly speaking, child custody is broken up into two major categories, physical custody and legal custody, (in other words, time and say so).  Physical custody deals with which parent the child will primarily reside.  Legal custody addresses which parent will have the final say so on various matters related to a child’s upbringing such as medical and education decisions.

How the Georgia Courts Determine Child Custody

The determination of physical custody may be made by agreement of the parties (subject to court approval) or directly by the judge presiding over the case.  Regardless of how the determination is made, the best interests of the child or children involved must be considered by the court before any physical custody arrangement is ordered or approved by the court.

Of course in many cases, what is in the best interest of the child or children involved is not always obvious. If one or both parents are found unfit due to long work hours or irregular employment, mental health or substance abuse issues, then in these types of contested custody cases, we often turn to guardian ad litems (GALs) and obtain custody and psychological evaluations to provide guidance to the court as to the best course of action.

In addition, depending upon a child’s age, we may also look heavily towards the desire of the children involved (usually by a child’s election) in making the final determination of custody.

Visitation Plans and Visitation Rights

For the non-custodial parent, usually, some type of visitation is put into place to ensure that a child has access to both parents.  We discuss some of the more common custody plans in more detail and address unique issues, such as supervised visitation and parenting plans, in our visitation section under child custody.

Parenting Plans in Georgia

Any case in Georgia involving child custody must have a formal parenting plan incorporated into the final decree. O.C.G.A. §19-9-1. In order for a court to incorporate a parenting plan, the plan must meet several requirements.

Contact Atlanta divorce lawyer Nancy Ghertner today at (770) 980-9096 and learn how she has helped many parents over a 30-year legal career. Nancy cares about her clients, and she will explain what you need to do next. This can be a very difficult time and emotions run high. Now is the time to be objective and ensure that your rights as a parent are honored.