Child custody issues can be extremely challenging. When making child custody decisions, Georgia courts try to encourage meaningful and continuous relationships between parents and children. Every child custody situation is unique, and Georgia judges attempt to make decisions based on the children’s best interests.
Parents facing child custody determinations need the help of an experienced lawyer. The dedicated Atlanta family law lawyer at Carter/Pilgrim is here to help. Our attorneys can represent your best interests as well as your child’s, whether you need assistance in a divorce or a high-conflict custody conflict. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.
Child Custody Disputes in Atlanta
In many cases, child custody issues are involved in the divorce process. When parents divorce in Georgia, they will need to agree on child custody issues. When the parents can’t agree, a judge will determine the child custody issues instead. In other cases, child custody issues arise after a court has finalized the divorce process. Sometimes, one parent’s situation will change, requiring the parents to modify their original agreement.
When judges decide child custody issues, there are no boundaries regarding what factors the judge will consider. Judges will examine any relevant factors in determining the child’s best interest. Frustratingly for parents, every judge has a different opinion on what is relevant in every given case. It’s essential to understand how judges make child custody determinations.
Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody in Atlanta
There are two types of child custody in Georgia: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the physical location of the child. In other words, physical custody determines which parent the child will live with. Legal custody gives a parent the right and responsibility to make decisions about his/her child’s upbringing.
The parent with legal custody has the legal authority to make important decisions for the child or children. Legal custody involves important decisions regarding the child’s education, health, religious, social, and extracurricular activities.
Georgia courts can order that one parent holds sole physical or legal custody, or, courts can order that both parents hold some degree of physical and legal custody. For example, the court might give one parent primary physical custody of the children and allow the other parent scheduled visits. Or the judge could order that the parent with primary physical custody also has primary legal custody and can make all major parenting decisions.
In most cases, judges desire to allow both parents to have input when it comes to parenting. Hiring a family law attorney to help you along the way will benefit you and your child. At Carter/Pilgrim, our legal team offers our clients tried and true strategies designed to protect the rights of parents and the best interests of their children.
How Do Judges Decide Legal Custody in Georgia?
Georgia courts will look at a multitude of factors to make custody determinations. In the end, they seek to determine which child custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest. Judges may look at any factor that could come into play when determining the child’s best interest. Courts also include the following factors when determining custody:
- The sex and age of the child
- The compatibility of the child with each parent
- Each parent’s ability to nurture and care for the child
- The developmental, emotional, and psychological needs of the child
- The ability of the parents to communicate with the child
- Any existing custodial agreements between the parents
- Any prior and continuing care that the parents have given to the child
- The wishes of the child
- The child’s safety
- Any history of domestic violence or abuse
Children over the age of 14 have a significant influence on the court’s decision concerning which parent will have primary custody. At the same time, courts seek to make decisions to ensure that the child has a relationship with both parents. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, courts typically award primary custody to one parent and give the other parent visitation rights.
Are Courts More Likely To Award Mothers with Child Custody?
Many people assume that Georgia courts automatically grant mothers full legal custody of the children while the father receives visitation rights on weekends. Instead, Georgia judges seek to have both parents take an active role in their child’s upbringing.
Can Parents Share Custody of Their Children?
Georgia courts often appoint sole custody to one parent and provide the other parent with visitation rights. In rare cases, courts award joint custody instead of sole custody, however. Judges often seek to award joint custody in which both parents spend time with their children. Both parents could have joint legal custody, which means both parents have equal rights when it comes to making significant decisions for the child. Judges can award joint physical custody as well, meaning that the children spend equal time living with each parent. Shared custody arrangements might include the following:
- Both parents share custody during the week and on weekends
- Parents alternate visitation on school breaks, holidays, and special occasions
- The child custody agreement includes provisions for sports, school, and other events
- The parents have shared responsibility for decision-making
Sole Custody in Atlanta
Under the Georgia legal code, Georgia judges may award one parent sole, or exclusive, legal custody when the following situations occur:
- One parent has been more actively involved in the child’s life
- One parent is better equipped to provide for the child or children’s needs
- The other parent engages in activities that put the children at risk, such as drug abuse
Contact an Experienced Child Custody Attorney Today
At Carter/Pilgrim, we are committed to providing our clients with the most effective legal service possible. If you need experienced legal guidance in an Atlanta child custody or divorce matter, contact our law firm as soon as possible.