Atlanta Child Custody Attorneys
Protecting You & Your Child in & out of Court
The key in any child custody dispute is the best interests of the child. Obviously, the courts would prefer an agreement that the parties make for themselves, but where the parties disagree the court will decide custody based on what it believes will be in the best interests of the child. As such, we spend considerable time preparing the presentation of what is in the best interests of the child and working with the client to make the best possible case.
During child custody disputes, parents often worry they'll receive less time with their child than they believe is fair. Having a competent Atlanta child custody lawyer at your side to defend your parental rights and the best interests of your children is vital.
Harmon Caldwell and his team will help you do just that. We understand how special the bond between parent and child is and will help you pursue an outcome that enables your child to thrive.
What Are Child Custody Laws in GA?
There are two different types of custody in Georgia: Legal custody, and physical custody.
- Legal custody concerns a child's rights, such as the healthcare, education, the religious upbringing they receive, and the cultural experiences they have, etc.
- Physical custody concerns which parent a child lives with a majority (or all) of the time.
Similarly, there are two types of custody arrangements parent can obtain in Georgia:
- Joint custody. In a joint custody arrangement, both parents share physical and legal custody of the child, although the child may spend more time living with one parent. Whichever parent the child lives with a majority of the time is the custodial parent and often has more say concerning the child's wellbeing than the noncustodial parent (whoever they spend a minority of their time with).
- Sole custody. In a sole custody arrangement, the child spends their time living with one parent. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the other parent (who the child does not live with) may have visitation rights or legal custody of the child.
How Do Courts Determine Child Custody in Georgia?
If both parents agree on a child custody arrangement, they can work together to draft a joint parenting plan that details how they plan to handle custody. The court can approve of the parenting plan, legalizing the custody arrangement.
However, if the parents disagree on how to handle custody, the court may have to decide. In this case, the court accepts a separate parenting plan from each parent, and then hears evidence from the parents supporting their parenting plans. The court then makes a final decision and drafts a legally binding parenting plan.
Courts rule based on the child's best interests in custody situations. Some factors courts take into account when presiding over custody cases include:
- The physical and mental health of both parents;
- The home environments of both parents and whether those environments are appropriate for the child;
- How capable each parent is of providing the child with necessary care (healthcare, education, food, clothing, etc.) and a good quality of life;
- Whether either parent is involved in any other custody arrangements;
- How a potential custody arrangement may impact a child's development (such as how switching schools may affect their social skills or education);
- How stable each parent is;
- Each parent's history with the child;
- Whether either parent is unfit due to aforementioned factors such as child or substance abuse.
What Age in GA Can a Child Decide Which Parent To Live With?
Although it is not the only factor, Georgia courts may consider the child’s wishes once he or she reaches the age of 11. As mentioned above, the court evaluates multiple factors to determine which custody arrangement would be in the best interests of the child.
What Is Considered an Unfit Parent in Georgia?
Georgia courts may deem a parent "unfit" if he or she:
- Abandons the child;
- Abuses or cruelly mistreats the child;
- Fails to provide for the child; and/or
- Raises the child in an inappropriate environment.
Contact Our Atlanta Child Custody Lawyer Today
Understanding how to pursue a child custody arrangement that suits both you and your child can be difficult. Our Atlanta child custody attorney will work with you to ensure your parental rights remain protected and you pursue a custody arrangement that enables your child to thrive.