Custody decisions in Georgia are based on the best interests of the child. You know what is in your child’s best interests better than anyone, but it is important for the court to understand your viewpoint in order to get the right outcome for your family.
That’s where a dedicated child custody lawyer in Atlanta comes in to play. At Tessie D. Edwards & Associates, P.C., we understand how to support your position and will fight aggressively to protect your rights and help you reach your goals for child custody.
Two Types of Custody are at Stake in Georgia
When a child’s parents are not married or are in the process of divorce, the court will award two types of custody over that child. Legal custody gives a parent the right to make decisions about a child’s upbringing. This includes major decision concerning education, non-emergency health care, extra-curricular activities and religion.
The type of custody most people in Georgia think about is physical custody. Physical custody involves a child’s living arrangements.
Usually, decisions about custody types are addressed separately. Parents often end up sharing legal custody. Although the parents are required to discuss all major decisions, one parent will be the tiebreaker if the parents disagree. Often, each parent will be granted different tiebreaker authority. For example, the mother may be the tiebreaker for non-emergency health and extra-curricular and the father may be the tiebreaker for education and religion.
The parent the child spends the most time with is referred to as having primary physical custody. To exercise your full rights as a parent, it is important to be sure your child custody lawyer has the best available evidence to help you achieve your custody goals.
How Does the Court Decide What’s in the Child’s Best Interests?
Judges in the Atlanta area have a great deal of latitude with the information they consider before deciding how to award physical and legal custody. Ga. Code §19-9-3 lists 17 factors for the court to review, and the statute allows consideration of any other matters the court finds to be relevant. If family violence is an issue in the case, the statute includes even more factors that the court must take into account.
Some of the laundry list of issues that can affect a ruling on custody includes:
- The stability of each parent’s family unit and support systems
- Each parent’s capacity to provide love, affection, and guidance
- Emotional ties the child has with each parent
- Each parent’s ability to co-parent with the other parent
- A parent’s willingness to encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent
- Familiarity with the child’s needs
If the court has appointed an agent, generally a guardian ad litem, to investigate and make a recommendation, that recommendation will of course be taken into account. Moreover, any history of abuse or neglect by either parent will have substantial bearing on a custody decision.
Parents are allowed to devise their own plan for custody, so it is often best to have a child custody lawyer work to create a plan that fits both parents’ situations. However, the court will review the plan to make sure it serves the child’s best interests, so it is important to ensure that the parenting plan follows legal guidelines.
Can a Custody Order Be Modified?
Custody determinations are not set in stone. One parent can petition for a modification of a custody order.
However, it is often necessary to show a significant change has occurred and it is in the child’s best interest to change the current order before the court will revisit custody issues. If a parent has important evidence for the court to consider, it is far better to introduce that evidence before the initial ruling than to try to seek a modification later. However, a child custody attorney can work to show why it is imperative for the court to modify custody.
Consult an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer in Atlanta
A child custody determination will have a substantial impact on the relationship you have with your child going forward. You deserve to work with a legal representative who knows how to fight to protect the best interests of your family.
Contact Tessie D. Edwards & Associates, P.C. to learn how we can put our extensive experience to work to reach the right custody determination for your needs.