If you’re facing a child custody case alongside a divorce with a Georgia divorce attorney, there are a few important things you should know. Deciding on the appropriate child custody arrangement can be difficult, sometimes even confusing, and nearly always comes during a time of high emotional turmoil.

If you have a solid Atlanta divorce attorney on your side, you’ll know someone is fighting for the best outcome possible. But it still helps to know what to expect. Below are the basics of child custody in Georgia and why you need an experienced lawyer or legal team behind you.

Does it Always Involve the Court?

If both parents involved in the divorce agree to a particular arrangement, there may be no need for the court to decide the outcome. In Georgia, parents are encouraged to reach an agreement concerning custody and visitation without the Court’s intervention. Doing so expedites the process and the case may then be settled in an expedited manner.

If parents are unable to come to a stipulated agreement, matters then begin to escalate. The case moves onto a trial and a judge will make the final decisions about custody and visitation. If either party seeks a change beyond that point, they must file to modify custody and return to court.

Types of Child Custody

Either or both parties may be awarded different types of custody. Every child custody case is different, and an experienced Marietta divorce lawyer will help you navigate it. However, in basic terms, there are two legal components to custody.

●  Legal Custody – The party (or parties) with legal custody is responsible for making all legal and important decisions for the child. This includes things like education, medical care, religion, and so forth. In Georgia, both parents are commonly awarded legal custody (joint legal custody) and retain a say in major decisions in the child’s life. However, one party may be awarded sole legal custody of a child if it is in the best interests of the child.

●  Physical custody – Physical custody means the person a child physically lives with. Georgia courts tend to prefer granting physical custody to one parent while the other parent is awarded visitation. The parent without primary physical custody is referred to as the noncustodial parent. They may still retain joint legal custody of the child, however.

There’s no one, single approach to determining a physical custody schedule for any child. Family circumstances and several factors dictate how to handle setting that schedule. Matters get more complicated if parents intend to reside in separate states.

Possible physical custody schedules may look like the noncustodial parent taking the child every other weekend, splitting holidays, or even having them for a certain amount of time during school vacations. To determine the best possible outcome for you and your child, it’s best to secure a qualified Georgia divorce attorney to ensure everything is on the table and properly settled.

How Does the Court Determine Custody?

If parents fail to come up with a parenting plan and the custody case goes to court, expect the judge to look at a few specific factors. Depending on the case and the parents involved, some factors may be weighted more heavily than others. Every case is different, and one person achieving a particular outcome doesn’t necessarily mean the next case will be resolved in the same manner.

●  Child preference – In Georgia, a child age 14 or older may formally submit their preference for one parent to become the custodial parent.

●  Basic care – The capacity of either or both parents to meet the child’s basic needs is a major factor in custody cases. If only one parent is demonstrably capable of meeting the child’s basic needs, the odds favor that parent becoming the custodial parent.

●  Health of the parent – This includes physical and psychological health, as either may impact the parent’s ability to provide care.

●  Family relationships – In Georgia, courts tend to favor maintaining other familial relationships in addition to the parents. For instance, it would be a negative factor if awarding custody to one parent limited or prevented the child from staying in contact with siblings.

●  Home environment – The home environment may influence physical custody more so than legal custody. The child should have access to a safe, secure, and reliable environment and the basic needs mentioned above.

●  Involvement with the child – The judge will consider each parent’s involvement in the child’s day-to-day life, such as social obligations, extracurricular activities, education, and so forth. If a parent has acted as the primary caregiver, it will be evaluated whether they can continue as the primary caregiver.

●  Substance abuse – If either parent has a history of substance abuse, it may negatively affect their chances of getting custody of the child.

Hire an Atlanta Divorce Law Firm

If you’re facing a child custody battle or have an upcoming divorce, reach out to Vayman & Teitelbaum, P.C., and secure a Marietta divorce lawyer or Atlanta divorce attorney today. You’ll have experienced legal representation and a team to fight on your behalf for the best outcome in your child custody case.