What is Child Custody?
It is imperative that couples who are going through a complex divorce involving child custody considerations are able to separate personal sentiment and emotions from the child’s relationship with both parents.
Unfortunately, an angry or resentful spouse can threaten the child’s way of life, emotional development and personal security. That’s one of the reasons why complex child custody cases require the focus and support of experienced legal professionals.
In 2007, Georgia adopted new statutory guidelines for determining child support and apportioning each parent’s financial responsibility for their child. The formula for determining child support is quite complex and requires legal expertise to ensure that all possible deviations are accounted for.
The attorneys at Sauls Law Group, LLC, have many years of combined courtroom and litigation experience, which translates through in their ability to help guide and calculate child support, as well as provide counsel around future modifications and enforcement of all agreements.
No matter how complicated your case may be, the attorneys at Sauls Law Group, LLC will help you develop a parenting and custody plan for your children through mediation, collaboration or litigation, if necessary.
Deciding where your children will reside after a divorce is not an easy situation to settle. It is a challenge that must be considered during divorce and knowing your rights helps you become more empowered throughout the process.
Child custody refers to the legal and practical rights over children after a divorce, including:
Physical Custody refers to where the child(ren) physically live the majority of the time. The parent with the most parenting time is known as the ‘primary physical custodian’. In a case where the children spend equal time with each parent, the parents are considered ‘joint physical’ parents.
Legal Custody refers to your right to act on behalf of the minor child, including the right to obtain the child’s medical and educational records, and otherwise act as their legal guardian. The vast majority of custody cases result in the parents sharing ‘joint legal custody’
Final Decision Making, or “Tie-Breaking,” Authority
Refers to the parent that makes authoritative decisions regarding matters of health, education, extracurricular, and religious decisions.
CHILD CUSTODY AND THE COURTS
The child custody laws in Georgia are gender neutral. Either parent has the opportunity to present their case to the courts for sole, physical or legal custody without gender bias. There is no special treatment toward mothers, and fathers are encouraged to request custody if desired. The standard which the Court rules by is the “best interests of the child” standard.
According to Fatherhood.gov, as of 2013, there are 2,000,000 single fathers in the United States, equating to 17% of custodial single male parents. Of those single male parents, 44% were divorced and 19% separated.
In special cases where parents cannot agree on custody, or have an extremely challenging relationship, the court may require a custody evaluation, or even appoint a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem is an attorney appointed solely to represent the children, and to assist the Court in determining what is in the best interests of the children.
In some situations, third parties including grandparents or someone other than the child’s biological parents may gain custody of the child, or visitation rights to the child, if it is determined to be in the best interest of the child.
These situations typically occur in cases where there is abuse, neglect or if both parents are unfit; or in some cases if one parent is deployed in the military.
Factors the Court Considers in Determining Custody:
- The child’s wishes (if child is at least 11);
- Parent willingness to encourage a relationship between child and other parent;
- Parent’s mental and physical health;
- Living proximity between parent and child;
- Parent work schedule and flexibility to care for child;
- Relationship between parent and child;
- Relationship between child and siblings;
- Parent involvement in child’s educational, social and extracurricular activities;
- Parent ability to financially provide for child;
- Evidence of domestic violence or abuse;
- Safety of home environment;
- Evidence of criminal activity;
Georgia custody laws award custody in terms of what is in the best interest of the child. Each child custody case is unique and requires an in-depth analysis of each parent’s ability to raise the child and make major decisions.
If you are interested in gaining custody of your children, you need to prepare evidence to present to the court for your position.
Share information to support your case for child custody, such as financial documents, proof of housing, transportation and proof of income to demonstrate that you are equipped to maintain the welfare of your children after the relationship is over.
CHILD CUSTODY vs. PARENTING TIME
In negotiating a divorce settlement, or in preparing for a divorce hearing, you should understand the difference between custody (legal and physical), final decision making authority, and parenting time.
Most parties share joint legal custody. This simply allows both parents the rights to act at the child’s guardian, to obtain documents of behalf of the child, and have legal custodial rights to the child.
Physical custody will awarded with either one parent being the primary physical custodian (having a majority of the total parenting time) and the other having secondary physical custody (having anywhere from 20%-49% of the total parenting time) – or – with the parties sharing joint physical custody (where the parties share equal, 50/50 parenting time).
Final Decision Making or Tie-breaking Authority is when, after good faith discussions to reach an agreement, the parties remain unable to agree. Then one parent has the right to be the tie-breaker, or make the final decision regarding that decision.
There are 4 categories of decision making authority (1) education; (2) non-emergency medical; (3) extracurricular activities; (4) religious upbringing. One parent may be awarded all 4 categories, or the categories may be divided where one parent has 3 and the other has 1, or an even divide with each parent being awarded 2 categories.
Parenting Time describes the actual schedule for when the child is with which parent. ‘Standard Parenting Time’ is every other weekend, with an equal division of Holidays and each party being awarded 2 full weeks in the Summer. However, the parenting time may be divided any way the parties choose, with the non-custodial parent being awarded anywhere from 20% – 49% of the parenting time.
In general, both parties are usually happier with an arrangement agreed upon by the parties, as opposed to one ordered by the Court!
PROTECT YOUR CHILD’S RIGHTS IN A CUSTODY BATTLE
When facing litigation where the stakes are high and your child’s future hangs in the balance, you can’t afford to gamble. Protect your rights and their well being with the help of an experienced and aggressive child custody lawyer from Sauls Law Group, LLC.
At Sauls Law Group, LLC, we’re tenacious child custody attorneys with over 25 years of combined experience and a proven track record of helping families through the emotional and confusing times of a contested child custody battle.