Because of the intricacies of state law, whether you're seeking sole custody of your child or you've agreed to share custody with your former partner, you should consider speaking with a family law attorney prior to your child custody hearing.
What You Should Know:
- Before arriving at your child custody hearing, you and your former partner should craft a parenting plan that outlines a number of details including:
- a parenting time schedule, with an outline making clear who the child will spend time with for each day of the year
- an agreement about how the child will spend holidays and vacations
- a proposal for transportation arrangements and drop-off points when a child leaves one parent to visit the other
an agreement about how a parent may contact a child when that child is in the other parent's care.
During the initial custody proceedings, the judge will act with your child's best interests in mind, listening to the points made by both you and your former partner and considering carefully your child's health, safety and comfort. After the judge awards custody, this decision cannot be amended unless there's a significant change in family circumstance.
The judge may opt to grant either sole custody or joint custody. In the first of these custody types, the judge may approve visitation rights for the noncustodial parent, but otherwise, the noncustodial parent cannot exercise legal authority on the child's behalf. In the second of these custody types, the parents may share in their child's legal and physical custody, making decisions together about their child's education, medical care and religious upbringing and each enjoying roughly equal parenting time.
When your child turns 14, she/he may choose who she/he wants to live with, and she/he may request a change in custody once every two years thereafter.
At least 30 days before a move, a custodial parent must write a letter to inform a noncustodial parent or other family member with visitation rights of a new address.
Once every two years the family law court may review and modify parent visitation rights, although custody rights may only be reviewed and modified if there's a significant change in family circumstance.
At the moment I'm a noncustodial parent, but I'd like to get custody of my son. How do I do that?
You'll need to visit the Superior Court in the custodial parent's county of residence and fill out a petition for change of custody. At the hearing you'll need to offer proof that you've recently noticed a material change in family circumstance that directly affects your son's interest and well-being. Minor changes only in living condition will not persuade a judge to approve a new custody decision.
Will a judge award grandparents custody or visitation rights?
Although judges may award grandparents these rights, family law courts consider the rights of natural parents first. When either or both the mother and father are competent and willing to care for the child, the judge will grant custody preferentially to that natural parent.
I'm a military parent exercising joint custody of my daughter, and I've just found that I'll be deployed. Before I leave, what do I need to do?
Within two weeks of learning of your deployment, you'll need to send a written notice to your former partner explaining how your service will affect your parenting time. If you've received notice in less than two weeks before deployment, you must send that written notice immediately. Because state law permits temporary changes to parenting plans for military children, you should consult a lawyer to understand how you may modify your plan and who you can designate to care for your child.
Source: Official Code of Georgia. This information was prepared as a public service of the State of Georgia to provide general information, not to advise on any specific legal problem. It is not, and cannot be construed to be, legal advice.