Divorce can be difficult for children who have become accustomed to living with both parents and will now travel between homes. By working with an experienced family law attorney, measures can be taken to preserve parent-child relationships while safeguarding a child's sense of security.
Contact metro Atlanta child custody attorney Anthony M. Zezima to schedule a consultation.
In a Georgia divorce, the custody of all children must be determined before divorce can be granted. Custody may also be determined between biological parents who are separated, but not divorced, and between those who have never been married.
Child custody cannot be given to someone who is not a biological parent unless it is determined that it would be in the child's best interest to live with another relative. While it is not necessary that the court terminate the rights of the biological parents, the court must find by clear and convincing evidence that the biological parent is not fit to have custody.
In determining child custody arrangements, a judge will sometimes ask for a Guardian ad Litem to represent the child's interests and make a recommendation to the court on the parenting plan. From there, the judge will consider:
The age and gender of each child
Whether there are siblings
The child's relationship to each parent
Which parent has been the primary caretaker during the marriage
Which parent, if given custody, will help the child maintain a healthy relationship with the noncustodial parent
The court almost always grants visitation ("parenting time") to the parent not awarded sole custody.
Parties may agree on any child custody and visitation schedule they wish; the judge will usually approve. Through agreement or award, parents may have shared custody, whether joint legal custody or joint physical custody.
A child over 14 may express a choice as to which parent they wish to live with; the judge should consent to the child's wishes, unless there are specific findings as to why it would not be in the best interests of the child. Importantly, even though a child over the age of 14 has a say in which parent is awarded full-time custody, the child cannot choose not to visit his or her noncustodial parent.
A new Georgia statute grants the opportunity for direct appeal of custody and visitation issues to the appellate court, instead of having to go through the discretionary appeal required in divorce cases. This means that instead of having to plead for a chance to appeal, you automatically have the right to appeal custody and visitation issues, whether it's the initial determination or a modification.
To schedule a consultation with Atlanta attorney Anthony M. Zezima, contact our Fulton County divorce lawyer online or call us.
We also offer assistance with child visitation issues.