A child custody battle can be intense, so you will need the expert help of a child custody lawyer in Georgia to help you get full or partial custody of your children when you file for divorce. By following a few tips and developing a good strategy, you will have a better chance of winning primary custody of your children.
Ask a Child Custody Lawyer: Five Tips for Getting Custody
1. Understand Parental Rights
Before you contact child custody attorneys in Atlanta, GA, it’s important to understand your parental rights. In Georgia, parental rights for children are shared, which means that both parents have a legal right to custody of the children.
Usually, biological parents have automatic custody rights of children, particularly unmarried mothers. Biological fathers who are not on the birth certificate will need to file additional legal paperwork to establish parental rights for the child, which can then be used to obtain full or partial custody.
What If You Are a Non-Parent?
There may be some circumstances in which guardians who are not biological or adoptive parents can gain custody. A good example is a step-parent who is considered an equitable caregiver because they take care of the child when the child is in the custody of the biological parent.
To be considered an equitable caregiver, you must have a relationship with the child that is based on a dependency proceeding, so just the child being removed from the parent’s home. It is possible to gain custody of a child as an equitable caregiver if the Department of Human Services has an open case about the child’s welfare.
2. Know the Difference Between Physical and Legal Custody
It’s important to understand the difference between physical and legal custody. In Georgia, the two different types of legal custody are shared by both parents. Although Georgia family courts will aim to give parents equal legal and physical custody rights, there may be some circumstances in which a parent only has physical custody and cannot make legal decisions about the child.
If both parents have physical and legal custody, one parent will be named the primary custodian and will be granted final decision-making rights about the child. The parent who has full custodianship of the child will also usually have physical custody of the child more for most of the time than the other parent.
3. Learn About Modifying Custody
It’s imperative to understand the rules about modifying custody. Although the court may grant equal physical and legal custodianship of the child, there may be circumstances in which you will want to modify custody agreements. For example, in cases where the child is abused or neglected while in the custody of the other parent, you may be able to petition the court to modify the custody arrangement.
If you need to modify custody, you will need the help of a child custody lawyer to gather evidence and file the proper paperwork, as well as represent the best interests of the child in court. Accusations of abuse and neglect when there is shared custody must be verified with evidence.
4. Develop a Parenting Plan
During the early stages of your divorce, you and your spouse should develop a parenting plan. The parenting plan can be essential to get custody of your children. Parents who do not have a parenting plan but who petition to have custody of the children may not be successful: the court may see the lack of a plan as evidence the parent is unwilling to put in the time necessary to take care of the children.
5. Remember the Best Interests of the Child Are Top Priority
In Georgia courts, the judge will always award custody of children to the parent who has the best resources to take care of the child. The best interest of the child is the top priority for family courts. Parents who want to have custody of children must demonstrate that they have the financial resources, time-related resources, and other means to take care of the children.
The court will examine factors related to who watches the child, who feeds the child, who takes the child to doctors, who spends time with the child, and other elements of child care. The court will also examine the background of parents for criminal records and substance abuse. Testimony from the school, physicians, or police can also be used to determine which parent has the best interest of the child.
Getting custody in Georgia can be a complicated process, but if you have the right knowledge and evidence, you will be able to win full or partial custody of your children after divorce. It’s important to understand the difference between physical and legal custody, understand your rights as a parent, and know how to modify custody in certain circumstances. Having a parenting plan is a good first step to getting your desired custody arrangement.