Protecting Your Child Custody And Support Rights
Custody issues in Georgia focus on two distinct aspects of caring for children: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to partake in decisions regarding a child's education, religious upbringing and medical care. Legal custody is frequently shared between both parents.
Physical custody refers to where and with whom a child will spend his or her days and nights. Although physical custody also is typically shared between parents, it is not necessarily shared equally. One parent is frequently designated as the custodial parent.
At Hedden Law, I understand how important maintaining a strong relationship with your child is when your marriage or nonmarital relationship ends. I will protect your rights and help you accomplish your objectives regarding child custody matters.
The standard in Georgia is to determine custody based on the best interests of the minor child. Unless one parent has been a danger to the child, the beginning point is to establish who has been the primary caregiver for the minor child.
You Can Shape Your Custody Agreement
Georgia courts generally desire that both parents remain actively involved in a child's life. The courts determine custody based on the best interests of the child. However, as with most family law issues, if parents can reach agreement on custody matters through negotiation or mediation, they can avoid litigation altogether. By doing so, they retain more control over the outcome and usually reduce the amount of stress involved for themselves as well as their children.
If an agreement cannot be reached without litigating, Georgia courts consider a number of factors when determining custody issues. These include:
- The emotional ties that exist between the child and each parent and between the child and any siblings
- Each parent's role and involvement in the child's life prior to the relationship ending
- The ability of each parent to provide not only necessities such as food, clothing and a steady home environment, but also the emotional support the child needs
- Each parent's physical and emotional stability, as well as each parent's family and community support system
- Each parent's employment situation, work schedule and ability to balance work demands with parenting demands
- Any recommendation by a court-appointed evaluator, often known as a guardian ad litem
- The child's wishes if the child is at least 14 years old
Child Support Follows Georgia Guidelines — Except When It Doesn't
In 2007, Georgia courts adopted what is known as the "income shares model" of calculating child support. This calls for factoring each parent's annual gross income and how many children must be supported in order to arrive at a monthly amount that a parent providing support must pay.
Determining child support involves much more than plugging numbers into a formula, however. Other factors, such as who pays for a child's health care coverage, also play an important role in child support decisions. The court may deviate from the guidelines if other circumstances warrant, and it is in the best interest of the child. Reasons for deviating from the guidelines include a custody agreement that splits time evenly between parents rather than designating a custodial parent, or if a child is disabled and requires extensive medical care or has extra educational needs.
You can see why it is critical to work with a lawyer like myself, who has extensive experience and a thorough knowledge of custody and support laws. I welcome the opportunity to answer your questions and assess your situation during a consultation. Call (770) 755-5695 or email me to meet with an attorney who puts clients' needs first.