How is child custody determined?
The court reviews all circumstances of the parties to determine custody. The court looks at the best interests of the child in determining the proper parent to have custody. The judge considers many factors when deciding custody. The factors include the following:
- Age and sex of the child
- Compatibility with each parent
- Ability of each parent to care for and nurture the child
A child over 14 years of age may have substantial influence over a court's decision to choose which parent will have primary custody. The court considers it important for a child to maintain a relationship with both parents; therefore, visitation rights are awarded to the parent who is not given primary custody of the child.
Are courts more likely to award child custody to the father or mother?
We are living in a society where gender stereotypes are slowing fading. There is no reason to believe that courts are more likely to award custody to the mother or the father. It is important to come up with a parenting plan that meets the child's needs and is in the child's best interest.
What is a parenting plan?
A court ordered arrangement of the custody and visitation details surrounding the child(ren)s day to day needs, along with a set of guidelines as to both parents rights and responsibilities regarding their child.
Can child custody be modified?
A court always maintains jurisdiction to change a custody order. Visitation may be changed as well, however there are certain 2 year limitations that may apply.
What if I am not married to the mother of my child?
You have no legal rights until you obtain an order legitimating the child.
May parents share custody?
Although it is rare, the court, in its discretion, can award joint custody instead of sole custody. There are two types of joint custody:
- Joint legal custody, which means that both parents have equal rights to and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child.
- Joint physical custody, which means that physical custody is shared by the parents in such a way that the child is assured substantially of equal time and contact with both parents.
In awarding joint custody, the court may order joint legal custody, joint physical custody or both.
What is the most common joint custody plan?
Typically, the court awards joint legal custody to the primary physical custodian having the tie-breaking authority should the parties disagree on the decision regarding the minor child.
One parent has primary physical custody and the noncustodial parent has the standard visitation of every other weekend, alternating holidays and an extended period in the summer, and pays child support based on the Georgia State Child Support Guidelines.
Will the parents be required to attend a parenting program?
Depending on what county you are filing for divorce in, those families who have children are required to attend an educational seminar as part of the adjudication process. This is not a marital counseling session, and not intended to get the parties back together. The required education program, entitled "Seminar for Parent of Minor Children," addresses issues specific to "families in transition," which includes parties involved in divorce, separate maintenance, paternity, change of custody, visitation, legitimation and other domestic relations matters involving children.
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