You’re hear to learn more about the child custody laws in Georgia.
Maybe it’s because you’re facing divorce and a custody battle with your spouse.
Maybe you in the middle of a divorce and are trying to wrap your head around child custody laws.
Maybe your divorce is final, but you’re still struggling with your ex about child custody and you want to know what your options are.
Whatever your scenario is, this is a HUGE guide to Georgia laws for child custody.
In fact, it’s so large that we have made a table to contents to make it easier for you to navigate.
(Just click on one of the links below or scroll down and start from the beginning.)
Custody can be devastating. It’s heartbreaking when parents lose custody of their children. Spouses end up having to pay agonizing amounts of financial support.
If you want to protect your rights, not wrongfully lose custody, and not get raked over the coals financially, fill out the form below. Free consultations are first come first serve. We always run out of slots. Make sure you get yours locked in now.
When parents file for divorce with children in Georgia, a judge is going to decide on how they will share custody and visitation.
That is unless you and your spouse have an uncontested divorce in Georgia where you agree on the terms of child custody and visitation.
Regardless of whether you have an uncontested or contested divorce, the judge’s job is to make sure that the outcome of child custody is in the child’s best interests.
A parent with physical child custody in Georgia means that the child lives with the parent.
“Lives with the parent” means either full custody or joint custody.
When it comes to joint custody, joint custody is usually 50/50 according to the child custody laws in Georgia.
As long as it’s in the best interest of the child, the judge will give parents roughly equal time with the child.
For example, the judge may order that the kids stay at one parent’s house 3 nights a week and the other parent’s house 4 nights a week.
But if one parent gets sole physical child custody in Georgia, then that means that they have the right to move away with the child.
According to child custody laws in Georgia, the other spouse can prevent the spouse with sole custody from moving.
They can do this by going to court and proving that the move would be harmful for the children.
Physical custody can mean full custody.
But physical custody means that the child lives with the parent either part-time or full time.
Joint custody is the most common child custody arrangement.
This allows BOTH parents to make all major decisions for the child together and have equal time with the child.
They must work together on decisions for education, medical care, and religion.
Per the child custody laws in Georgia, legal custody means that you are responsible for making major decisions in your child’s life.
Major decisions include things like:
Since most parents make these decisions together during marriage, judges like to give both parents legal custody of the child.
When both parents get to make major decisions for the children, this is called joint legal custody.
With joint legal custody, both parents have the final say in the major decisions for the child.
As you can imagine, this means that joint legal custody can become a battleground for the parents.
Joint legal custody can lead to parents not being able to agree on even the simplest of decisions, like where the child should get medical care or take piano lessons.
If the parents consistently struggle with joint legal custody, then the judge may give one parent sole legal custody.
That means that you may lose the right to make any decisions for your children.
(The same goes for your ex spouse.)
The judge will usually give sole legal custody to the parent who is the primary caregiver.
That person will have the sole right to make decisions about the children’s health, education, and welfare.
Other reasons that the judge may grant sole legal custody to one parent is because of:
It’s also possible for the judge to grant joint legal custody, but make one parent the person the decision tie-breaker when both of the parents cannot agree on a decision.
Under child custody laws in Georgia, both parents are equal when it comes to how child custody is split.
The family courts may award both spouses joint custody or a single spouse sole custody.
Under Georgia’s child support laws, the divorce courts will only file one of two types of child custody:
No matter what your situation may look like, parenting plan is required for ANY custody agreement between two spouses.
Child custody laws in Georgia recognize two types of custody – physical and legal custody.
A parent with physical custody lives with the child.
Parents can share physical custody, which is called joint physical custody.
But the judge may end up awarding one parent with sole physical custody.
Sole physical custody is an arrangement where the children live with one parent more than 50% of the time.
This generally allows the children to live in one residence or ‘home base,’ as opposed to going back and forth between two homes.
Usually, both parents are awarded joint legal custody.
Joint legal custody in Georgia means that both parents have the legal authority to make major decisions for the child.
These include decisions regarding education, religion, and health care.
Parents should be aware that legal custody is different from physical custody.
These are things that you need to consider when you are creating your parenting plan for child custody.
Child custody laws in Georgia for unmarried parents give the mother all legal custody rights.
This gives the mother the right to make long-term decisions about raising the child.
For unmarried parents, the father does not have any legal rights to custody or visitation.
Let’s say that the father has proven that he is the father AND he pays child support.
He still does not have any legal rights to visitations or child custody.
The father will have to file a petition for joint custody.
When you are fighting for child custody, it’s vital that you hire the best child custody lawyer in Georgia.
You don’t want to hire a child custody lawyer who is not experienced in fighting for child custody.
If you do, there is a possibility that you could lose child custody.
This is especially true if your spouse hired an attorney who is awesome at winning child custody.
This section is going to go over:
The average cost for a child custody lawyer is between $1,200 and $4,500.
The total cost for a child custody lawyer can get up to $40,000.
This depends on the type of dispute, the need for third-party experts, and the attorney you pick.
It’s important to note that the cost of a child custody lawyer is going to be lower if the custody battle is less complicated.
This means that the custody battle only needs mediation and a few court appearances.
But if your child custody battle is complex, you can expect to spend thousands more.
For contested divorces in Georgia, there are more court appearances, and work, for the attorney.
Sometimes, it’s hard for a child custody attorney to tell you how much the custody battle will cost.
This is especially true if one of the spouses are:
When the child custody lawyers face issues like this, they will charge hourly fees.
Basically, you can expect the cost of divorce in Georgia to be lower if you and your spouse can come to agreements easily.
Having an amicable divorce means you’re going to be spending thousands less in divorce fees.
There is not an industry standard on how much an attorney charges per hour.
But hourly charges range from $250 per hour to $600 per hour.
How much lawyer charge per hour depends on where you live and their level of experience.
There are two fees for child custody lawyers that you need to know about:
For hourly rates, child custody lawyers don’t work 10 minutes on your case and charge you $300.
Child custody attorneys will only charge you for a part of the hour.
For example, if they chat with you on the phone and it takes about 6 minutes, they will charge you 1/10th of an hour.
This means that if they charge you $300 per hour, that phone call will cost you $30.
These charges include things like:
Most child custody lawyer fees include an upfront retainer for their services.
After they collect the retainer, then they will start charging you per hour.
For example, let’s say that your attorney charges you an upfront retainer of $6,000.
If they charge you $300 per hour, this will buy 20 hours of their time to work on your case.
They will place this $6,000 into a separate account and bill that account.
It’s against the law for your child custody attorney to spend that $6,000 retainer until they have worked those 20 hours.
As they work on your case, they bill that account and pull that money out weekly.
If they work on your case for 20 hours but need more time, they will ask you to fork up more money.
They will make an estimation of how much more time it will take to complete the case and make you pay that as a retainer.
If you’re looking for a cheap child custody lawyer, there are some things to consider.
No, I’m not saying don’t try to save money.
In fact, you should go with the child custody lawyer that provides you the best value.
But, a cheap child custody lawyer may come in several forms:
What you should do to get the best value from your child custody attorney.
Attorneys that are going to save you the most money during your child custody battle are:
When trying to find a good lawyer, you want your lawyer to be objective.
Someone who gets too caught up in the emotions of a child custody battle will not make the best decisions for you.
They need to be able to negotiate, present evidence, present the case, and win your child custody.
You don’t need someone who is going to lose their cool and ruin your case because they got too emotional in court.
Finding a cheap child support lawyer means they are upfront about their fees.
This may feel counterintuitive, but honest lawyers will seemingly cost more upfront.
This is because they will layout EVERY cost that you will incur.
While shady, cheap lawyers will hide their fees and how they charge you.
Shady billing practices can cost you thousands.
And it can end up costing you WAY more in the long run.
To have an affordable divorce, focus on transparent lawyers and not ones who SEEM cheap upfront.
We all have the same costs, so how can they afford to charge you less??
Upfront, it may feel like hiring a cheap child support lawyer means hiring the one-man operation.
This is because when you see a law firm with a large team, you assume that you’re paying for everyone’s salaries.
It makes sense on the surface.
But what you don’t see is that the large firm is running a more well-oiled machine.
They have their legal assistants do everything that they can.
Keeping attorneys from doing admin work means you’re not paying an attorney $300 to fill out forms.
But when you hire a solopreneur, you are paying that attorney $300 per hour to:
You get the point.
You need a child custody lawyer for fathers that understands a father’s rights.
Not only should they understand the father’s rights, but they should also know how to fight for them.
A father’s custody rights are the biological father’s ability to get child custody.
This pertains to both legal and physical custody for the father.
Biological fathers have the right to seek legal or physical custody of the children.
But remember that you may have to file a petition for custody with the courts.
Even if you are the biological father, the judge will still do what’s best for the child.
If they feel like giving the father custody is in the best interests of the child, then they won’t.
The courts will conduct an evaluation of the father to make sure that they are fit for caring for the child.
In this, they will consider things like:
You may need to prove that you are a good, fit father.
When this is the case, it’s important to have the right child custody lawyer for fathers on your side.
Fill out the form on this page to get a free consultation.
You need a child custody lawyer for mothers that understands a mother’s rights.
The courts will still need to determine the mother’s rights for child custody.
The first consideration is whether the child was born during a marriage or not.
If the child was born out of wedlock, then parental rights will need to be established.
Establishing parental rights can make child custody for mothers much more complicated.
Child custody laws in Georgia state that child custody gets granted to the unwed mother.
If the mother having sole custody is not in the best interest of the child, then the father can pursue custody.
The biological father can pursue both legal and physical custody.
The father will have to prove that he is the father first, though.
The only time that courts assume someone is the father is if the person is the husband.
Husbands are automatically considered the father until proven otherwise.
Outside of marriage, any person will have to prove that they are the father.
As the primary caregiver for the child, the mother has custodial rights to:
The mother’s rights include making any major decisions for the child’s life.
If the father is battling you for child custody, fill out the form below for a free consultation.
Don’t hire a lawyer all willy nilly.
Make sure that you hire a lawyer who can get you the custody that you deserve in the best interest of your children.
Hiring the wrong custody and child support lawyer can mean you never see your kids again.
Hiring the right one can mean that you have legal and physical custody so that you can do what’s best for the kids.
A custody and child support lawyer will be able to help you with:
The best custody and child support lawyers will be able to help you with the following issues.
They can also walk you through the Georgia child support calculator.
The courts make decisions that are in the best interest of the child.
This means that they want to provide the children with joint custody.
That is unless the father is abusive or neglectful.
In that case, you will want to build a case against him and present it to the courts to get full custody.
Sometimes the judge can use the grounds for divorce in Georgia to determine how to proceed.
The same goes for an abusive and neglectful mother.
For the father to gain child custody against an abusive and neglectful mother, he will have to build a case.
You’re going to need a great child support and custody attorney in your corner.
This is because the mother is automatically the primary caregiver.
(Even when both parents have full-time jobs.)
For that reason alone, mothers already have a strong case to get primary child custody.
You are fighting for child custody.
You will need to make your case for why visitation with you is in the best interests of the child.
If you can’t show the judge that then you could have reduced joint custody or none at all.
We fight to:
Child support in Georgia depends on a lot of factors, like:
To get child support modifications in Georgia, parents must show changes in their long-term conditions.
These changes can either be the parent’s income or the child’s needs.
To modify child support, you can only do it every two years.
But you can modify child support within those two years if you:
Hiring the wrong divorce and child support lawyer can make you lose the fight for child custody.
This is especially true if your spouse hires a really good child custody lawyer for a divorce.
But if yours fumbles through the divorce laws in Georgia, no bueno.
How is child custody is determined according to child custody laws in Georgia?
The child custody laws make a judge consider the following factors.
This section is covering:
The most common child custody arrangement is joint custody.
This allows both parents to make major decisions.
It also gives them roughly equal time with the child.
These child custody arrangements let them decide on major things like:
Judges determine child custody based on the child’s best interests.
Child custody laws requires the courts to focus on the child’s needs and not the parent’s needs.
The parent who can meet the child’s needs the best will get child custody.
One factor in determining custody is which parent has been the primary caregiver for the child.
The primary caregiver refers to the parent:
The biggest determining factor in how child custody is determined considering the best interests of the child.
When it comes to child custody laws in Georgia, focusing on the best interest of the child means that all decisions are made to foster and encourage the child’s security, happiness, emotional development, and mental health.
What is in the best interest of the child affects all child custody and child visitation decisions.
The judge often looks at the best interest of the child as maintaining a close and loving relationship with both parents.
Here are some things that the judge considers when determining child custody:
There are many factors when it comes to who gets child custody in a divorce.
Judges will focus on the best interests of the child instead of the parent’s wants.
Each child custody case is different.
But there are several key factors that determine who gets child custody in a divorce.
Sometimes, neither parent excels over the other on these items.
If this is the case, the judge will turn their focus on who can provide a more stable environment for the child.
This means they will try to avoid disrupting the child’s life.
If one parent plans on moving to a new county, this is considered disrupting the child’s life.
They will have to change schools, move into a new home, and change churches if they go to church.
If the child is young, the courts will award child custody to the parent who has been the primary caregiver.
The primary caregiver is the person who has been taking the most care of the child up until now.
The primary caregiver is the parent:
Let’s assume that you want to:
We see a lot of couples fighting for divorce mix up their divorce with child custody.
Meaning, their marriage fell apart because they were not good spouses.
So, they use the kids as leverage and fight tooth and nail to keep the kids.
Sometimes, we even see parents use the kids against the other parents.
This is not being a good parent and your kids don’t deserve this.
Your divorce is hard enough on them without them having to deal with the drama of the child custody battle.
Now, there are always caveats where parents who are abusive don’t deserve the kids.
But we’re not talking about that.
So, what’s the best approach for mediation for child custody?
First and foremost, focus on doing what’s truly best for the child.
Per the child custody laws in Georgia, they should get fairly equal time with both parents.
Work with your ex to figure out a custody schedule that is easy on the kids and the both of you.
If you can set aside your marital issues to figure out the child custody in mediation, life will be easier.
You’re going to:
This section is covering:
Child custody meditation gives parents the chance to resolve issues they have with their parenting plans.
Child custody mediators are a neutral third party that helps parents facilitate discussions.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on child custody and visitation, you will have to attend mediation.
Child custody mediation helps parents with issues like:
Going through child support mediation is a great way to avoid court battles.
This can save you thousands of dollars in legal fees for child custody lawyers.
You’re on a tightrope.
You are fighting for custody of your child.
It’s important to know what NOT to say in child custody mediation.
There are only a few people who can attend child custody mediation.
The parents will meet with the mediator together and individually.
The children will not be allowed to be in the meeting with the child custody mediator.
No other relatives, boyfriends, girlfriends, or any friends of the parents will be allowed either.
The only person that can be with the parents when they meet the child custody mediator is each parent’s attorney.
The best way to win child custody mediation is to:
Your child custody mediator is not there to make the decisions for you.
You and your ex have to come to an agreement together.
You win child custody mediation by putting together a fair parenting plan.
When you create a parenting plan that is in the best interest for your children, everyone wins.
Whether you like your ex or not, doing what’s best for the kids is most important.
When you come to an agreement in child custody mediation and forego a custody battle…
That’s how you win a child custody mediation.
There are some things that you want to think of and do before you go into child custody mediation.
These things include:
In Georgia, the courts determine child custody based on the best interest of the child.
And they believe that a close and ongoing parent-child relationship is the key.
Georgia realizes the value of not disrupting the child’s life.
Let’s talk about what to do when filing for child custody in Georgia.
The steps include a petition, a parenting plan, and going to court.
The petition for child custody is included in your divorce papers.
If you have already gone through legal separation in Georgia, but you want to modify the child custody, you can file a petition.
This petition is the Child Custody Modification Petition.
To modify child custody, you have to prove that there have been changes that impact your child’s well-being.
These changes can include things like:
It’s likely the other parent will object to the petition of modification to child support.
They will either propose another solution or hire a child support lawyer to defend them.
If you both hire attorneys for child support, you can have them handle this (and the negotiations) for you.
If you can, create the parenting plan with your ex.
If you can’t, create a parenting plan on your own.
If you want it to get approved by your ex and the courts, focus on making it fair.
If you ask for too much, your ex will fight it and the judge won’t approve it.
Georgia child custody laws require the following:
A parenting plan must account for where the child will sleep.
It also needs to provide a plan for which parent the child will be with EACH day of the year.
This includes custody schedules for:
Your parenting plans must also account for the growth of the child.
Your parenting plan should take into account that your child’s needs will change as they grow.
The courts want to see minimal modifications to the child custody agreements.
Your parenting plans will also need to address transportation and who pays for it.
You will have to file your parenting plan with your local family courts.
If you and your ex both create your own parenting plans, file them both with the courts.
But be aware that this shows the judge that you and your spouse cannot agree on the parenting plan.
The judge will decide how to split custody for you.
They will create their own parenting plan in their view of the best interest for the child.
It’s best that you and your ex set your differences aside and come to an agreement together.
When one parent files the parenting plan, the other parent will get served those papers.
This is true even if both parents file their own papers and they will both get served.
If you and your ex can come to an agreement on a parenting plan, you may get to skip this step.
Some counties in Georgia require all parents to show up in court, though.
If the parties cannot agree, the court will hold a hearing to determine child custody issues.
This hearing requires complying with the rules of evidence and the rules of court.
For this, you should consider hiring a family law attorney.
As you can tell, there are multiple Superior Courts in Fulton County.
Having both legal and physical custody is often referred to as “full custody.”
If you are a parent attempting to get full custody of your child, you will have to:
You can file for full custody.
You will have to prove to the courts that you having full custody is in the best interests of the child.
It helps to have a child custody lawyer on your side so that you can plan a rock-solid case.
To file for full custody, you must prove that the other parent is unable to care for the child.
Or that the parent poses a risk to the child.
Situations that pose a risk include:
Child custody laws in Georgia require divorcing couples to submit a parenting plan when they are filing for divorce with children.
If there is an uncontested divorce in Georgia, the parents can submit a joint parenting plan to the courts.
But if you are having a contested divorce in Georgia, then you will be submitting the parenting plans separately.
If this happens, submit a parenting plan that is fair.
If your spouse submits an outrageous parenting plan, the judge may see you as a more reasonable person to work with and lean towards you in the negotiations.
So, what is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan outlines how the child’s needs and time will be split between the parents.
It also tells the courts who holds the decision making power for the children.
Along with outlining the legal and physical custody.
What should be included in a parenting plan for divorce?
When you start writing your parenting plan for divorce, here’s a list of things you need to make decisions on:
A parenting plan is a document that outlines how you and the other parent will raise your children.
This is required by family courts when you are filing for divorce in Georgia.
The parenting plan allows parents to resolve disagreements and document your agreements on parenting.
The parenting plan must be included with your petition for divorce.
Family courts prefer parents to create a comprehensive parenting plan that includes a visitation schedule, custody statements, and methods to resolve disagreements.
The courts feel that, since parents know their children best, they will be able to create a plan that meets their children’s needs.
If you and the other parent cannot agree on a parenting plan, the family court will create a plan for you.
If you and the other parent cannot submit a parenting plan together, or two plans separately, the court may appoint a third party to do so.
Interference with child custody includes:
If you get found guilty of interfering with child custody, here are the repercussions:
An example of this would be if your daughter ‘runs away’ with the child and you let her stay at your house.
Doing so means that you are harboring someone running away with the child.
With this, you have committed interference with child custody.
Another one would be if your nephew drops the child off at your house to keep the mother from finding the child.
Doing this retains possession of the child and harbors them.
This could be two counts of interference with child custody.
If you are the parent, the best thing that you can do is file a petition for modification for child custody to your local family court.
If you believe your spouse is harming the child, you can call the police for domestic violence.
Document everything that you see so that you can build a case against the other parent.
The police cannot enforce child custody.
Most likely, the police will advise you to take the issue up in court.
The law DOES support the non-custodial parent’s rights to visitation.
But the police cannot enforce child custody without the court’s directive.
In short, the police cannot do anything to help you.
The only reason that they would be able to get involved would be if there is domestic violence.
If you call the police, they will show up to the house the child is at.
But this is to keep the domestic dispute from escalating.
We have seen people call the police, saying that the other parent is trespassing.
But the other parent being on the property that the child is on is not trespassing.
That parent has a court order saying that they can be there.
The police will not arrest or fine the other parent for being on your property.
Will child custody and living with a girlfriend affect you getting custody?
If you live with a new partner, you can still get child custody.
We tell clients they should not live with a new partner until the child custody gets granted.
A parent’s living arrangements will be taken into account when determining child custody.
The judge will do what’s in the best interest of the child.
It’s easier all around if you follow a lifestyle of no sex and not living with anyone.
This is especially true if your ex is likely to make an issue of it in court.
This is one of those situations where “it depends.”
You should definitely consult a child custody lawyer about your situation.
There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the child custody laws in Georgia.
They can get overwhelming very fast.
To navigate child custody, it’s important to find a child custody lawyer with free consultation.
This way, you find out upfront if the child custody attorney is a good fit for you.
You want to get a feel of whether they are going to passionately fight for you.
If they won’t, you’re just another number that they will forget about.
This means they are going to fumble through your case.
You could lose child custody and visitation rights.
You could never see your kids again.
Use the free consultation with the child custody lawyer to discuss how they would go at-bat for you.
Your child’s well-being is in your hands.
It’s important to talk to a child custody lawyer with free consultation to find the best one for you.
In most cases, your child’s other parent assumes guardianship when you die.
To get guardianship, they don’t have to do anything special.
But it is important that you chose a guardian in the event that both parents die.
You will want to discuss adding them as guardian in the child custody will.
The guardian will become responsible for:
If you want to, you can leave money to the child in the child custody will.
This way, the guardian has help financially to support your child.
You can further help them out by getting life insurance on both parents.
In the event that both parents die, the child will receive all the money from insurance.
(Make sure that your child is the beneficiary of your life insurance.)
If you have other monies that will get passed down to the child, it most likely has to go through probate.
An executor will arrange all the money from the estate and dedicate it to the child.
This is ONLY if you create a child custody will indicating this, though.
Otherwise, the courts will dictate how your estate gets broken up.
The person you choose as the guardian should have good parenting skills.
They should also have values like your own.
You should have complete confidence in the person you nominate.
You should be certain the person is willing to accept the responsibility of raising your children.
Family members or trusted friends are good options.
For parents with minor children, consider creating a will with child custody.
The main focus on this will be naming a guardian in the event that both parents die.
If both parents die without a will for custody of children, the courts decide who gets guardianship.
The person who gets guardianship may not be the person that you want to have it.
Here are the steps for creating a will with child custody.
You can easily create a Do It Yourself Will.
But to make sure it’s iron clad, you should reach out to an estate planning attorney.
They will be able to tell you the exact language to include in the will to protect your children.
If you want the best custody attorneys to represent you, fill out the form below.
We have the experience needed to ensure that your rights are protected.
This means that you don’t wrongfully lose custody of your children.
We also make sure that your custody judgment is equitable and fair.
This means you don’t get raked over the coals financially.
After you fill out the form below, we will set up your free consultation.
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This website is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. Consult an attorney if you are seeking legal advice.