When you file for divorce with children in Georgia, you may be facing some unknowns.
Are you going to get custody?
What do you need to do to get custody?
Will the courts consider me or my spouse an unfit parent?
Will my child get to pick who they live with?
You’re facing a lot of uncertainties when it comes to your children and your divorce.
Let’s answer some of those questions for you.
Steps to File for Divorce with Children in Georgia
For starters, you’re going to have different paperwork depending on the age of your children.
Minors versus those of age require different paperwork.
When filing for divorce with minors, the courts default to “the best interest of the child.”
These processes will determine custody, support, and visitation.
1. Complaint For Divorce with Minor Children
You’ll want to download the Complaint about Divorce with Minor Children form.
2. Fill Out the Divorce with Minor Children Form
There may be some items you’re not sure how to fill out.
For now, ignore your case number.
The court system will provide you with this case number.
Start by filling in where you and your spouse are living.
In the section regarding your children, answer all questions for each child to the best of your ability.
This includes name, age, date of birth, place of birth, current residence, past residences, and people with whom the children have lived.
It also will ask whether there are any other cases pending concerning these same children.
If you have spoken to your spouse about custody and have agreed upon a parenting plan, fill out that info.
Answer the questions regarding custody, visitation and support, and state whether you and your spouse have come to an agreed parenting plan.
If you haven’t spoken to them about it, you can’t come to an agreement, or they don’t know you’re planning a divorce, it’s okay.
3. File a Notarized Copy
Once you have sat down with your spouse and figured out the unknowns, it’s time to file.
You will need a notary to witness your final signature.
You will want to file the form in the county where your spouse is residing.
If your spouse has moved out of state, submit it to the county courthouse where you reside.
With the complaint, Georgia also requires that you file a Disclosure Statement.
This provides the case type, name, and number, a Domestic Relations Case Filing Information Form, a Report of Divorce, Annulment, or Dissolution of Marriage that provides statistical information about the marriage to the state.
A Domestic Relations Case Filing Information Form identifies the parties and states whether domestic violence is an issue.
4. Serve the Papers to Your Spouse
Now it’s time to serve the papers to your spouse.
The paperwork will be accompanied by an Acknowledgement of Service and Consent to Jurisdiction.
This is the form that proves that they acknowledge the terms and agree to them.
If your spouse signs the Acknowledgement of Service and Consent to Jurisdiction, then that’s all that is required of them.
If your spouse will not sign the acknowledgment, things start to get a little sticky.
You must serve him through the process service division of the county sheriff’s office.
You’ll want to reach out to your local sheriff and have them serve papers.
Once the papers have been delivered, verification that they received them is filed by the server.
5. File a Parenting Plan
The courts will want to know that you and your spouse have come to an agreement on how to raise your children.
There are a lot of issues to iron out.
These issues include custody, visitation, and child support.
If you all cannot come to an agreement, submit a proposed parenting plan to the courts.
The courts will also want to dig into your financials and background to help them decide who is better to raise the children.
Will I Get Joint Custody Child Support?
Georgia is a state where there are two types of custody.
Legal custody and physical custody.
What’s the difference?
In most cases, the courts award joint custody child support.
Joint custody doesn’t negate a child support obligation to your spouse.
Even if both parents share joint custody on an equal basis, one parent will inevitably owe some amount in child support.
There is only one way around it.
Both parents must earn exactly the same income and spend exactly the same amount of time with the children.
The problem is that this is highly unlikely.
Joint Custody in Georgia
When parents are awarded joint legal custody, this means that both parents share in the decision-making.
This includes, but is not limited to, the child’s medical and educational decisions.
Both parents will also have access rights to all records when it comes to the child.
It sounds easy, right?
But what happens when there are disagreements?
What if the parents can’t decide on the school system the child should attend?
Or which doctor the child should see?
Ultimately, one parent is going to be awarded final decision-making authority when there are disagreements.
What happens when one parent wants to have the child move schools or go to a specific doctor.
This final decision-making goes to the parent who has primary physical custody.
Physical custody is, in most cases, also shared.
That doesn’t mean that physical custody is fairly distributed.
Usually, one parent gets primary physical custody and the other parent gets secondary physical custody.
This is true even if it’s joint custody child support.
The courts determine physical custody based on several factors.
The main factor here is who has been the child(ren)’s primary caregiver during the course of the marriage.
Joint Custody vs Sole Custody In Georgia
There’re so many types of custody that it all gets pretty confusing.
Knowing the ins and outs of the different custodies can prepare you for the potential legal battle ahead.
Let’s dig in.
What Is Joint Custody?
Joint legal custody is the norm in Georgia.
This is when the parents share decision making authority regarding the minor child.
There are four areas in which the decisions are required to be made jointly:
- religious upbringing of the child(ren)
- medical care of the child(ren)
- extracurricular activities
Joint legal custodial arrangements will require that the parents share decision-making.
But the courts will designate one parent to have final decision-making.
This comes into play in the event that the parents cannot come to an agreement on the decision.
You probably are worried that your ex will abuse this “power.”
Final decision-making authority does not allow for a parent to make a unilateral decision.
Meaning, they can’t just make the decisions without consulting you.
Joint physical custody is not the norm in the State of Georgia.
Joint physical custody indicates that the parents will equally, or nearly equally, share time with the child.
Judges in Georgia will assign primary physical custody to one of the parents.
They are kind of biased against equal parenting time.
Joint physical custody is something, generally, that the parents have to agree to.
What Is Sole Custody?
Generally, sole custody is not awarded to a parent.
Sole custody is when ALL of the custodial rights are assigned to one parent.
When this happens, the other parent has zero rights when it comes to their child.
Sole custody is limited to situations in which one parent has been deemed unfit or incapable of having any form of responsibility for a child.
For example, due to drug addiction or evidence of child abuse.
The family law judge will make the joint custody vs sole custody based on the best interests of the child.
They will first determine who has been the primary caregiver of the child.
Typically, the primary caregiver will be awarded the primary physical custody.
This is the case unless this parent has proven to be a danger to the child.
Some of the day to day care that the primary caregiver provides the child is:
- wake the child up for school
- help him/her get ready
- provides meal
- does bath time
- take the child to doctor’s appointments
- is at parent-teacher events
As parenting and work roles begin to get blurry, things become difficult.
In cases where these duties are equally shared, the judges have a harder time making the decision.
Factors that may be considered are:
- work schedules
- who has available time for the children
- ability to provide
- the child’s desires may also be considered
Hiring a Divorce Attorney for a Divorce with Kids
With the steps above, you know enough to be a little dangerous.
But, leaving your children’s custody up to chance isn’t advisable.
You’ll want to find the best divorce attorney near you who has experience with a divorce with kids.
Proper representation will ensure that you have the best chance at becoming the primary custodial parent.