Hi, I'm Dave Ward from The Ward Law Firm, child custody disputes can be highly subjective as the court tries to determine what's in the best interest of a child. To secure your rights as a parent, to ensure the parenting plan and custody order is in your child's best interest, you will need to present solid evidence in your case, that convinces the court of what's appropriate. At The Ward Law Firm, our philosophy for cases involving children is simple.
Children are not bargaining chips in a divorce. They deserve much better than to be treated as pawns, and we will use every legal means at our disposal to protect them. There are two forms of child custody in Georgia, legal, which has to deal with the rights of a parent to make decisions for their child, such as religious and spiritual development, non-emergency healthcare, educational decisions.
And then of course, there's physical custody, and that has to do with who has the child at any particular point in time.
Custody can be either sole or joint. Sole custody awards all of the rights with regard to custody to a single parent. Even though, a non-custodial parent may still get some visitation rights, while joint custody grants some of those rights to both parents, although not necessarily equal.
Courts prefer to award joint custody, although there are circumstances such as having an unfit parent, where the court will go and order sole custody. Court may consider somebody unfit, if for example, they have an alcohol or other substance abuse issues.
Parents may attempt to work out a parenting plan that works for the family, which a judge would then have to approve. But, if they cannot agree, then the court will make the decisions with regard to those issues.
Now, children over the age of 14 can request that they be allowed to reside with a particular parent, however the court can override that decision if they feel it's in the child's best interest. Court can also consider the wishes of an 11 year old, however a 14 year old's decision is frequently treated with much more difference.
Georgia recognizes grandparents' rights to visitation as well. And, grandparents may join an existing visitation case or may file one of their own if no other one exists.
Custody modifications are possible, however, you must establish that there has been a substantial change in circumstances affecting the welfare of the child. It's also important to know, only a court can modify custody.
Matters related to child custody such as creating a parenting plan, determining custody, modifying a parenting plan, requesting relocations, et cetera, can be complex. You must follow the proper legal procedures in Georgia law in presenting that case to a judge and helping a court determine what is going to be in the child's best interest. If you have questions about child custody, whether it's in contemplation of a divorce, or if you're seeking to modify custody, give me a call today.
I'm Dave Ward with The Ward Law Firm, and we protect business owners facing divorce.