Custody & Visitation

Custody & Visitation

Custody tends to be the most contentious issue in family law cases because both parents believe that the best interest of their child(ren) is served by that party having physical custody of the child(ren).

In all cases in which the custody of any child is at issue between the parents, there shall be no prima-facie right to the custody of the child in the father or mother. There shall be no presumption in favor of any particular form of custody, legal or physical, nor in favor of either parent. O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3.

The judge hearing the issue of custody shall make a determination of custody of a child based on the best interest of the child, and such matter shall not be decided by a jury.

FACTORS CONSIDERED IN DETERMINING BEST INTEREST OF CHILD

In determining the best interests of the child, the judge may consider any relevant factor including, but not limited to the following:

(1) The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child;

(2) The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and his or her siblings, half siblings, and stepsiblings and the residence of such other children;

(3) The capacity and disposition of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child;

(4) Each parent’s knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child’s needs;

(5) The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, day-to-day needs, and other necessary basic care, with consideration made for the potential payment of child support by the other parent;

(6) The home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child rather than superficial or material factors;

(7) The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;

(8) The stability of the family unit of each of the parents and the presence or absence of each parent’s support systems within the community to benefit the child;

(9) The mental and physical health of each parent, except to the extent as provided in Code Section 30-4-5 and paragraph (3) of subsection (a) of Code Section 19-9-3 and such factors as provided in Code Section 15-11-26;

(10) Each parent’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the child’s educational, social, and extracurricular activities;

(11) Each parent’s employment schedule and the related flexibility or limitations, if any, of a parent to care for the child;

(12) The home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of the child;

(13) Each parent’s past performance and relative abilities for future performance of parenting responsibilities;

(14) The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child;

(15) Any recommendation by a court appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem;

(16) Any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse or criminal history of either parent; and

(17) Any evidence of substance abuse by either parent.

REQUIREMENT OF A PARENTING PLAN

In all cases in which the custody of any child is at issue between the parents, each parent shall prepare a parenting plan or the parties may jointly submit a parenting which substantially complies with O.C.G.A. § 19-9-1(b). https://www.gwinnettcourts.com/documents/filing/PermanentParentingPlanOrder.pdf

Parents should take into consideration their work schedules, in addition to the needs and activities of the minor child(ren) when preparing a parenting plan. It is imperative that the child(ren) is/are able to spend as much quality time with each parent, which is in the child(ren)’s  best interest.

Parenting time should not be disruptive to the activities the child(ren) is/are participating in, if this can be avoided. Sometimes a parent’s work schedule may only allow for parenting time during times that the child(ren) will be participating in an extracurricular activity. Therefore, creativity in preparing the parenting plan will be necessary to ensure both parents are able to spend quality time with their child(ren).

Where the parties can agree to the parenting and co-parenting arrangement, this is always encouraged. O.C.G.A. § 19-9-5(a) states that “it shall be expressly permissible for the parents of a child to present to the judge an agreement respecting any and all issues concerning custody of the child.”  https://www.fultoncourt.org/family/forms/parenting_plan.pdf.

If you have questions pertaining to custody of your children, contact the Parker Law Firm at 770-246-1331 or info@theparkerlawfirm.net. We have knowledge and experience in custody cases and we will put our experience to work for you.