Achieving a Positive Court Outcome with Our Trusted Family Lawyers
When parents in Georgia file for divorce or legal separation, the well-being of their children becomes the primary focus during legal proceedings. In cases where both parents are unable to reach an agreement on child custody and visitation arrangements, a judge will make decisions on their behalf. These disputes can be complex, emotionally charged, and highly sensitive. That’s why it’s crucial to hire an experienced family law attorney who will protect your rights and your children’s best interests.
If you’re dealing with a highly contested case, our Columbus child custody attorneys at Garrity Traina can guide you through every step of the legal process, ensuring the most favorable outcome in court. We will thoroughly assess your case, explore all available legal options, and develop a personalized and robust legal strategy on your behalf.
Georgia’s Child Custody Laws
In Georgia, custody can take two forms: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody determines which parent the child lives with, while legal custody grants a parent the authority to make major decisions for the child, such as those related to education, healthcare, and religion.
Under joint legal custody, both parents share equal rights and responsibilities for making important decisions on behalf of the child, although one parent typically has the final say. Joint physical custody, on the other hand, involves both parents sharing equal time and contact with the child.
Georgia courts often award joint legal custody to both parents, designating one parent (known as the custodial parent) as having full or primary physical custody. Consequently, the noncustodial parent has less than 50 percent of custody time.
Alternatively, one parent may be granted sole legal custody or sole physical custody, leaving the other parent without any rights. However, the parent without custodial rights may still have an obligation to provide child support.
Parents have the option to come to an agreement on custody arrangements, which the court will then approve. If an agreement cannot be reached, a judge will make the final decision. In both cases, the settlement or judge’s decision must prioritize the child’s best interests.
Some common factors that influence the court’s decision on the child’s best interests include:
- Each parent’s ability to provide care and a suitable home environment
- The ability of each parent to meet the child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing, and medical care
- The emotional bond between each parent and the child
- The mental and physical well-being of each parent
- Each parent’s involvement in the child’s education and extracurricular activities
- Each parent’s understanding of the child’s educational, health, and social needs
- The child’s relationships with siblings, half-siblings, and stepsiblings in each parent’s home
- The willingness of each parent to co-parent effectively
- Any history of substance abuse, physical abuse, or criminal offenses
- The child’s preference (if the child is at least 11 years old)
Grounds for Full Custody of a Child
Full custody grants one parent all the rights and responsibilities of caring for and raising the child. The parent awarded full custody has both legal and physical custody, while the noncustodial parent typically has visitation rights. Sole custody, on the other hand, means that the noncustodial parent is not granted any custody or visitation rights.
The court may grant full custody to the custodial parent under the following circumstances:
- The court deems one parent unfit to raise the child
- One parent becomes disabled, ill, or otherwise incapacitated
- One parent has a history of abuse or neglect
- One parent has been incarcerated or possesses an extensive criminal record
How to Obtain Full Custody of a Child
Rather than one parent simply requesting full custody and being granted it, the family court determines whether granting full custody to a parent would benefit the child. As previously mentioned, the court will base its decision on the best interests of the child.
Consider the following tips when petitioning for full custody:
- Gather documentation and evidence that demonstrates your capability to raise your child independently.
- Clearly state why joint custody would not be in the child’s best interests.
- Provide witnesses, such as family members, friends, or coworkers, who can vouch for your parenting skills.
- Spend quality time with your child to strengthen your bond.
- Avoid intentionally exaggerating or falsifying information to gain custody.
- Maintain a civil relationship with the other parent and refrain from insults or belittlement.
How Can a Mother Lose Custody of Her Child?
Traditionally, mothers were more likely to be awarded custody of their children. However, in recent years, fathers have increasingly won custody cases. In certain situations, a mother can lose a custody case that she had previously won, often due to avoidable reasons.
Here are some common reasons why mothers may lose custody of their child:
- Physical or emotional abuse of the child
- Neglecting the child’s needs
- Abusing the child’s father
- Poor co-parenting practices
- Interfering with parenting time
- Alienating the child from the other parent
- Violating a court order
- Substance abuse and addiction
If There is No Custody Order, Can I Take My Child?
In Georgia, without a custody agreement, both parents have joint legal and physical custody until a judge issues an order stating otherwise. Consequently, one parent cannot unilaterally take a child away from the other parent.
Who Claims the Child on Taxes with Split Custody?
According to the IRS, the custodial parent has the right to claim the child tax credit by default. The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child resides for more than half of the year.
However, a noncustodial parent may claim the child tax credit if the custodial parent relinquishes this right through mutual agreement or if the court orders the custodial parent to do so.
Request a Free Phone Consultation Today!
Child custody disputes can be challenging for all parties involved. If you’re currently facing child custody issues, don’t hesitate to seek the compassionate and personalized legal representation of our Columbus child custody attorney at Garrity Traina. We will support you both inside and outside the courtroom.
Contact us today at 706-622-6255 to speak with our Columbus child custody attorney and learn how we can assist you!