Lawrenceville Child Custody Lawyer
Child custody is one of the most crucial issues to resolve in a divorce. Our Lawrenceville child custody lawyers at Crystal Wright Law understand that your children are your priority. We will do whatever we can to protect your kids. Contact us today at 404-594-2143 for a free case evaluation.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on visitation and custody terms, it’s vital to consult with an experienced child custody lawyer for help.
Since our founding, Crystal Wright Law has represented families in custody disputes, mediation, and uncontested divorce with minor children
How Crystal Wright Law Can Help with Child Custody in Lawrenceville, GA
Child custody issues can be very complex. Georgia courts have wide discretion in awarding custody and visitation. It is not uncommon for custody to become a source of contention and conflict in a divorce. It may even involve false allegations of abuse or domestic violence in an attempt to influence the court’s decisions.
If you are involved in a custody dispute or you simply want to reach a fair agreement with the other parent, an experienced Lawrenceville family law attorney can help.
Crystal Wright Law is a family law firm in Gwinnett County. Founding attorney Crystal S. Wright has been recognized with an AVVO Clients’ Choice Award for her commitment to professionalism and compassionate representation of Lawrenceville families.
When you choose our law office to assist in your child custody case in Lawrenceville, Georgia, you can count on us to:
- Give you the personal attention, guidance, and legal advice you deserve
- Help you seek a fair resolution with the other parent through mediation
- Work with the other parent and their attorney to seek a custody arrangement outside of court
- Represent you in court to present all the relevant facts and evidence for a judge to make a sound decision on custody
- Help you file for modification of existing child custody and visitation
Whether you are pursuing an uncontested divorce or are embroiled in a custody dispute, it’s crucial to get the legal representation you need. Contact our law office today to schedule a consultation to discuss what we can do to help you.
What Are the Types of Child Custody in Georgia?
Georgia law recognizes two types of custody:
- Physical custody; and
- Legal custody
By default, Georgia generally awards joint legal custody in a divorce. This means that both parents share equal decision-making authority. Four broad areas generally require joint decisions: medical care, education, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities. However, one parent usually has final decision-making authority when parties cannot agree or the other parent cannot be reached.
Physical custody refers to how much time each parent gets with the child and which parent the child lives with.
There are several types of physical custody:
- Joint physical custody allows both parents to have substantially equal contact and time with the child.
- Primary physical custody means the child lives with one parent the majority of the time or 51% or more of their time.
- Sole custody means a court order has given one parent total custody of the child.
Georgia law does not have a legal presumption for the amount of time one parent should receive. However, courts generally favor giving each parent as much time as possible to foster a healthy relationship with both parents.
When a child is 14 or older, Georgia law allows them to make a custody election regarding which parent they wish to live with. A judge can overrule a child’s custody election if they decide it is not in the child’s best interests.
Georgia operates under the Uniform Child Custody Act along with all other states. This law addresses interstate custody issues. Under this law, all states must enforce valid visitation and custody orders made by courts in other states.
How Is Child Custody Determined in Lawrenceville, GA?
O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3 requires a judge to determine custody in custody disputes, not a jury. This determination is based on the best interests of the child.
A judge will consider various factors in making their custody decision, including but not limited to:
- The bonding, love, affection, and emotion between the child and each parent as well as any siblings, step-siblings, or half-siblings and where they live
- The disposition and capacity of each parent to give the child guidance, love, affection, rearing, and education
- The familiarity and knowledge each parent has with the child and their needs
- Each parent’s disposition and capacity to provide the child’s basic needs, including day-to-day needs and clothing
- The home environment each parent offers
- Continuity in the child’s life and how long they have lived in their environment
- Each parent’s physical and mental health
- Each parent’s involvement in the child’s social, educational, and extracurricular activities
- Each parent’s employment schedule, limitations, and flexibility
- The child’s community, school, and home record as well as special education or health needs
- Willingness of each parent to facilitate a close parent-child relationship with the other parent
- Recommendations from a court-appointed custody evaluator
- Evidence of child abuse, criminal history, domestic violence, or substance abuse
However, custody does not need to be determined by a judge if both parents can reach a mutual agreement. It’s always best for parents to work together to decide on custody and visitation rather than leaving these decisions up to a judge.
Experienced Lawrenceville divorce attorneys can assist in mediation and negotiation to reach a fair agreement between both parents. If your custody case goes before a judge, your lawyer can help you protect your rights to your children.
Who Determines Parenting Time and Visitation in Lawrenceville?
Parenting time or visitation is part of child custody and defines each parent’s time with the child. Every custody agreement in Georgia requires a parenting plan. This plan gives the parent with physical custody the right to make day-to-day decisions and should allow both parents to foster a close relationship with their child.
Together, parents can choose how parenting time will be divided. If there is no agreement, they can ask a judge to decide how parenting time will be divided. No matter how visitation is decided, the details must be included in a formal parenting plan.
A typical parenting plan defines the details of child custody, including routine schedules, holiday visitation, and summer visitation. There are several ways to create a parenting plan.
A common option is standard visitation. The custodial parent has the most time with the child while the other parent has visitation from Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon on alternating weeks. On the other weeks, the other parent can have visitation during the week after school. This parenting plan can be extended to alternating Thursdays to Sundays with the other parent.
Standard visitation arrangements tend to work well for school-age children and give them a home base during the school week.
Some parents instead choose a weekly exchange with a true joint custody arrangement. This option means the child is with each parent from Sunday through Saturday on alternating weeks.
Another popular option is a 2/2/5 plan. Each parent has two designated visitation nights during the week and alternating full weekends. This plan allows parents to schedule daycare and extracurricular activities that happen on the same days of the week.
Parents can choose to make their own parenting plan that works best for their family. However, special attention should be given to certain visitation issues that may arise.
Supervised Visitation & Court-Ordered Conditions
Sometimes a judge decides that a third party should supervise a non-custodial parent’s visitation with their child. This is usually ordered when there are allegations of child abuse, domestic violence, or substance abuse.
Supervised visitation may happen in many ways. Visitation may be supervised by family members or through formal supervision by a third party. The third party is a professional, such as a social worker, who ensures the child’s well-being during their visit.
In addition to supervised visitation, a court can also put conditions on parenting time, such as:
- Prohibiting overnight visits
- Requiring a bond for someone who has committed domestic violence
- Protected setting during exchanges, such as a police station
- Completing a family violence intervention program
- Prohibiting alcohol and drug use during and 24 hours prior to visitation
- Any other condition a judge decides is necessary for the child’s safety
If you believe supervised visitation is needed, it’s important to discuss this with your attorney.
Summer vacation generally requires special consideration when it comes to visitation. A summer schedule may be necessary so parents can arrange for childcare, time off work, and plan extracurricular activities. Some parents may want to continue their typical visitation schedule. Others want to split up the summer with extended visitation.
It’s common for a parenting plan to address specific holidays to avoid conflicts and disagreements. A common arrangement is for one parent to have the child for certain holidays and spring and winter breaks.
A holiday visitation plan should take into consideration the child’s interests and needs. For some parents, certain holidays may carry more significance than others. Some parents may even share certain holidays, such as Christmas Eve at the father’s home and Christmas morning at the mother’s home.
Can Child Custody and Visitation Be Modified in Georgia?
Georgia courts recognize that no custody order and parenting plan can fit a family’s needs forever. Both visitation plans and physical and/or legal custody can be amended by filing a petition for custody modifications.
Note that modifications will only be made when the court finds new material conditions will significantly affect the child’s welfare and best interests. What is considered a substantial change in circumstance is mostly at a judge’s discretion.
However, you may seek a custody modification due to any of the following:
- One parent is moving out of the state or far enough that it affects the other parent’s ability to exercise visitation and custody rights
- The child is 14 and wants to live with the other parent
- A parent or the child will have long-term changes to their schedule
- New evidence that the other parent is unfit
- The needs of the child have changed to a significant degree
These are only examples of what may be considered a substantial change warranting a modification of the court order.
Violations of Custody or Visitation
What happens if one parent violates a court order regarding custody or visitation? In this case, the other parent has the right to file a contempt order against the other parent so the court can enforce the order. While a contempt hearing cannot be used to change custody, a judge can order changes to visitation arrangements during this hearing.
During this hearing, a court has many remedies:
- Order a change in transportation or the pick-up location
- Order the interfering parent to pay court costs and other expenses resulting from the interference
- Order make-up parenting time
- Order the interfering parent to complete parenting classes
- Hold the interfering parent in contempt of court. This can involve fines and even jail time, but it is reserved for serious and/or ongoing interference.
When a custodial parent continues to interfere with the other parent’s visitation rights, it may be grounds for a change in physical custody. This will require filing a motion for modification of the custody order.
Parental alienation can come in many forms. It may involve one parent interfering with visitation, refusing to give the other parent visitation time, or bending the visitation rules. It may involve allowing a child to avoid visitation with their other parent. Georgia law requires parenting time even if a child does not want to go.
In many cases, parental alienation involves badmouthing, blaming, or discussing details of the relationship (such as infidelity) with the child. This may be an intentional effort to alienate the child from the other parent. It can also be caused by frustration or a parent not thinking about how they are damaging their child’s relationship with a parent.
In any case, Georgia law recognizes that both parents have the right to play a positive role in their child’s life. Courts seek to protect a child’s best interest which encourages continued contact with both parents. A judge may also consider a parent’s willingness to encourage and allow a close relationship between the child and their other parent.
If you suspect parental alienation, it may be grounds to have a custody order modified.
Contact a Lawrenceville Child Custody Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Child custody is a complicated area of family law, with many factors that determine a child’s best interest. Make sure you have the legal representation you need to protect your child. Contact Crystal Wright Law today for a free case review with a Lawrenceville child custody lawyer who can help.
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