Divorce can be an ugly time, particularly when children are involved, which is why it is essential to work with an attorney who knows your rights and will work with your interests at heart.
If you live in Georgia and are either instituting divorce proceedings or responding to proceedings your husband or wife is initiating, it’s a good idea to find someone in your area, like a Peachtree City attorney, to help you with your case.
While many laws differ from state-to-state, the Uniform Child Custody Act (UCCA) has been adopted by all the US states, including Georgia, which has been compliant for nearly four decades.
The Importance of Custody
Custody is the most vital issue covered by the Act, because somebody – either a parent or guardian – has to make major decisions for minor children. These include decisions about education and religion, as well as basic issues relating to health, hygiene and nutrition, and respond to any emergencies primarily due to accident or injury.
A Peachtree City attorney will be able to advise in more detail how the Georgia custody laws work. However, in general, the law allows for sole custody, in which case only one parent (or a guardian) has legal custody; and joint custody, in which case the responsibility is shared, although not necessarily equally. In addition to legal custody, one or other parent is awarded physical custody, in which case he or she looks after the child in his or her home. In Georgia children aged 14 years or more are able to choose which parent they live with, although a judge can overrule this decision if it appears to be a bad one and not in the interests of the child.
Sometimes physical custody is shared, but if not, the non-custodial parent is awarded specific visitation rights.
How Visitation Rights Work
The visitation rights of a non-custodial parent is decided by a judge in a court of law. They sometimes specify a “fixed visitation” schedule, particularly when two parents show an unwillingness to cooperate with one another. Typically these are minimum visitation rights and can be increased by mutual agreement. Visitation will only be restricted if the judge finds that there is an apparent risk to the child, or the parent is likely to remove the child from Georgia. Of course this works both ways, and a non-custodial parent who finds him- or herself threatened by restricted visitation rights would be advised to consult an Atlanta or Peachtree City attorney to improve their rights.
In other cases there may be a ruling that “reasonable” visitation rights must be allowed. In this instance it will usually be up to the parents to work out visiting times that work for them both. If the non-custodial parent believes the custodial parent is not going to be reasonable, he or she can employ a Peachtree City attorney to negotiate better child visitation rights. Ultimately if a so-called reasonable visitation schedule doesn’t work, it might result in the couple going back to court to ask the judge to rule on a different arrangement. This in itself will create unnecessary stress not only for the parents, but for the child or children as well.
In Georgia it is not only the non-custodial parents of children who have visitation rights, but grandparents as well, and so they also need to be accommodated. Grandparents do not though have automatic custodial rights.
Also, just as children aged 14 or more are able to elect which parent to live with, they can also choose not to visit or be visited by their non-custodial parent.
Sometimes couples decide to split without divorcing. Sometimes unmarried couples have children and make the decision not to live together. In these instances custody and child visitation rights will also have to be negotiated and legally agreed, even though Georgia doesn’t recognize “legal separation.”
If you are facing a divorce and need help improving child visitation rights, the Peachtree City attorneys at Slepian, Schwartz & Landgaard, LLC will handle your case with the compassion and empathy you need at this trying time. Phone or contact us online to make an appointment.