Child Custody / Visitation Modification

Child custody law in Georgia

Determining child custody is also a very complicated process that follows a divorce. In Georgia child custody is determined by what’s in the “best interest of the child”. If the child is age 14 or older he or she can make a decision of which parent they wish to reside with.

However, if the parent chosen by the child is not within the child’s best interest, their decision can be rejected by the judge.

There are several factors that determine how child custody will play out during a divorce: Safety of the child, emotional or psychological needs of the child, history of abuse, ability for parents to communicate, child’s decision if they’re age 14 or older and location where parents reside are some of the major factors that determine child custody.

Custody evaluators which are licensed professionals by the state will also have a say in your child custody hearing. Custody evaluators give their professional opinion on the ability of both parents to responsibly care for the child. In some cases here in Georgia psychological evaluations may also be required if the custody evaluator suspects it may be necessary.

Modification for Existing Visitation Schedules

Have situations in your life changed since you went through your divorce and established a custody or visitation order? Any parent may file for a modification of custody or visitation once every two years or if there is a significant change in circumstances. At The Millard Law Firm, our Alpharetta child custody lawyers are committed to protecting your rights and the rights of your children. Working with a trusted family law firm is in your best interest to ensure you have the best chance for success.

Situations that are typically considered a significant change in circumstances include:

Custody Modification Due to Relocation

The most common reason for filing a modification of custody and visitation is a move out of state. Many times the non-moving parent believes that the moving parent should lose custody as a result of his or her decision. The Georgia Supreme Court has stated there is no bright line rule to child custody.

Simply moving out of state does not waive your right to custody. Each case must be evaluated individually and the court must make a decision based on the best interest of the child. Whether you are the moving parent or the parent remaining in the state, it is imperative that you retain the representation of a committed Alpharetta family lawyer.

How Long Does Modification Take?

A modification of custody can take several months and in several counties, the moving party is prevented from moving until a final order is issued. If you need to modify your visitation or custody schedule because of a planned move or just wish to determine if your situation will warrant a modification, please reach out to The Millard Law Firm today.

Additional Information & Answers

Determining child custody is a very complicated process that requires the assistance of a lawyer. In Georgia, child custody is determined by what’s in the “best interest of the child.” There are several factors a court considers when determining what is in the best interest of the child such as safety of the child, emotional or psychological needs of the child, history of abuse, the ability for parents to communicate, the child’s decision if they’re aged 14 or older, and location where parents reside. These are some of the major factors that determine child custody.

If the child is aged 14 or older he or she can make an election of which parent they wish to reside with, but that decision is not binding on the Judge. If it is not in the best interest of the child to reside with the parent they chose, their decision can be rejected by the Judge.

It’s important to have an attorney on your side during child custody cases. If you truly want your voice to be heard, hiring a child custody attorney will have an immense impact on the outcome of your custody case. Our lead attorney, Marcy Millard, helps parents in Alpharetta navigate through complex and emotional child custody and high-stakes divorce cases both as a lawyer and a Guardian ad Litem. More importantly, she has been through the process herself as a child of divorce. If you are searching for the right child custody lawyer to defend you, look no further. The Millard Law Firm will fight to ensure the best interests of your child/children.

Child custody cases can be very complicated and have many moving parts. In some cases, a custody evaluator and a GAL may be required by the court in order to help determine custody and visitation rights. The Georgia courts will review all the information submitted, and from there they will determine custody in favor of the best interests of the child. 

In Georgia, child custody is granted through physical or legal custody.

Parents that are granted physical custody have the right to live primarily with the child and in most cases parents will have shared custody (joint custody) of children involved in a custody dispute. In some cases the court will appoint one parent as the primary physical custodian of the child, but more courts are granting both parents joint physical custody.  Joint physical custody allows the child to live with both parents the same amount of time. 

If the Georgia courts determine that one parent is unfit to care for the child, then sole custody will be granted to one parent. In this case, visitation rights may or may not be allowed for the other parent.  This is very uncommon, but can happen in extreme cases of abuse, neglect or other significant issues.

Legal custody determines which parent or parents have legal decisions concerning the child’s education and medical care. The Georgia Court will generally grant the parties joint legal custody with one parent having final decision making authority.. The parent granted final decision making authority for the child will make final decisions if both parents cannot agree on legal matters concerning the child’s well-being. 

Sole custody takes place when the courts determine that one parent is completely unfit to legally and physically have custodial rights. Sole custody is rarely granted; however, based on the Court’s findings it can be enforced. Sole custody grants one parent full legal and physical custody meaning they are fully in charge of the child’s well being. While sole custody grants full legal and physical rights to a child, it does not take away the financial responsibility from the other parent to care and provide for the child. Child support and child custody are two separate matters.

Custody evaluators, which are licensed professionals by the state, will also have a say in your child custody hearing. Custody evaluators give their professional opinion on the ability of both parents to responsibly care for the child. In some cases here in Georgia, psychological evaluations may also be required if the custody evaluator suspects it may be necessary.

A Guardian Ad Litem is an attorney appointed by the court to represent the child’s best interest as far as custody and visitation. Not every case requires a Guardian Ad Litem; however, having one present is highly recommended during complex cases. 

The role of a Guardian Ad Litem in a child custody case is to investigate and provide a recommendation as to who should have custody of the child, the visitation schedule,  if supervised visitation is needed, and other important issues regarding custody.

A Guardian ad Litem is considered the Court’s expert for child custody. They may have some knowledge on child development in psychology; however, their main task is to look through information related to the child’s well-being. This includes interviewing children, parents, and witnesses involved during a custody case in order to give appropriate recommendations for the child or children involved in a custody dispute.

The main difference between a child custody evaluator and Guardian ad Litem is their legal and scientific background.

In Georgia, custody evaluators are licensed psychologists who are usually brought into a child custody case if there are suspected issues of psychological instability. In a custody hearing, a custody evaluator can be requested by another party involved in the case, the Judge or a Guardian Ad Litem. Custody evaluators will report their scientific findings to the court and can also offer a recommendation concerning child custody and visitation.

Neither a custody evaluator or a Guardian ad Litem’s recommendation is binding on the Court.  A Judge is the only authority who can make ae decision based on psychological and legal findings.

Under Georgia law, if parents are not married, the mother is considered the solelegal custodian of the child unless and until the Court grants the father any rights to legal or physical custody. Even if the father is ordered by the court to pay child support, he may not have visitation rights, physical or legal custody of the child. For unmarried parents there are no automatic father’s rights in the state of Georgia. The father has a right to become a physical custodian of the child as long as the court finds it will be in the best interest of the child for him to be a legal or physical custodian. 

Parenting plans also known as the child custody agreement, outlines who will be the primary physical or legal custodian of the child in addition to frequency of visitation. In some cases, both parents cannot agree on visitation rights and frequency of visitation. In this case, the Georgia courts order both parties to submit their own proposed plan on how the child’s custody should work. Both parties submit their proposed parenting plan before the first child custody hearing. The Judge will review the findings in addition to other information submitted by a Guardian Ad Litem and custody evaluator.

Here at the Millard Law Firm we help Alpharetta residents devise parenting plans that make a difference in their case. If you are going through a child custody dispute, it is best to consult an attorney who is well-versed in preparing child custody agreements.

Child support and child custody are handled separately. While both have their similarities, there are various factors that are used to calculate child support payments. In Georgia, the non-custodial parent is required to pay child support. Typically in Georgia, the parent that has the least amount of visitation time is the one required to pay child support.

Just like child custody cases, child support can also be very complex with many moving parts as far as determining who will pay child support and how much will be paid. Our lawyers are skilled at navigating through these difficult situations. We will fight not only for the custody of your child, but also child support associated with caring for your child. Click here to learn more about child support.

Have situations in your life changed since you went through your divorce orestablished a custody or visitation order? Any parent may file for a modification of custody or visitation once every two years or if there is a significant change in circumstances. At The Millard Law Firm, our Alpharetta child custody lawyers are committed to protecting your rights and the rights of your children. Working with a trusted family law firm is in your best interest to ensure you have the best chance for success.

Situations that are typically considered a significant change in circumstances include:

  • One parent wants to move out of state.
  • One parent gets remarried.
  • A parent’s new boyfriend or girlfriend causing harm to your child or children.
  • A change in jobs that allows the non-custodial parent to spend more time with the child or the custodial parent to spend less time with the child.
  • A 14 year old or older child’s election

A frequently used reason for filing a modification of custody and visitation is a move out of state. Many times the non-moving parent believes that the moving parent should lose custody as a result of his or her decision. The Georgia Supreme Court has stated there is no bright line rule to child custody.

Simply moving out of state does not waive your right to custody. Each case must be evaluated individually and the court must make a decision based on the best interest of the child. Whether you are the moving parent or the parent remaining in the state, it is imperative that you retain the representation of a committed Alpharetta family lawyer.

A modification of custody can take several months and in several counties, the moving party is prevented from moving until a final order is issued. If you need to modify your visitation or custody schedule because of a planned move or just wish to determine if your situation will warrant a modification, please reach out to The Millard Law Firm today.

Specialized Legal Team

Marcy A. Millard

Marcy A. Millard

Owner & Lead Attorney
Brittney Green

Brittney Green

Associate Attorney