Since January 1, 2008, Georgia law has required divorcing individuals or individuals involved in domestic relations cases (modification of custody, modification of visitation, or legitimization) to adopt a parenting plan before any case can be finalized by the courts. Fortunately, individuals can agree on a parenting plan outside of court, and submit it to the court during trial. Georgia Courts offers a sample parenting plan form that parents can use a guideline for making decisions regarding how children will be raised following a divorce or when parents will reside in separate homes.
Unfortunately, if both parents cannot reach an agreement about a parenting plan, the trial judge will draft one for both parents. Parents preserve the right to make decisions in the best interests of their children by reaching an agreement outside of court. Many parents seek mediation or the help of a lawyer in order to draft a parenting plan for child custody that works for the family and for the children.
If parents cannot agree to a parenting plan outside of court, parents will have to submit testimony to the court, and the final decision will rest upon the judge, who will determine child custody based on factors determined by the state of Georgia. In some cases, the parenting plan that the judge drafts may not be agreeable to either parent. It is also important to note that the final judgment a judge makes will be permanent and cannot be changed unless significant changes to the family take place.
Individuals who are divorcing or who have questions about child custody are wise to seek the help of a lawyer like Gregory C. Okwuosah in Lawrenceville GA to ensure that both parents preserve their rights with regards to custody of their children. Georgia.gov reminds parents that Georgia law can be complex and parents “should consider speaking with a family law attorney prior to [a] child custody hearing.” It seems logical to think that parents will ultimately know what serves the best interests of their children. If parents cannot agree about a parenting plan, the court will decide what it believes is in the child’s best interest. Visit The Law Offices of Gregory C. Okwuosah website at www.gcolaw.com today to learn more.
In some cases, parents may need to take an aggressive stance when it comes to the parenting plan. Legal Aid Georgia calls this a “safety-focused parenting plan.” A safety-focused parenting plan should be drafted in cases when one parent has exhibited violence or committed acts of violence, threatened suicide, has had issues with alcohol or drugs, or has committed acts of sexual abuse.
Most individuals, however, won’t require a safety-focused parenting plan. So, what are some things parents will have to agree upon when drafting a parenting plan?
Parents will have to decide who will have legal custody of the child or children. Legal custody refers to the parent who has the right to make decisions with regards to the child. The parents will also have to decide who the primary physical custodian of the child will be. The primary custodian is the parent with whom the child will live. In some cases, parents choose to share legal custody, while only one parent has physical custody. When parents share legal custody, both parents will make decisions with regards to the children’s needs. Parents will then have to determine what course of action they will take in the event of a disagreement. Each family’s needs are unique and parents should discuss their needs and concerns with a lawyer before making a final determination.
Parents will also have to consider how they will divide parenting time. Georgia’s forms offer some suggestions, including “visitation on the second and fourth Friday of each month” or “every other weekend starting on (a given date).” Parents will also have to determine how holidays and vacations will be spent. In terms of visitation and parenting time, parents also have the option of drafting their own solution. The courts will want to ensure that the children have a close relationship with both parents. Any agreement should account for this factor.
Additional considerations parents will need to make include how the child will be transported to and from each parent’s house, and how the non-custodial parent may contact the child. In general, both parents should have a right to access the child’s records unless there is a pressing reason for one parent to not have this right.
Child custody can be one of the most contentious issues divorcing spouses face. A skilled child custody, or family law lawyer like The Law Offices of Gregory C. Okwuosah in Lawrenceville can ensure that parents protect their rights, their children’s rights, and ensure a solution that works best for their family.