Child Custody Lawyers Protecting What Matters Most
As a parent, you want to protect your children no matter what life throws at them. Unfortunately, protecting your children during and after a divorce can be challenging. At this time, when the best interests of your children and your parental rights are at stake, it is vital to work with an experienced family law attorney.
At The Siemon Law Firm, our skilled custody lawyers counsel and represent divorcing couples throughout Georgia in child custody disputes. We also serve unmarried parents who need to make important decisions regarding custody and parenting time, as well as child support. Our primary goal is to find the solution that works best for you and your children. With offices in the greater metro Atlanta area, our family law firm handles contested and uncontested child custody and divorce cases throughout Northern Georgia. Call 770-888-5120 now to schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys.
Protecting The Best Interests Of Your Child
In Georgia, child custody and visitation are determined by what the courts rule as “best interests of the child.” This is dependent upon a variety of factors listed under the statute, including:
- The emotional, psychological and developmental needs of the child
- Safety of the child
- Any instances in the past of domestic violence
- The ability of the parents to communicate
- The child’s preference (depending on the age and maturity of the child)
- The geographic proximity of the parents
- The suitability of each parent as the primary custodian
- Which parent has traditionally provided for the child’s primary care during the marriage
Please note that this is not an exclusive list as the court may consider any other factors deemed to affect the best interests of the child. An additional caveat under Georgia law states that once a child reaches the age of 14, he or she has the right to elect which parent to reside with. The child’s decision takes precedence unless it is found that the parent chosen by the child is not in the child’s best interest.
What Is A Parenting Plan?
In Georgia, a parenting plan will spell out how you and your ex-spouse will co-parent your children following your divorce. You will need to file a parenting plan with the court. You and your spouse will need to decide:
- Who will have legal custody? Legal custody is the right to make important decisions for your child, such as religious upbringing, education, medical care and extracurricular activities. Legal custody can be joint, with the mother or with the father. If you have joint legal custody, you will have to decide how disagreements will be resolved.
- Who will be the primary physical custodian? This means where your child will live. Primary physical custody can be with the father, with the mother or joint. If you have more than one child, your children can have different primary physical custodians.
- How will parenting time be shared? When one parent has primary physical custody of children, the other parent typically will have parenting time, according to a written schedule. Another word for parenting time is “visitation.” An example of parenting time would be for the noncustodial parent to have the child on the first and third weekend of every month, on the parent’s birthday, on alternate holidays, and for extended periods of time during school breaks and summer vacation.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on a parenting plan, then mediation may provide a way to reach a resolution out of court. If your case needs to be litigated in court, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of your children in court.
If there is a history of domestic violence in your marriage, that can have a significant effect on your parenting plan. The court may order sole custody for the abused spouse.
Custody Evaluators In An Atlanta Divorce
A custody evaluator is certified by the state of Georgia to provide a professional opinion to the court as to how qualified or prepared a parent is to raise his or her children alone. They are generally either licensed psychologists or professional social workers.
While a guardian ad litem focuses on determining the best interests of the children, the custody evaluator looks at the attributes of both the mother and the father and gives an opinion of their capabilities. In some cases, he or she will recommend a psychological evaluation.
The custody evaluator will present his or her opinion to the court. However, it is very important to also have a skilled child custody attorney on your side who can help ensure that the judge fully comprehends your side of the story. Our family law attorneys are aggressive and determined litigators who are not afraid to assert your side and defend your rights in court.
Psychological Evaluations In A Georgia Divorce
A psychological evaluation is conducted by a licensed psychologist with the goal of determining how mentally and emotionally stable a person is. This comes into play in some child custody disputes or when ordered by a custody evaluator. In essence, the custody evaluator wants to know whether a parent is psychologically healthy and capable of raising his or her child after divorce.
At The Siemon Law Firm in Atlanta, we understand the importance you place on maintaining strong relationships with your children. Our divorce attorneys can use their experience with child custody disputes and psychological evaluations to effectively guide you through the process. We will work to achieve your goals and find a solution that enables you to enjoy a rich and meaningful relationship with your children.
Visitation: Protecting Your Relationship With Your Children
Many people assume that visitation means that you see your children every other weekend and one night during the week. However, there is no such thing as a typical arrangement. Visitation is about protecting your relationship with your children after a divorce. There is no typical arrangement. You and your spouse can negotiate any arrangement that fits your family and your schedule.
At our law office, our goal is to help you negotiate a child custody and visitation schedule that will make it easier for you and your ex to co-parent your children. We can also assist grandparents when they wish to pursue visitation rights of their grandchildren.
How Much Visitation Can I Have?
Following a divorce, one parent typically has primary residential custody while the other has visitation according to a schedule. At a minimum, the parent with visitation would have overnight visits on alternating weekends, alternating holidays, and extended periods of time during school breaks and summer vacations, plus one evening/night during the week. However, you and your spouse can negotiate a different arrangement, up to 50-50 joint child custody.
Georgia courts believe it is in the best interests of children to have reasonable and liberal contact with both parents. However, a 50-50 child custody plan probably would not work unless both parents lived in the same school district and have good co-parenting and communication skills.
If the two parties are unable to reach an agreement on a visitation arrangement through negotiation or mediation, the court will decide based on what it perceives to be the best interests of your children. Our lawyers are experienced in presenting the right evidence and arguments to support your visitation goals.
What If There Are Allegations Of Child Abuse?
Courts may provide supervised visitation (but no overnight visits) even in cases where there is evidence of past spousal or child abuse. Typically, the parent with physical custody would drop the child off at a secure facility and pick up the child after the visitation with the noncustodial parent.
Obtaining A Child Custody Or Visitation Modification
A court order for modification of visitation can be routine or become highly contentious depending on circumstances. If a parent’s work schedule has changed for example, we may be able to negotiate with the other parent to obtain a change in the visitation schedule.
A change in visitation or child custody may require significantly more time and effort if it is contested by the other parent. In such a case you will need an aggressive and hardworking attorney on your side. A lawyer at our firm will be happy to discuss your situation and explain your legal options.
Atlanta Legal Professionals On Your Side
Our family law attorneys are professionals who will take the time to listen to you and understand your family relationships and your property. From your initial consultation until the conclusion of your case, our lawyers will:
- Explain your full range of legal options so you can make educated decisions
- Focus on the best interests of your children and on maintaining your parent-child relationships
- Take action to protect your safety if you have concerns about your spouse’s psychological stability — or protect your reputation if you are falsely accused of being mentally or emotionally unstable
As lawyers with years of experience in courts throughout the area, we will let you know how family law judges have ruled in custody disputes with issues and fact patterns similar to yours. Knowing what to expect if your case goes to court will put you in a better negotiating position.
Get The Legal Representation You Need From An Experienced Family Law Attorney
At The Siemon Law Firm, we are not just attorneys, we are also parents. We understand how important your children are, and we are ready to fight for your parental rights. Our divorce lawyers can also assist with other related family law matters, including child support, alimony or spousal support, property division, postnuptial agreements and other legal issues. Call 770-888-5120 to learn how we can help. For your convenience, we have office locations in Alpharetta, Atlanta, Cumming and Marietta.
Client Review: 5/5 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“Professional service with a personal touch. They took the time to fully understand my situation and my case. I always received personal and prompt attention to any concerns and pressing items. The superior results they were able to obtain for my child and me from my highly contested custody case were more than I could have ever imagined. I highly recommend The Siemon Law Firm.”