The process of negotiating custody is often a difficult and contentious process. Because of the delicate nature of what is at stake, parents often disagree about who should care for their child, and when.
As a result, it might prove beneficial to consult a skilled lawyer to discuss navigating Atlanta child custody issues. By enlisting the help of a dedicated legal professional, you could have help in clarifying your legal options and working to reach a mutually-beneficial agreement that protects your rights and keeps your child’s needs paramount.
Some of the common issues that arise in child custody cases are disputes between the parents for primary custody. In these circumstances, both parents have likely been involved in the child’s life—or there might be a concern about one parent’s fitness as a parent due to a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, or mental health.
There are also times where, after a divorce, there is a change in a parent’s situation. For example, issues of substance abuse or mental health might arise later and might not have necessarily been prevalent at the time of the divorce. As a result, these issues could impact whether it is in the best interests of the child for that parent to continue to have certain custodial rights.
However, issues like this are usually already present during a divorce case, particularly mental health or domestic violence. Substance abuse issues, on the other hand, can occur at any time, and therefore, might arise after an initial divorce agreement has been entered—thereby warranting a change. As a result, the other parent might modify a custody agreement or the parenting time if they are the primary custodian.
The age of the children involved might impact the issues that parents have during child custody. For example, under Georgia statutes, children between the ages of 11 and 13 can elect to live with a certain parent. However, that election in and of itself is not binding on the court and is not something, on its own, that could be used to modify custody in a post-divorce situation. However, this request is taken into consideration.
Furthermore, when a child reaches the age of 14, they are allowed to elect which parent they want to primarily live with. This election—unless it is not in their best interests—is given significant deference by the court. However, this request can only be made once every two years once they reach the age of 14. So, essentially, this is two times at the most because they reach the age of majority.
When the children are younger, however, this has a significant impact on a case because the court is looking at how the child is going to be raised. As a result, the case might be focused on who is going to have more day-to-day care over them. Naturally, younger children need more routine or day-to-day care compared to older children who can, to some extent, be self-sufficient. Because of this difference, a decision might largely be based on who is better capable of providing care that the child is accustomed to.
Child custody decisions naturally come with financial concerns. As a result, parents need to consider if there are any special needs of the children or extraordinary expenses—such as medical, educational, or religious costs—or even extracurricular activities that would impact what custody arrangement may be best for them.
In this realm, certain ramifications need to be addressed with child support, as well. Otherwise, a non-custodial parent could obligate a custodial parent to pay for certain expenses that are not otherwise factored into child support, meaning there is some overlap in those two areas. It is always suggested that a person has a lawyer on their side who is skilled in this area of the law and knows these issues so that they can spot them before the person gets into a situation that is not tenable.
In Georgia, the best interests statute provides 17 relevant factors, one of which is a parent’s ability to provide for the needs of the children. However, a caveat exists regarding the understanding that there might be support provided from one parent to the other. This is especially true if there are situations where special needs or special expenses exist and, as a result, these finances would be taken into account. At the same time, however, the court can reallocate funds via child support to try to ensure that the needs of the child will be met. This is true even if one parent has a significant financial disparity.
Negotiating custody and navigating the complex legal process alone is often daunting, especially when your future with your child is being disputed. No matter the nature of a custody negotiation, having a seasoned lawyer on your side might prove beneficial.
By guiding you through the issues that often arise in Atlanta child custody cases and working tirelessly to preserve your rights, an attorney might prove to be a valuable ally. To discuss your options further, reach out to a legal professional today.