Finalizing a Georgia divorce is a complex process, and often one of the most delicate issues is determining child custody.
When a divorce goes to trial, the judges must consider a variety of factors and are often required to factor in the best interests of the children. This depends on the children's ages and their ability to determine their own living situations.
What If My Child is Older than 14 Years Old?
A child 14 years and older has the opportunity to choose which parent to live with. Unless a judge determines that the living arrangement is genuinely not in the best interest of the children, those wishes will be honored. If the child's wishes are different from the current custody agreement, a modification will be made to accommodate those wishes. In Georgia, custody agreements can only be changed once every two years, provided the best interest of the children are not being compromised. In other words, older children have the right to choose their custody arrangement, but they do not have the right to change the agreement on a whim.
What If My Child is Between 11 and 14 Years Old?
In situations where a child is between the ages of 11 and 14, the judge will still consider the wishes of the child, but maintain complete discretion in the final decision regarding custody. Children in this age range also do not have the right to have the custody agreements modified solely based on their wishes, although a judge may issue temporary custody while a longer-term decision is worked out.
Appointment of a Guardian ad Litem?
Most cases that involve a contested custody case, and sometimes a contested visitation case, will involve the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem. A Guardian ad Litem is essentially an attorney who represents the child(ren) and acts as an investigative arm of the Courts. Costs for the Guardian's fees are generally paid by the parent's with consideration to their individual income and resources, although some Courts provide limited free Guardian ad Litem services.
What's Best for My Child?
Here are several tips to help you continue to be an amazing parent. No matter what the final custody agreement says, make sure you:
1. Say only positive things about your ex in front of your children. Oftentimes, children will end up resenting the parent who speaks badly about their other parent.
2. Don't attempt to have children mediate arguments. There are professionals who handle those situations like Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor. Children should not be involved.
3. Let your children know that divorce will change their life, but in the end everything will be fine.
Speak to the Caring Atlanta Family Law Attorneys at Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor Today
Because of the complexities of Georgia child custody cases, having an expert family law attorney on your side is ideal. At Stearns-Montgomery and Proctor, we have been practicing divorce and family law since 1988. We are determined to get you the best outcome for your family when it comes to your child custody case.
Stearns-Montgomery and Proctor has four convenient offices in Marietta, Alpharetta, Buckhead, and Dunwoody. To schedule a consultation today, call (678) 971-3413 or click here to complete our contact form.