Why A Child Custody Attorney Is Advisable Even If Your Divorce Is Amicable
Divorce is challenging for every couple—especially when children are involved. Even if you and your spouse are splitting on good terms, a child custody attorney can help with any legal nuances and complexities regarding custody arrangements.
Let’s unpack the advantages of hiring a child custody attorney, even if your divorce is amicable. How will they assist during mediation—and what should you expect during custody hearings?
Why a Child Custody Attorney is Advisable in Amicable Divorces
Child custody cases need to be handled with care. As such, divorcing parents should consider hiring a child custody attorney to make the process as smooth as possible. An experienced attorney will:
Explain the Process
A skilled child custody attorney can explain the day-to-day complexities as you and your ex-spouse move through the process. They’ll explain all the court rules and procedures associated with family law matters.
Advocate on Your Behalf
Divorce proceedings don’t happen overnight. In the interim, a judge may issue a “temporary order” regarding custody. Legal representation from both sides will negotiate temporary custody situations that both parents can agree on.
Protect your Parental Rights
Georgia has some of the strongest parental rights protections, especially regarding a child’s education. A child custody attorney will explain these fundamental rights and protect you from agreeing to something you would have otherwise approved of.
“Georgia judges are supposed to start from a position that we have two legal parents, and they’re on equal footing. There’s no presumption that the mom is the better primary because she’s the mom.”
—Belinda Martin, Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor.
Role of a Child Custody Attorney in Mediation
In Georgia, most counties requires all couples to undergo pre-trial mediation before taking their case to court. If your divorce is amicable, you’ll likely be able to settle disputes at this stage. But what exactly does mediation entail—and how does it work when children are involved?
Mediation is a pre-trial process in which couples attempt to settle their divorce independently. They’ll hash out property division, alimony, and child custody issues. A child custody attorney for both sides can help settle your needs during mediation; otherwise, your case will go to the judge to decide.
“When you go to court, you’ve lost all control. It’s now in the hands of the judge, and you don’t know what kind of day that judge is having.”
—Marlys Bergstrom, Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor.
While you have every right to represent yourself, going into mediation without an attorney is like kayaking without a paddle—you’ll go where the current takes you. Furthermore, settling your differences during mediation will save you tens of thousands of dollars in future fees.
Aside from having legal representation, consider these helpful tips for a successful mediation:
- Remain kind and cordial. Don’t argue with your ex-spouse.
- Leave marital troubles at home. They have nothing to do with your kids.
- Do not refer to the children as “my” kids.
- Never sign anything without your child custody attorney present.
What to Expect During Custody Hearings
If the terms of your divorce cannot be settled during mediation, the courts will schedule an official custody hearing. This process can be intimidating, especially when custody of your children is on the line. Knowing what to expect and having a child custody attorney will only help your case.
During a custody hearing, a judge will decide whom the child lives with primarily. That parent will be in charge of making major life decisions. In Georgia, those decisions break into four categories: education, health, extracurriculars, and religion.
“Most times, if we can reach a settlement agreement, we see those categories divided. One parent will get two majors, and the other will get the other two.”
—Belinda Martin, Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor.
Thankfully, most child custody hearings aren’t a drawn-out, arduous process. They typically take less than two hours—it ultimately depends on how many issues there are with your case.
Both parents will testify before a judge regarding their custody proposals during the hearing. A child custody attorney can articulate your case on your behalf.
Ensure you and your attorney thoroughly review your case to prepare for a hearing. All witnesses must be subpoenaed appropriately, and you must have strong evidence to back your claims and allegations. Furthermore, inform your attorney of any evidence that might hurt your case. Nobody likes surprises, especially your lawyer.
It won’t be easy but set your emotions aside. Let your lawyer speak on your behalf unless the judge addresses you directly. Many custody battles are lost due to emotional outbursts and irrational behavior.
Factors Considered in Child Custody Arrangements
Where the children live and go to school will dramatically impact the rest of their lives. Judges understand this better than anybody. That’s why they’ll always favor the child’s best interests.
Some of the most significant factors a judge will consider include:
- Financial situations: The courts will examine each parent’s financial situation to determine how they’ll impact the child’s opportunities.
- Living Situation: The courts will lean toward the parent with the most comfortable and stable living situation.
- Educational Opportunities: In relation to living situations, the quality of the local school district may also impact a judge’s decision.
“Unless the court determines that one parent has sole decision making or that there’s no need for co-parenting, the basic assumption is that everybody’s going to talk to each other.”
—Belinda Martin, Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor
Choosing the Right Child Custody Attorney
Child custody is a complicated process. Emotions run high, and many parents don’t know where to begin regarding their legal representation. Consider the following questions when hiring a child custody attorney.
- Do They Specialize in Child Custody? Specialists have a deeper understanding of your specific case law. They should be able to demonstrate a successful track record through verdicts and settlements.
- Are They Communicative? The best attorney will always make time to talk about your case. They’ll listen to your concerns and explain their strategies in a way you can digest.
- What Are Their Fees? Divorce can be expensive—but you should never pay more than you can afford. Consider factors that will impact attorney fees. For example, if you can’t settle your differences during mediation, you’ll have to bring the case to court, increasing attorney fees.
Make Sure You Get The Best Deal For Your Family
Even if you’re divorcing on good terms, having a child custody attorney in your corner will greatly benefit your case. They’ll guide you through the process, ensuring you reach terms you can agree on regarding the custody of your children.
Your child’s future is too precious. Reach out to the legal team at Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor today to speak with a child custody attorney with your best interests in mind.