When a divorce case involving children is brought before a Georgia court, the parents are required to prepare and present a Parenting Plan to the court. The issues that need to be addressed in the Parenting Plan include who will have the legal decision-making rights in key areas and when (what dates, holidays, times, etc.) the child(ren) will be with each parent. The parents can each submit a draft of their own version of the Parenting Plan to the court to consider, or they can work together in creating one agreed upon Parenting Plan. The timing in some Georgia courts for presenting the Parenting Plan will be at the judge’s discretion. There are exceptions, for example in in Fulton County, a proposed Parenting Plan should be prepared to be presented to the court by the 30-day status conference. The final version of the Parenting Plan which the court must approve will be incorporated into the final order for all cases involving minor children.
In cases where the parents cannot work together or the court does not deem that the Parenting Plan presented by the parties in the best interests of the child, the court has the discretion to appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to the case. The GAL is a neutral third party whose only concern is the well-being of the child(ren) and who is called in to protect the child(ren)’s best interests. The court could also order the parties to meet with a Custody Evaluator who will make recommendations about custodial arrangements.
In accordance with Georgia law, the court makes decisions on the basis of the best interests of the child, and the parents are encouraged to work together to make the transition as easy as possible on the children. Either parties’ failure to follow these court mandated guidelines could result in a contempt action. It is important to have an attorney present in the drafting and preparation plan in order to ensure there are no inconsistencies or ambiguities that overlooked or purposefully inserted to thwart custody, visitation, transportation arrangements, communication, vacation plans or terms that may just simply cause confusion.
Another consideration to remember is that the grandparents may also seek visitation rights. Sometimes, in considering the best interests of the child(ren), the Georgia courts grant grandparents visitation despite, even over the protests of one or both of the parents.
If you have any questions about Parenting Plans or family law or divorce in Georgia, call us at 770-609-1247 to discuss how we can assist you.
Content Revised: 2015-10-10