Georgia Child Custody Hearings: What to Expect

Hearings are sessions with a judge. They differ from trials in that they do not result in a final order.

Some cases end in settlement before the first hearing, while others require several hearings.

Note that scheduling and procedures may vary based on your case, county and judge.

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Preparing for your hearing

The impression you give at your hearings could affect your case years down the road. Be sure to prepare thoroughly before each hearing, either with your lawyer or with resources for self-representation.

Familiarize yourself with the factors judges consider in custody rulings. With these in mind, prepare a statement and evidence specific to the hearing's topic.

Then, prepare questions to ask the other parent and their witnesses, if appropriate for this hearing. Think of what information they can provide to help your case. Consider asking them to write a character reference letter if they can't make it to court.

If you'll call witnesses, you or your attorney should meet with them beforehand to ensure they're prepared. In hearings about temporary orders, you're allowed just one witness.

When a witness can't appear in court, they can draft an affidavit (written testimony) instead. You must provide the other parent with a copy at least 24 hours before the hearing.


Typically, you have your first hearing within 45 days of opening your case.

Even if you have a lawyer, you should attend every hearing so you can stay informed of the case's progress and help negotiate a settlement.

If you and your lawyer miss a hearing, the court can fine you, charge you with contempt and rule in favor of the other parent. You may ask in advance to reschedule if any of the following make it necessary:

  • Late notice of the hearing
  • Attorney schedules
  • Military service
  • Medical issues
  • New evidence requiring investigation

Custody cases have hearings roughly every 30 days, until the parents reach a settlement or go to trial. If the judge refers you to mediation or appoints a guardian ad litem to investigate, more time may pass between hearings.

In Fulton County, you'll have status conferences between hearings.


Hearings can be as short as 20 minutes or as long as four hours, depending on the issues at hand. Judges tend to move as quickly as possible, so have your materials and thoughts well-organized.

You'll sit through other hearings while you wait for your case to be called.

In some hearings, the parties simply ask the judge to set a date for trial, also called the final hearing.

In a typical hearing, after being sworn in, each parent takes the stand to present their argument and answer questions from the judge and other parent. If witnesses testify, they're also sworn in before taking the stand.

The parents may also discuss a settlement or exchange discovery documents, such as work schedules and financial affidavits.

If you have a lawyer, they will take charge of questioning. They will also give you advice and present the judge with legal arguments (e.g., references to previous decisions).

Based on the information presented, the judge may:


  • Observe other hearings ahead of time, especially ones with your judge.
  • Dress in business casual clothing, like you might for a job interview.
  • Don't bring your children. You can bring a friend or family member for moral support.
  • Arrive early to give yourself enough time to check in and meet with your attorney.
  • Stay quiet while waiting for other hearings to conclude.
  • Be kind and respectful to court staff and the other parent.
  • Address the judge as "Your Honor."
  • State your case clearly and concisely, with specific reasons.
  • Respond directly to the questions asked, and only give explanation when prompted.
  • Be honest.

Using technology for your hearing

The evidence you'll need to prepare for a hearing depends on the topic being considered.

You may want to present:

The Custody X Change online app lets you create all of these in one place. It helps you prepare for every hearing that comes up in your case.

Take advantage of custody technology to get what's best for your children.

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