Georgia Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
In Georgia, every child custody case requires a parenting plan. Parenting plans (also called custody agreements) outline how parents will cooperate in raising their children.
If parents can't agree, each turns in a proposed plan 10 to 14 days before the first hearing. Should their case go to trial, the judge will order the plan that best suits the children or a combination of the two plans, possibly making some limited changes.
Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.
Many uniform aspects of making a parenting plan are the same regardless of your state. The following are guidelines specific to Georgia. Keep in mind that each child in a family could require a different plan.
Parenting plan templates
When parents settle, they can put their parenting plan in a personalized format — for example, by using the customizable Custody X Change template. Alternatively, they can use Georgia's uncontested parenting plan template. Or they can combine the two approaches.
When parents don't agree, each one should draft their proposal using Georgia's contested parenting plan template, since this format will be familiar to the judge. Then they can add over 140 popular provisions with the Custody X Change app.
Your plan must address physical custody, legal custody and child support, as well as a handful of other topics discussed below.
Physical custody determines where the children live and who acts as their caretaker.
You have a few options:
- Primary physical custody: One parent gets the majority of parenting time. (This is the most common option.)
- Joint physical custody: Parents split the time about equally.
- Sole physical custody: One parent has all or nearly all parenting time. (To get this against the other parent's wishes, you have to prove that granting them more time would negatively affect the children.)
Attach the parents' work schedules and the children's school schedules to show the court that your visitation plan is practical.
Legal custody is the authority to make decisions for and about your children.
If you choose joint legal custody, specify how parents will divide or collaborate on major decisions for the children. You can:
- Require parents to agree on some or all major decisions.
- Allow parents to make some or all major decisions independently.
- Give one parent purview over certain decisions.
- Name a third party, such as a parenting coordinator, to make decisions when parents reach a standstill.
Regardless of your legal custody arrangement, Georgia requires your plan to state that each parent can make day-to-day decisions when caring for the children.
If you're part of a legitimation case, you can forgo child support information in your parenting plan, unless either parent has applied separately for child support.
This information goes into Georgia's child support calculator to determine the recommended payment in your case. Your judge (or jury, if either parent requested a jury trial) then decides on a monthly payment using the state's recommendation as a guideline.
Parents don't usually address child support any further in proposed plans. However, if they're settling, they can include a support amount in the joint plan they submit for court approval. If the agreed-upon amount differs from the amount the state recommends, they'll have to justify their number.
Other required provisions
Unless a judge orders otherwise, your parenting plan must include provisions for:
- Exchanging the children
- Transporting the children, and related costs
- Accessing the children's records and information (e.g., school and health records)
- Adjusting the plan when the children reach certain ages
If neither parent poses a health or safety risk, include a statement acknowledging that the children will benefit from close relationships with both parents.
If the children go to day care, attach a proposed day care schedule. If they're home schooled or require special education, attach the teacher's or institution's credentials (e.g., a high school diploma or proof of accreditation).
If a family member's health will affect custody and visitation, attach related medical documents.
If a parent needs limited visitation (also called supervised visitation), include details of how it will work and why it's best for the children. If you have a history of crime or violence, attach all related records and orders, plus a statement confirming or denying wrongdoing.
Plans for military parents should address issues connected to deployment, such as:
- How the children will maintain contact with the deployed parent
- How the children will transition into the physical custody of the other parent
- Whether the deployed parent's visitation time will go to his or her extended family
- How the parents will return to their parenting plan following deployment
- How each stipulation benefits the children
Additional information to include
You aren't required to have additional information in your plan, but courts encourage parents to include as much detail as possible. Try to think of all potential disagreements ahead of time, then stipulate in your plan exactly how to handle them.
Georgia legal professionals advise parents to include the following provisions.
Include a clause that mandates you and the other parent live within a certain area, such as a school district or county. You can also specify a time frame in which parents must notify one another of a move.
What happens when one parent can't pick up the children for a visit? What if a child's extracurricular activity interferes with the visitation schedule? Include a stipulation that allows for changes to the schedule when necessary.
Plans should always state how long a parent must wait after contacting the other before he or she can act alone. For example: If two parents agreed to make decisions about extracurricular activities together, but one hasn't replied to an email about a new karate class, how long before the other parent can sign the kids up on his or her own?
Specify how you'll introduce new partners to your children. Should the other parent meet your partner before the children? How soon after relationships begin should you introduce your partner to the children? Are you comfortable with the kids addressing the partner as "mom" or "dad"?
Decide when and how to communicate with the children when they're with the other parent. What time is too late for you to call on a school night? Is video calling okay? Should the other parent provide you with updates throughout the day?
If one parent has abused the other, include a stipulation that the abused parent's address must remain concealed from the other parent.
If you have concerns about the other parent's behavior, disallow certain actions around the children. For example, you can prohibit the parent from drinking alcohol during their time with the kids.
The amount of respect parents give one another impacts their children. Include a provision requiring respectful communication to hold both parents to a standard that fosters healthy family relationships.
Making sure you don't overlook anything
While the state's parenting plan templates cover a lot of important information, they don't know your family's circumstances. To ensure your children's needs are fully addressed, make sure to add custom provisions or build your own plan.
Custody X Change enables you to do both. In the app, you can choose from over 140 provisions (as well as enter your own) to create a document that can attach to a Georgia template or stand alone.
In the end, you'll be glad you made a thorough plan that will work for you and your children for years to come.
For more guidance as you create your parenting plan, see these resources: