Special Circumstances in GA Child Custody Cases

No two child custody cases are the same. The following circumstances could add extra complexity. If any apply to your family, consult an attorney for personalized advice.

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History of crime, violence or substance abuse

A history of crime, violence or substance abuse can negatively impact a parent's custody case. Courts consider parents' past behavior when deciding custody orders, and a parent has the right to access the other parent's criminal records and documents related to misconduct.

Although judges usually approve settlement agreements, they are less likely to when a parent has recent convictions, ongoing criminal cases or active restraining orders against them.

If a parent shows prolonged reformation, the court often grants them custodial rights. If the parent shows they're working toward reformation, the court may award them with limited visitation (explained below) or mandate drug testing or therapy to earn custody.

Your attorney may suggest you have your criminal record restricted to remove criminal arrests and convictions from your files. Participating in rehabilitation programs might also help your case. Consider asking people with knowledge of your progress, such as parole officers and counselors, to testify on your behalf.

When accusations arise during a case, a guardian ad litem, Child Protective Services or law enforcement may investigate. Custody evaluators can also look into issues.

Parents who make false accusations risk losing their case or having to pay the other parent's legal fees. Beyond that, lying under oath (perjury) is a crime.

Protection from domestic violence

If you're a victim of domestic violence, you may need to get a restraining order or emergency custody order at the start of your case.

During negotiations, you can attend alternative dispute resolution sessions separately from the other parent. If your judge orders mediation, you'll first have a confidential intake session to determine whether it's appropriate.

When you get a temporary or final order, it may impose limited visitation (more below) on the other parent and, in particular, supervised custody exchanges.

For more help, use the many resources available to domestic violence survivors.

Limited visitation

Limited visitation, also called supervised visitation, requires a third party to attend a parent's visits or exchanges.

An order for limited visitation may also:

  • Restrict a parent's drug or alcohol use, with random testing
  • Prohibit the children from visiting a parent overnight
  • Require a parent to participate in a Family Violence Intervention Program

The court names the professional, relative or family friend who must monitor the visits or exchanges.

It also specifies where the interactions must occur. Visits usually take place in a supervised visitation facility or a parent's home, and exchanges happen in a public place, like a police station or store.

Situations that may call for limited visitation include:

  • When there's a history of crime, violence or substance abuse
  • When there's concern a parent may kidnap the children
  • When the parent has a mental illness
  • When the parent and children do not have existing relationships
  • When the parent and children have had a long separation

Parental alienation

Parental alienation occurs when one parent attempts to harm their children's relationships with the other parent through lies and manipulation.

A custody evaluation is often necessary to confirm this behavior. The evaluator might recommend the alienated parent get visitation that increases over time or sole custody. Additionally, they may refer the parent and children to reunification therapy.

Military service

The Military Parents Rights Act protects the custodial rights of Georgia parents in the military. Under this act, the court:

  • Must quickly process temporary custody modification requests for a parent facing deployment
  • Cannot use absences due to deployment as the sole factor against a parent when modifying an order
  • Must wait 90 days after a parent's return from deployment to issue a final order, unless the parent consents

The military parent has to give the other parent written notification of the deployment at least two weeks before departure. If time doesn't allow, they should give notice as early as possible.

Your parenting plan should explain how the parent will maintain contact with the kids during their deployment and if relatives will receive proxy visitation time.

Grandparent or third-party visitation and custody

When parents don't live together, the children's relatives can seek court-ordered visitation. Grandparents complete the grandparent visitation packet, while other relatives complete the modification of visitation packet.

The court must find that visitation is in the children's best interests and one of the following is true:

  • The children lived with the relative for at least six months.
  • The relative financially supported the children for at least one year.
  • The relative has regular visits with the children.
  • Denying visitation would harm the children.

When their son or daughter is a deceased, incapacitated or incarcerated parent, the grandparents need only prove visitation is in the children's best interests.

Parents can also write visits with grandparents or other people into their parenting plan.

It's more difficult to obtain custody than visitation, but any nonparent can file the third-party custody packet. Typically, the court only grants these requests in rare cases, such as when both parents are unfit or deceased.

Foreign languages

Georgia courts conduct all official business in English. They have interpreters for American Sign Language, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Russian, Mandarin and more.

Parents must cover the cost of the interpreter or file a Pauper's Affidavit to ask the court to cover the cost.

If you need an interpreter, notify your superior court or use the Georgia Court Professional Directory to find one in your area.

Addressing special situations in your parenting plan

Your parenting plan should be unique to your family and reflect your specific needs.

If a lawyer or mediator is writing your plan, it's important you share with them any circumstances the plan should address.

If you're writing your own plan, you have the flexibility to include what you want. But — the plan needs to follow a format the judge will understand, as well as use airtight language that leaves no room for interpretation.

The Custody X Change parenting plan template walks you through common provisions, while letting you enter as many custom provisions as you want. It's a sure way to get a plan that's tailored to your family AND meets court standards for formatting and language.

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