Child Visitation Rights in Georgia
Visitation is usually an important element in any divorce involving children. One of the most important tasks for couples when dissolving a marriage in Georgia is creating an effective, nurturing parenting plan. A parenting plan helps couples make decisions about custody and visitation. It can be a highly charged, often emotional interaction between two people who think they know what is best for their children. While some couples try to resolve visitation and custody matters without assistance, hiring experienced, knowledgeable and results-focused attorneys makes the process run more smoothly and protects your valuable rights.
The Difference Between Child Custody and Child Visitation
In Georgia family law, custody is a determination of how the parents will handle the physical custody and legal custody of the children. Simply put, custody determines who (mother or father) makes the decisions about the children and where they will live. Visitation, however, deals with how the parents share time with the children after divorce. The court will look at various issues when determining visitation. The Sherman Law Group, with offices in Roswell, GA and Cumming, GA has been counseling clients in the Atlanta Metro Area and the surrounding communities for many years.
Types of Visitation Orders
Visitation orders can vary greatly depending upon the circumstances of the family. Generally orders fall into four categories:
- Scheduled visitation
- Supervised visitation
- No visitation
Scheduled visitation is just as the term implies: the order includes a detailed and specific schedule of when the children will be with each parent. It should include special occasions, vacations, holidays, and other important family days. The great advantage of this type of order is that both the parents and the children know exactly when the children visit; there should be no confusion, so the family can plan its schedule accordingly. Child visitation schedules, as we have seen in our practice, can be very helpful in ensuring that time spent with each parent is properly apportioned. When done correctly, a child visitation schedule helps reduce fights between parents.
We helped clients set a child visitation calendar that encompasses 5-year periods, taking into consideration all holidays, birthdays and other major events.
Supervised Child Visitation
Supervised visitation orders generally result from concerns about the children's safety or welfare due to the non-custodial parent's possible behavior or relationship with the children. The supervisor can be the other parent, a professional, or a non-professional supervisor. The point of supervised visitation is to provide both parent and child with time together to benefit their relationship, but it is also to make sure that the child's welfare and safety are protected.
No visitation is certainly the most extreme of all possible orders. A court might order no visitation if the court believes that visitation would result or could likely result in physical or emotional harm to the children. For this to happen evidence has to be presented to the court that demonstrates that harm to the child is likely.
Help, I Can't See My Kids: Visitation Enforcement
If a parent is "playing by the rules" of the visitation schedule and the other parent will not let him or her visit with the children, then a contempt petition or other enforcement proceeding is necessary. If a visiting parent's rights are being hindered, that parent may file a motion to compel the appearance of the custodial parent in court to explain what they are doing. The court will hold a hearing. If the judge determines that there was interference with visitation, the court may sanction the violating parent. Sanctions, in extreme circumstances, can include jail time. Make-up visitation can also be ordered.
In cases where a custodial parent severely interferes with visitation rights of the other parent, the non-custodial parent can file a petition with the court to actually change custody from one parent to the other. The standard used by the court when considering a change of custody is what is in the best interests of the child. So the custodial parent's interference is a factor (possibly a big factor), but the court will determine what is best for the child under all of the circumstances. We have seen a modification of the visitation schedule if the judge finds that a custodial parent has acted improperly.
Will A Court Deny Child Visitation Because of Non-Payment of Child Support?
Here's a frequent question for family law attorneys who handle child visitation rights issues. If a parent does not pay child support can he or she see the child?
Child support and child visitation are different legal issues. Yes, they may involve the same child, but they are treated differently under the law and by a judge. A parent should not deny visitation because the other parent is behind on child support payments. Courts do not, as a general rule, forbid a parent to see a child simply because there are outstanding child support issues.
But What If There has Been Abuse? What Can A Court Do?
If a court believes there has been abuse of some type, then it can make certain orders to ensure the child's safety, including:
- that the visitation be subject to some level of oversight
- ensuring the most safe setting and conditions for child drop off and pick up
- ordering the abusive parent take a course about violence
- requiring the abusive parent not to drink or use drugs
- forbidding overnight visits
- ordering a bond be paid to ensure that the child is returned safely
We Are Child Visitation Lawyers
Since we are family law attorneys with a great amount of visitation rights experience, contact us today to discuss your child custody and visitation matters. With offices in Roswell and Cumming, we easily serve clients throughout the Atlanta Metro Area, North Fulton County and North Georgia.
To make sure you are getting the most out of your visitation rights, contact the Sherman Law Group at 678-215-4106.