Child custody is an important issue in Georgia. We get a lot of questions regarding custody and thought it would be helpful to discuss this topic.
The optimal situation for a child or children of divorced parents would be to maximize their time with both parents. The best situation for a child is to have two loving adults actively involved in raising him or her. Unfortunately, when parents' divorce, there are generally many more reasons for one parent to have primary custody than for shared custody or a 50/50 parenting plan.
Can the parties set aside their emotions and work together?
If parents are divorcing, there are reasons they are doing so. In a vast majority of divorces, the parties are very emotional because divorce is difficult. Unless the parties can set aside their emotions and work together peacefully, it is unlikely that a 50/50 parenting plan will be successful.
Rule number one for most judges is that if the parties are unable to reach an agreement on a parenting plan, they will continue to be unable to reach agreements on how to raise their children. In other words, if you have to have a trial on custody, most Judges will not award 50/50 parenting time.
Judges can be skeptical when child custody is involved
Additionally, many judges are skeptical about a parent who has previously been uninvolved wanting an award of equal parenting time. Some factors that judges consider are which parent takes the child to their heath appointments like doctors and dentists, who attends parent/ teacher conferences, who assists with homework and who is involved with extracurricular activities.
A parent who is involved should be able to answer questions about who are the child's friends, what are the child's favorite meals and what are his or her favorite activities.
Is it just to punish the other party?
Too often it appears that a request for equal parenting time is motivated by a desire to punish the other parent or to avoid paying child support. Even with equal parenting time, child support can be ordered if the parents' income is disparate. The goal for the child support order would be to provide the child with an equal standard of living in each household. A child support order would be calculated by creating two worksheets, one with each of the parents as the noncustodial parent. The difference between the two worksheets would be the amount of the child support order, with the higher earning parent paying the lower earning parent child support.
What's the impact on the child?
The impact on the child or children should be considered in developing an equal parenting situation. Parents with equal parenting time usually must live close to one another, preferably in the same school district, to decrease the impact of travel time on the children. Additionally, parents must be willing to either provide duplicates of essential items or be willing to spend time with the children and the other parent in transporting clothing, computers and phones at each transfer of custody.
A child needs an adjustment period
Finally, every divorcing parent must be aware that their child will have an adjustment period at each transition between parents. Parents who have successful equal parenting time are able to minimize the impact of the transition between households. Largely, this is achieved by parents having consistent rules and expectations between the households.
If you have any family law or divorce questions and want to speak with a child custody lawyer, just call us at 678-215-4106.