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Child Custody

When parents get divorced, the divorce decree will specify child custody agreements which contains the details of which parent the child(ren) will live with and the circumstances under which the other parent will visit with the child(ren).

Sometimes, parents work out these arrangements between themselves and others with the assistance of their divorce attorneys, a mediator, or possibly a Guardian Ad Litem. When parents are unable to reach a decision, the Court will make a decision based on the child(ren)’s best interests.

The legal terms used for child custody can be confusing. While some people have a basic idea of what this term means, not everyone knows the difference between the various types of custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is custody as it relates to the child(ren)’s actual schedule. The Court can order all types of physical custody but often the Court will assign a primary physical custodian and secondary physical custody of the minor children. This determination ultimately comes down to what is in the child(ren)’s best interest.

Legal Custody

Legal Custody determines which parent has been given the legal authority to make decisions about the children’s education, extra-curricular activities, non-emergency health care decisions and religious upbringing. Most of the time parents will get joint legal custody and will have to cooperate and make decisions together about their child upbringing. However, the Court will determine which parent shall have final decision-making authority in the event of disagreement in any of the areas mentioned above.

Sole Custody

If one parent is unfit to parent, the child(ren). A judge can award sole legal and/or physical custody of a child(ren). Sole Custody is typically only awarded if the Court determines that the parent that is not being awarded any custody is detrimental to the child(ren)’s best interests.

Georgia Law recognizes two types of custody – physical and legal custody, generally parents share legal and physical custody, one parent will be designated the “primary custodial parent.”  Georgia’s custody laws require a judge to make a child’s best interests the focus of any custody decision. 

Child custody cases are complicated and put tremendous emotional stress on parents and children. Getting professional help from an expert will allow you to make the decisions that are in the best interest of your family and most importantly your children. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, call (770) 422-4241 or email

Other Child Custody Matters

Child Custody Modifications

Knowledgeable Family Law Attorneys For You and Your Children.

As your child’s needs and best interests shift, your final order may need to be modified. For the custody order to be modified the court typically requires that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred.
As with any matter involving your children, the court will consider the best interest of the children when determining whether a modification is warranted.
Brown & Dutton Law Firm understands that your children are your number one priority, and we will be your fierce advocates. Get in touch with us so you can learn about your options.

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Child Custody Across States

Navigating custody agreements and deciding which one is best for you family is a complex process. The process gets even more complex when two parents live in different states and can often cause issues to come up that aren’t normally an issue when living in the same state.

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Grandparents Rights Custody

Under special circumstances Grandparents can ask the court for visitation rights, and on even more special circumstances get custody of their grandchildren.

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Child Custody FAQ

Can a Child Manifest Custody Preference in Georgia?

Georgia custody laws allow a child who is 11 years old or older to state a preference as to which parent the child wishes to live with. A child’s choice of custodial parent doesn’t control a Georgia court’s custody decision. Instead, a judge will weigh an older child’s preference along with several other factors to determine the custody arrangement best suited to the child’s needs.

What is a parenting plan?

Georgia law requires divorcing parents to submit a parenting plan to the court in every case where custody is at issue. Parents can submit a joint parenting plan or each parent may submit a separate plan. A parenting plan outlines the child’s needs and how the child’s time should be divided between the parents. It allocates decision-making authority between parents and explains the parameters of each parent’s access to the child including legal and physical custody.

How do I win a custody battle?

There is no simple answer to this question. But here are some tips we think will give you a better chance to winning a custody battle. 

  • Try mediation before deciding on going to court.
  • Determine where your main custody disagreements are, this will allow you and your child custody lawyer develop a game plan. 
  • Try to look at the situation from the judge perspective, this will help you and your attorney build a strong case in your favor.
  • Gather prove that you can provide wellness for the child.
  • Lawyers are not optional in child custody battles, avoid unnecessary mistakes by turning to a professional that will get you, your best shot.

Can mothers loose child custody in Georgia?

There once was a time when the mothers automatically received sole custody simply because they were the mother, but those days are over. Georgia is a neutral state, and will make all child custody decisions based on the “child best interest”. So mothers can loose custody of their children if they are determined as unfit. 

When can a Third-Party Gain Custody of a Child From the Child’s Parent?

Georgia Law allows certain close relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings, to bring a court action for child custody against one or both parents. The law recognizes that a parent has a “rebuttable presumption” to custody, but allows a court to award custody to a relative if it would be in the child’s best interests and is the best way to promote the child’s happiness and welfare.

What is an Unfit Parent?

Sometimes, a parent loses the right to custody of a child because a court determines that the parent is unfit. Georgia law states that a parent can give up parental custody rights voluntarily or can be deemed “unfit” and lose such rights by:

  • abandoning a child
  • mistreating a child, or
  • failing to provide a child with the necessities of life.

Do fathers have the same rights to custody and visitation as mothers?

They do, Georgia is a neutral state and as such, both parents have equal rights to visitation and custody if the parents are married.

If I’m not married to my child’s mother, am I entitled to custody of my child?

For a father that were never married to their child’s mother to get any parental rights, including custody or visitation rights, he must file a legitimation petition in court.  A legitimation petition legally recognizes that a man is the father of the child. The father can then ask for custody, visitation and/or child support. Only the father can file for legitimation in court, and the petition should be filed in the county where the mother and child reside.

Can my child’s mother prevent me from seeing the child?

If you and the mother are not married, you must initiate a court proceeding to legitimize the child in order to obtain parental rights.

Without legitimization, the mother can prevent the father from seeing the child, and she is entitles to full custody rights, at least until the court has legally recognized the father.