Child custody can be very complex, and there are several things that the divorced or divorcing couple need to understand. Any couple in the United States, including those in Georgia, must do several things before arriving in court for a child custody hearing.
It is important for the couple to have a parenting plan in place before they approach the court for a child custody hearing. The parenting plan must contain a detailed outline which lists several items, such as which parent the child will spend time with each day of the year, a vacation planner outlining how the child will spend the holidays and other time off, a detailed proposal about transportation arrangements when the child leaves one parent and visits another and a strategy that both parents agree to, which states how one parent will be contacted when the child is in the care of the other parent.
The court determines what is in the best interest of the child after listening to both parents. Typically, this decision cannot be amended unless there is a drastic change in the family's circumstances. The court may also grant sole custody to one parent or joint custody to both parents. In the case of sole custody, the non-custodial parent may have visitation rights; again, the overarching concern is the child's best interest. Additionally, when the child turns 14, that child can make a choice about which parent to live with.
If there is any change in the address of the custodial parent, that parent has a responsibility to inform the other parent at least a month in advance. The Georgia family court also has the right to modify visitation rights once every two years. The court may also grant visitation rights to grandparents. However, grandparents are given child custody only when both parents are deemed incompetent or unfit.
Source: Georgia.gov, "Learning about Child Custody," Accessed on Sept. 30, 2014