One of the most challenging and emotionally difficult aspects of divorce is child custody and visitation. We understand how incredibly painful this aspect of divorce can be and bring our empathy as well as our experience in handling this delicate legal matter. The standard in Georgia for determining custody is the “best interest of the child”. This standard gives the court broad discretion in determining which parent receives physical custody of the children, the appropriate parenting time/visitation for each parent, and what role each parent will have in making important decisions about their children’s welfare, health, education and religious training.
Any judge will tell you that the best person to determine how you and your spouse share parenting time and make decisions affecting your children’s future is you. However, when you and your spouse are not in agreement as to what constitutes the “best interest of the child,” your counsel at Boyd Collar Nolen Tuggle & Roddenbery will work to get you the best result through a hearing or a trial on custody issues. Our ultimate goal is ensuring that the children’s best interests are promoted and protected.
Divorces that cross state and international lines bring a new layer of complexity to issues of custody and support. We have access to extensive networks of resources and the experience needed to protect your interests in these cases. Bob Boyd and Tina Roddenbery are Fellows in the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers with knowledge of the Hague Convention and all other applicable laws regarding international divorce and custody. We’ll work with the legal counsel in other countries to get you the best result possible.
In traditional custody and parenting time arrangements, it is normally the biological or legal parent of the child who is granted custody rights (for example the child’s mother or father). In some cases, a person other than the child’s biological or legal mother or father may be granted custody rights. These are known as “third-party” custody cases. There are certain situations in which custody or guardianship of a child is granted to grandparents, close relatives or other persons. Addiction and mental health issues can be a factor in these cases.
Some examples of when a third party could be awarded custody or guardianship of a child include: • When both parents are living but neither parent is fit to care for the child; • When the primary custodial parent has died, and custody with the remaining parent would cause physical or long-term emotional harm to the child, and custody with a third party is in the child’s best interests; or • When the child has been living with a third-party individual for a long period of time and a parent consents to guardianship with the third party.
Child custody cases can be complex, and we work with many leading child psychologists and other professionals who often play a role in these important cases.
Obtaining a parenting plan for the children that is in their best interests and takes into account the unique needs of the family is the highest priority of most parents. Given their heavy caseloads and the need to move cases along, judges frequently are unable to take into account the nuances of the lives of every family and the unique needs of the children. Many judges rely on the investigation and recommendation of an objective third party, called a guardian ad litem, in fashioning family-specific parenting plans and in making determinations on custody. A guardian ad litem meets with the parties and the children, interviews third parties who have knowledge of each party’s parenting style, and makes a proposal to the court about an appropriate custody and visitation schedule for the parties’ children.
Boyd Collar Nolen Tuggle & Roddenbery has extensive experience working with guardians ad litem in contested custody situations and in shepherding parents through the investigation process to ensure that a guardian is provided a complete and accurate picture of the needs of the children and the family.
Several of our lawyers also are recognized and respected for their work as guardians ad litem throughout the region and serve frequently at the request of area judges and lawyers. This experience includes working on highly contested and complex custody disputes that involve, among other things, issues of substance abuse, mental illness, special needs, domestic abuse and child abuse.
One of our lawyers has trained hundreds of guardians ad litem throughout Georgia and has authored a manual used by many. The experience of our “in-house” guardians ad litem is available on all of our cases as we seek to ensure the best possible result for you and your children.
Certain life changes can require modification of an existing custody or support order. Alimony and child support may be modified up or down, provided there has been a substantial change in the financial status or income of either party. In addition, troubling changes in an ex-spouse’s life can require a change to the agreement to protect a child. Using the “best interest of the child” standard, custody may be modified if there has been a material change in circumstances affecting the welfare of the child. Visitation may also be modified if it is determined that a change is in the best interest of the child, whether or not there has been a material change in circumstances affecting the welfare of the child. Before pursuing a modification action, Boyd Collar Nolen Tuggle & Roddenbery attorneys can advise you on whether your prior order can be or should be modified.
Not every child is born within a marriage, and fathers are not guaranteed rights just because their name is on a child’s birth certificate. Georgia law recognizes the mother of a child born out of wedlock as the sole custodian and complete parental authority pending the child’s “legitimation.”
The law also requires that the child be legitimized before the biological father may obtain custody or visitation and affords the mother sole custody and complete parental power over the child. The court can declare the child legitimate, specify the child’s name and order the child and father capable of inheriting from each other.
Once paternity is established, which may require a paternity lawsuit, the court can issue an order establishing paternity and imposing a child support obligation.