Custody and visitation issues can be addressed either in an original action for divorce or after a divorce is granted and there has been a change (“Material Change Affecting the Welfare of the Child”) in the circumstances of the parties and/or the child or children. Custody and visitation issues may also be considered in a Paternity/Legitimization action as described in the corresponding tab above (click on this link to be taken directly to the tab.) Other parties may intervene in original actions of divorce between the parties with children, such as Grandparents and other extended family members that the Court deems should be considered as “interested parties.” Likewise, other parties may, after a divorce is finalized, step forward and ask for custody or visitation rights to the children. Certain proof must be made by those parties that will satisfy the requirements of the laws in Georgia before someone other than a parent will be granted rights to a child, but it can be done.
As you can guess, custody even more so than visitation issues, are difficult cases and more often than not they are the most contested cases. These cases will result in a Parenting Plan being completed per the Court’s Ruling, or in the case of the parties reaching an Agreement on this issue then according to the parties’ wishes. In any event a Parenting Plan must be submitted, and a link to that document may be found here or you may click on the tab above.
Visitation is considered a part of custody, and to change visitation one must show that there has been a “material change of circumstances” (see above) which change affects the “welfare of the minor child(ren).” Visitation as well as custody actions cannot be modified more than once every two years, unless emergency situations arise. Visitation is also considered by the Court during initial divorce proceedings and under normal conditions the non-custodial parent will have a standard visitation schedule, unless the parties agree to something different.
It should be noted that until a few years ago, children of the age of 14 years or older were able to “elect” the parent with whom they wish to live, subject to visitation with the other parent. These teens no longer are able to elect their custodial parent and have it honored by the Court without question as was formally the case. However, these children may still make their wishes known and those wishes are normally honored by the Court. Likewise, 11, 12, and 13 year old children may inform the Court of their wishes, but their wishes carry far less clout with the Court and are treated for information purposes only.