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Attorneys Vic Hill and Brad MacDonald

The changing face of child custody

In years past, the child custody orders handed down by most family court judges in Georgia and around the country were largely identical. When parents divorced, the mother would get sole custody of the children, and the father would get parenting time every other weekend, or a similar schedule.

But that is no longer the case. Gone is the presumption that the mother is automatically better suited to raise the children. In its place is a growing body of research indicating that children fare better when they have the maximum amount of time with each parent. As a result, courts are encouraging parents to reach joint child custody agreements, or awarding a large amount of parenting time to the non-custodial parent. In fact, Georgia family law now includes a presumption toward awarding joint custody whenever possible.

Like nearly all family law issues, child custody laws and procedures vary from state to state. In most jurisdictions, however, family court judges generally have the authority and ability to craft a custody order that is unique to the family and that will best ensure the child’s health and well-being.

As a result, child custody orders are becoming more creative. For example, in most jurisdictions parents need to agree to joint custody instead of a judge ordering it. So if parents cannot agree to this and the judge thinks it is the best solution for the child, he or she may grant sole custody to one parent but give a significant amount of parenting time to the other. In some situations, the non-custodial parent may actually spend more time with their child than the parent who technically has custody.

The point of this is that child custody orders are unique and can be crafted to match your specific family situation. But as with all family law issues, it is generally better to reach an agreement than to wait for the judge to hand down an order with which you may not agree.

Source: The Huffington Post, “How To Divorce: How Can I Get Full Custody Of The Kids?” Michele F. Lowrance, May 1, 2012