In this blog, Family Matters Law Group wants to answer some of the questions that we hear most often from clients. Remember that any time you have questions about your custody case, it’s important to have a trusted attorney on hand to get accurate answers.
How Does the Court Determine Custody?
The court bases its custody decision on the best interests of the child. Specific factors that play into that decision include:
- Which parent has the strongest relationship with the child
- The age, health, emotional needs and developmental needs of the child
- Which parent has the most stable home environment
- How connected the child is to their current school and community
- The age, health, and ability to care for the child with each parent
- Any history of abuse
These are just a few of the factors that play into a court decision.
Doesn’t the Father Lose Most Custody Cases?
While it is true that the courts used to favor the mother, modern courts try to take a gender-neutral approach. The problem is that many fathers just assume they won’t win custody, so they don’t ask the court for it.
If you have established paternity and you have requested custody rights, you definitely have a chance to win in court. Your attorney can give you more information about how to successfully challenge for custody rights as a father.
If We Never Got Married, Who Gets Custody of the Children?
That depends. By default, the mother is the only person entitled to custody. However, in Georgia, an unwed father who can prove paternity and petition for legitimation, can ask for custody. That is, he must prove that he is the father of the child and plays a significant role in the child’s life. If the father can prove those things, then the custody of the children needs to be decided fairly by the court.
What Is the Difference Between Sole and Joint Custody?
If you are awarded sole custody, you have physical and legal custody of the child. Physical custody refers to where the child will be living. Legal custody refers to who has decision making ability for the child. Even when one parent has sole custody, both parents may still be entitled to make decisions for the child. The non-custodial parent will also be responsible for making child support payments and having parenting time with the child.
Parents who have joint custody of their child exercise a fifty/fifty percent split or something close to that. In some cases, depending on the needs of the child, one parent might have slightly more time than the other. For example, during the school year, the child will live with one parent for consistency in their education. But, the other parent will get the child during holidays and breaks. This physical arrangement will be decided by the court on the basis of what is in the best interests of the child. In a joint custody decision, both parents will share legal custody, or the ability to make big decisions, such as healthcare or education.
Can I Change the Last Name of My Child From the Father’s Surname to My Own?
You cannot change the last name of the child without a court order and the approval of both parents. If both parents disagree, a judge can decide if a name change is necessary (because it’s in the child’s best interests.)
I’m Moving Out of State. Can My Child Come With Me?
If you can show that moving out of state is in the child’s best interests, you can petition the court for a change in the custody order. Failure to get the court’s approval before you move with your child can result in loss of custody, jail time, or fines.
I’m A Good Parent. Do I Really Need A Lawyer For A Child Custody Case?
Yes, you do. Child custody cases can become very complicated very quickly. Not only will you need to argue in front of a judge, there may also be lengthy negotiations with the other parent. You need an experienced, caring attorney to walk you through the process.
If you are in Henry, Clayton, or any other metro Atlanta county, Family Matters Law Group stands ready to talk to you about your custody case. Simply contact us with our online form. Don’t assume you know the answers to important child custody case questions. Call us today.