Divorce can be a destabilizing time for everyone involved, especially the children. But the same issues that may have caused the split can continue to play out after a court-ordered settlement is reached. When parents in Georgia and around the country continue to spar, it may be necessary to take measures to ensure compliance if one side keeps breaking the terms of the court order.
In Georgia, there is no presumption that favors one parent over the other, and the courts encourage joint custody if it is in the best interests of the children. In a contested hearing, the presiding judge will rely on relevant factors to determine who will have custody and an appropriate parenting schedule that best serves the needs of the children.
For parents in Athens and surrounding areas who have questions or concerns about their custodial arrangements or parental rights, it may make sense to get more information about the process and child custody laws before moving forward.
The best interests of the child
Georgia courts consider a number of factors when determining custody arrangements and visitation, with a focus on what will be in the best interests of the child. Some of these factors include:
- The emotional bonds between either parent to the child, as well as the child’s relationship with siblings, half siblings or stepsiblings.
- Each parent’s capacity to give love and affection to the child, and to be able to provide parental guidance and access to education.
- Each parent’s ability to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical needs and basic childcare.
- Each parent’s employment schedule, with limitations or flexibility.
- Evidence of domestic violence or substance abuse in the home.
- If the child is 14 or older, they may choose the parent with whom they wish to live.
Georgia recognizes physical custody, which is the parent’s care of the child’s physical needs, and legal custody, which gives the parent authority to make important life decisions such as medical care, educational and religious formation. While both parents may share physical and legal custody, one parent may have either or both legal and physical custody.
Steps to take if one parent does not cooperate with custodial arrangements
While it is in the best interests of all involved to share a level of cooperation, it is sometimes difficult for parents to move on after divorce. Control issues may arise that lead to avoidable misunderstandings, including situations that could put the child in danger.
A court-ordered custody agreement is binding on all parties. If one parent violates the terms of the visitation or custody arrangement, it is possible to negotiate with the other parent, or to call the authorities. For example, if the parent routinely:
- Returns the children three or four hours late
- Drops them off at another location than the one agreed upon
- Does not show up when it is their day for visitation
- Interferes with your visitation time
- Does not feed the kids, take them to school or to the doctor when in their care
These could be intentional actions, or they might be passive-aggressive resistance to the existing arrangement. Before bringing in law enforcement who may be reluctant to get involved, however, it may make sense to try to negotiate with the other side, or to suggest changing the current arrangement if this might offer a better solution.
If these incidents are chronic and it seems like there is no way to improve the situation through better communication, it may be necessary to file a contempt action. If you feel your child has been kidnapped or is in danger, it is essential to notify the authorities immediately.
Like all states, Georgia child custody laws follow the Uniform Child Custody Act, which minimizes interstate conflicts that can arise if one parent takes a child out of state in violation of a custody order.