Georgia Child Custody Lawyers

With Family Law Offices in Statesboro and Springfield

When you are splitting from your partner and you have children, custody is a big question. You may be worried about how this is all going to work out. You know that the court is going to do what is best for your child, but hiring one of our Georgia child custody lawyers is going to make this easier on you in the long run. Call us today!

Georgia Child Custody Lawyers

With Family Law Offices in Statesboro and Springfield

When you are splitting from your partner and you have children, custody is a big question. You may be worried about how this is all going to work out. You know that the court is going to do what is best for your child, but hiring one of our Georgia child custody lawyers is going to make this easier on you in the long run. Call us today!

Georgia Child Custody Lawyers

With Family Law Offices in Statesboro and Springfield

When you are splitting from your partner and you have children, custody is a big question. You may be worried about how this is all going to work out. You know that the court is going to do what is best for your child, but hiring one of our Georgia child custody lawyers is going to make this easier on you in the long run. Call us today!

Testimonials

“You helped me restore my faith in so much that looked bleak and decrepit. Along this bumpy road, my lovely daughter is safe, and home, and starting to find peace again…Thank you. All the pieces unfolded and fell into place through a progression only the Lord could have planned. But the people who fulfilled his plan did it through greatness and kindness and strength. In my opinion you and Martha have done Gods work and the Judge came through! I am indebted to you both. Please understand, I can be a force and support as well. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I still have a long way to go…so I hope that statement is true. My commitment to be there for you is equally strong. It will be a tough journey. I Pray. You guys are amazing. Thank you for everything.”

BONNIE GRINGER

“We were referred to Mike Hall by a friend who told us that if they had used him in the beginning, they would have had a lot better result. Using Mike ourselves, we have had the same experience. Mike is very personable and gave us some very wise council. We could tell he was trying to help us. We have used him for several issues that have come up, and he has always handled them in a professional and timely manner. He is quick to answer emails or phone calls, and takes his time answering all of your questions. We are very pleased with his services and would highly recommend him to anyone who has a legal problem.”

LYNN & PAM KELLEY

“After a two and a half year battle, my son and I got the justice we longed for. The only quality that I didn’t like about Paige was that she was patient. Which, is a very good quality to have. However, hindsight being 20/20, I’m glad she was so patient. Paige and Ashley (her paralegal) were always in communication with me, and responded in a timely and appropriate manner. When opposing counsel started her antics and attempted to berate and take Paige’s eye off the prize, she didn’t allow it. I sincerely appreciate all they did for me and my son. I know my circumstances were extreme, but Paige looked out for the two of us. I highly recommend the law group, and will always be indebted to them.”

DUSTIN SHAW

“This review is in regards to how attorney Martha Hall handled my cases. Before Martha Hall, I was taken advantage of in family court in Jefferson County and Effingham County with sub par attorneys that resulted in rulings that were unfair to me and created headaches and financial difficulties. I experienced three attorneys before Martha Hall. I never felt that I had equal representation in the courthouse, until I discovered Martha Hall. Since I have hired Martha Hall, I have had equal or better representation and my cases have closed with fair rulings. This is solely a result of having Martha Hall as my attorney. I will not change thus moving forward if I need any legal services. She is worth every penny.”

KEN GIBSON

“I just have to say the professionalism and conduct of the Hall and Hall attorneys was fantastic from the time we walked in the door. We met Sarah then Mrs. Martha Hall. They were all very attentive and compassionate. Kara, our paralegal, was always there for us. She was always there via email or phone contact. We had a very sensitive legal case and Mrs. Martha Hall walked us through it with compassion and professionalism. I cannot say enough good things about this group or thank them enough for doing what needed to be done.”

MYA AND DEAN CAPE

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Two Types of Custody in Georgia 

First, note that Georgia is not going to make a call based on favoring either the mother or the father, in terms of giving custody to one over the other. Most people assume that mothers are favored, which is not true. The court is going to do what is best for the child or children. There are two forms of custody that the court will deliberate on:

  1. Physical custody
  2. Legal custody

Physical custody is exactly as it sounds. It is going to be the parent who physically has the child under their roof. Both parents can have physical custody shared, or it can be sole physical custody to one parent.

Legal custody is different in that it is mostly regarding decision making. If you have legal custody, you are responsible for making decisions about the child’s healthcare, religion, sports, education, etc.

The court will be able to grant custody in both regards either entirely to one parent or shared between the two. There are cases where one parent has primary custody and has the children visit with the other parent on a scheduled basis. They might go to their non-custodial parent’s on weekends. Or there are some cases where the children will go between two houses based on daily decisions made by the primary custodial parent.

Why You Should Hire a Lawyer

It would be nice if both parties could come to their Georgia child custody lawyers with an agreement they have already discussed together, but that is a best case scenario, and not everyone is going to experience that. The judge will decide it for you in that case, if you cannot agree between the two of you.

The judge will consider the following:

  • How much the children have emotionally bonded with each parent and their siblings, if they have any
  • How well each parent knows what the child needs
  • How capable each parent is to meet the needs of their children
  • The living environment and safety of each parent
  • How much each parent has been involved in the children’s lives
  • What would be most stable for the child

You and the other parent are absolutely allowed to agree independently on custody together before making it into a legal agreement; if you cannot decide between yourselves, however, the judge is going to make the call. It is not going to be based on who wants what, but on what the best interest of the child is.

Some circumstances that can sway the decision is if one parent has historically been abusive, if a parent has a history of drug use, or if a child over the age of 14 has a preference regarding with whom they would reside.

If you have questions, please call our Georgia child custody lawyers right away.

Establishing Paternity

Before custody is done, paternity should be established, if it has not been already. There are a few days paternity is established in Georgia:

  • Who was married to the mother when the child was born
  • For unmarried parents, they can sign a form that acknowledges the paternity of the parent

How Custody Can Turn Out

There are four ways customdy can typically turn out:

  1. Primary custody
  2. Joint custody
  3. Split custody
  4. Sole custody

If you get primary custody, you are going to be the parent who has the child most of the time. That might mean you have them just over half the time, or it can mean they spend their time with you 100% of the time.

If you get joint custody, you are going to share the physical custody with the other parent. There will likely be equal time spent with each parent.

If you end up with split custody that is sometimes a scenario when there are two or more children you had with the other parent. One person may be the custodial parent for at least one of the children, while the other has custody of the other children.

If you get sole custody, you are the permanent custodial parent of the child as per the court order.

Frequently Asked Child Custody Questions

Do grandparents have any custody rights

Do grandparents have any custody rights?

The other day, a friend of mine called. She was worried about whether she, as a grandparent, had any visitation or custody rights to her grandchildren. In Georgia, grandparents do not automatically have visitation or custody rights. What I had to explain to her is that the only way that grandparents can get custody or visitation rights in Georgia is if you can show that the children’s parents are unfit.

A grandparent has a hard time doing that a lot of times because one of the children is their child. It would require filing an action in the court to establish visitation or custody rights for the grandparent. In that, you would have to certify that the parents of the child are unfit, unable to parent the child, and that it would be in the child’s best interest for visitation or custody to be established into the grandparent.

Now, oftentimes, where grandparents would have more of a right is if, let’s say, you were the paternal grandparent, meaning that your son is the father of this child. If your son passes away in a car accident, and unfortunately, your daughter-in-law is not going to allow you to visit the children anymore, then that’s an easier bar to cross. Oftentimes, my clients find emotionally, they don’t have to attack their child because their child has passed away. They find it easier to have litigation processed through the court system to get visitation established. Oftentimes, especially if there are facts where the daughter-in-law is withholding the child, not allowing telephone contact, not allowing holiday time or even present exchanges, then the judge will ultimately grant visitation to that grandparent.

Now, in that same scenario, if you wanted custody of your grandchildren, you would still have to attack that living parent to make sure that the judge understands what’s going on. You would still have the bar of saying that your daughter-in-law is unfit or unable to have custody of those – of that child or those children. The court may grant you custody based on whatever evidence comes out.

There has been recent case law that’s come out about grandparent visitation which makes the bar a lot higher, makes it a much tougher case. With the right facts and circumstances, grandparents can be successful in obtaining custody or visitation of their grandchildren. If you have any questions about what your rights may be for your grandchildren and you want to come in and see an attorney about that, we would certainly be happy to help you and make sure that we walk you through that process to make sure that you’re not going through this without the necessity of actually having to go to court. If you do, we’d more than happy to walk you through that process.

How do judges determine custody?

I was meeting with a client prior to our trial the other day. A very important question arose about how the judge is going to determine what custody arrangements are set for these parties. In Georgia, any custody action has to be looked at under the lens of several factors that the statute actually recognizes for us and tells us what those are. It makes it fairly easy for us to walk through the judges’ evidence and make sure that we’re giving what they need to make that decision.

It’s a long list of factors. Anything from your relationship with your child, the bond that your child may have with you or the other parent, whether there are half or stepsiblings in the other residence, where maybe that child is really connected and has a great bond with a brother or sister in another household. That can be considered. Any prior history of alcohol, drugs, abuse, neglect, domestic violence even between two parents who may not be in the residence with the child but just that there may be domestic violence occurring, the judge wants to hear about those things as well and will make a decision based on those factors and circumstances that we’re going to outline for the court what’s in your child’s best interest.

Ultimately, if there’s a piece of evidence that is relevant and presented to the judge, he can consider that piece of evidence and make a determination and weight those factors any way he’d like. If for some reason, he’s maybe a grandparent, he’s going to say, well, these parents are going to ensure that the grandparents are involved in this child’s life. That’s very important to him. He may weight that factor more seriously than another judge may consider that.

It’s important to be represented by an attorney who knows the judge on the bench because, ultimately, those judges are going to decide these cases differently. They need to be presented differently. That’s one benefit I’ve had in our office involved is we have a lot of experience in front of a lot of different judges.

We can tell you what facts and circumstances you may have that may be more relevant or more beneficial to your case in front of that particular judge. If you have any questions or are going through a custody battle, or want to file for custody, or a modification of your custody papers, please give us a call. We’ll bring you in for an appointment and make sure that you know who your judge is and what kind of evidence you would need to make sure that your custody action is successful.

What should I do if I’m refused visitation in my child custody case What should I do if I’m refused visitation in my child custody case?

I was meeting with a client the other day who was very emotional because he was refused visitation under a prior custody order. Now, of course, my first question would always be, what were the facts and circumstances around the refusal of that visitation? Were there allegations of drug use or domestic violence in your home? Is there a new boyfriend or girlfriend that may be in somebody’s life that would create a refusal of visitation or maybe they were just a fight between you and your prior spouse or the child’s other parent and that led to the refusal of visitation?

If it was a refusal, was it for a couple of hours, a couple of days? Was it several weeks in a row that you were refused visitation? I think all of those factors are going to be important when you come see us that we’re going to need to know the answer to those questions.

In a case where you’ve missed a couple of weekends of visitation for no apparent reason or no safety concerns or anything like that, ultimately, we would file a motion for contempt against the other party telling the court that they’re not following the prior custody order. Our judges here, especially when they hear that their orders are not being followed, they’re going to enforce those one way or another. Oftentimes, with visitation, that means you would get makeup visits, maybe extra time during holiday or the summer to make sure that you get your visitation back.

If there were some safety concerns that arose or issues with drugs, or alcohol, or domestic violence, the judge is going to hear about that and want to know was that something that was accurate? Did that really happen? Was it just a rumor, an allegation with no basis? It would be very important that if there were those allegations that we could show to the court that those were or were not true, and if they weren’t true, why you should get your visitation times made up. Now, based on a refusal of visitation, a judge can also look to see whether maybe your visitation time needs to be adjusted depending on what those allegations would be.

It’s very important, especially when your visitation’s been refused, that you have an attorney that can look into those circumstances and explain to the court what happened, and also to arrange with the other side or to propose for the judge where the makeup visits may come in so that you get your time that you were awarded under the prior court order that you can get your time back with your child, and make sure that you get back on schedule, start getting your parenting time, and aren’t continuously being refused your time. If you have any questions, please give us a call about your circumstances. I will look into that and see what we can do to show the court that’s being wrongfully refused and withheld and also help you get the makeup time that you need.

Can I relocate to a different state if I have sole custody of my children?

I had a telephone call with a prior client who had been through a divorce. They have children that live with her, but she has recently got a job out of state and wanted to take those children and have them live with her. Now, ultimately, in Georgia, if you can move and not get in the way of the other party’s parenting time, then the court can’t tell you that you can’t leave with these children; however, if you are interfering with the other parent’s parenting time or ability to exercise their parenting time, the court’s going to consider that to be a change of circumstance. Depending on your facts around how you moved and your reason for moving, the court could change custody to the other parent and not allow you to take the children to leave and live with you in another state.

It really is more complicated than just can I move and take my children with me because there are lots of factors in everybody’s different cases. It may even come down to what judge you have as to whether that judge is going to give you a nod of approval to move children that have been in our circuit or in our state to another state. In Georgia, so long as the children are residing here, the court ultimately has the authority to decide what’s in their best interest during a custody case.

If you’re planning on moving, what I would say is make sure you’re giving the other party prompt notice, and that you’re evaluating whether your move is going to affect the children and affect their time with the other parent. Bring those facts and circumstances into our office. Let us look at that. Let us look at your prior court orders and determine whether you would need court approval to move or whether you’ve met your burden of alerting the other parent, whether there may be an agreement for you to move.

Oftentimes, if you are moving out of state, there’s going to be some changes to your prior paperwork. Even if everyone is on the same page about you moving, you would want to make sure that you file the appropriate court case just to get the judge’s approval on any new parenting time, child support obligations that may change. Any move is probably going to deem a change of circumstances to the extent that a court is going to want to look at that in the modification action just to be safe and make sure the children and their best interests are being looked after. If you have questions about that, just give us a call. I’ll be happy to bring you in, meet with you, and talk to you about those things, and ultimately help you make a decision as to whether you should or shouldn’t be moving with your children.

Will the courts allow my child to choose where they live?

Often, when we’re in the midst of a custody battle, there are going to be children who are a little older and who have very strict opinions about where they want to live. In Georgia, children do have the option to express their desires to the court if they want to live with one parent or the other. Now, there are different levels of how the court will handle that child’s desires, and intentions, and wants.

Ultimately, until a child reaches 11 years old, what they want and where they want to live is not something the court is going to ask them upfront. That’s not to say that children that are younger than 11 don’t have an opinion or aren’t happy at one house rather than the other, but the court is not going to expose them to having to choose between one parent and the other. After the child has turned 11, however, that child may then have an opinion as to where they want to live. The court’s going to take that just as a factor; it’s going to be one of the many factors that are outlined under Georgia law. The court doesn’t have to do what that child wants.

When that child reaches 14 years old, however, their power gets to be a little bit more. The court is going to have to give deference to that child’s wishes. The other party would have to prove that child’s wishes are not in their best interest, meaning that if you have a 14-year-old who wanted to go live with a parent because they knew that they could get away with anything. We need to prove that other parent was not going to discipline the child or had never been involved in their schooling or medical care. The court can say I hear the opinion of the 14-year-old; I know what they want, but it’s not in their best interest. The other party has proven that.

Ultimately, a trial judge is going to sign off on what that child wants just to ensure the safety and well-being of that child. Under Georgia law, there are specific requirements, age requirements that allow the child to have their voice heard more and more as they get older. Ultimately, our local judges are going to wait until that child is 14, 15, even 16 years old before given great weight to what they want. However, with the right evidence to back up that child’s wishes, your child’s voice will be heard if we do a better job at describing for the court why they want to make this change or why they want to live with one parent rather than the other. We’ve been pretty successful in having children’s voices heard without actually putting them in front of the judge and making them in front of an open courtroom say what they want.

I can help you. Call us if you’ve got a child who wants to move in with another parent or is really insistent during a custody case that they want to live in one place rather than the other. Give us a call. I will sit down with you and talk with you about our options and how we can let your child’s voice be heard without really exposing them to the emotional process of a custody action in an open courtroom.

What should I do if I’m unhappy with our current parenting time order What should I do if I’m unhappy with our current parenting time order?

Last week, a client came to me very upset about recent events and things that had occurred with her ex-husband. Under their prior divorce case, there was a certain schedule set out for their parenting time. She was no longer happy with that arrangement; in fact, she indicated that both parties were not happy with the holidays and how they were outlined and even the weekday time that the parents were exercising shuffling the children based on that schedule.

In Georgia, in order to change a custody schedule, you need to ask the court to change either custody or just visitation. Once a case has started, a modification action in Georgia would allow you to go to mediation, try and settle if you agree that the parenting time isn’t working for you anymore. Also, in Georgia, you would have an opportunity to go in front of a judge and let a judge decide what changes need to be made.

At that time, the judge has a long list of factors that he can consider. During the time, we would present evidence as to what your children are doing with their lives, and their relationship with the other parent, what special holidays maybe need to be considered in your situation. If you’re ever in possession of a parenting plan that you’re unhappy with, you ultimately will need the court’s approval to make legal changes to that.

Now, any parent can reach an agreement with the other parent to say I don’t like the schedule anymore. Let’s make this tweak or that tweak or let’s swap weekends because I’ve got a family reunion coming up. You can make those small changes amongst yourselves. In fact, one retired judge would always say that a parenting plan should stay in a drawer and parents should work together.

Ultimately, what we see in our practice is some parents can’t do that. They will ultimately need a court to step in and make changes as the children grow older and have different needs. Sometimes you can’t reach an agreement on a change to Christmas morning or a change to a different school, which would mean different parenting times, pick up, drop offs, and custody exchanges based around a school zone.

Oftentimes, when parents can’t reach an agreement, it’s going to necessary for you to approach the court. In Georgia, you would do that through a modification action. We can walk you through those steps. We can also give you a list of things that judges don’t want to see in every case: pictures of your home, details about your schedule at work. We can compile all those things together to present your case to the judge to ultimately make sure that you get the changes that you want in your parenting time and get a new court order that more accurately reflects what would make you happy at that time.

If you have any questions, please give me a call. I’ll be more than happy to look at your past arrangements and any voluntary changes that were made, and any changes that I think a trial court would approve, and file that modification action for you. We’d be more than happy to help you do that.

What does parenting time mean?

I was in a mediation the other day working with a client to determine parenting time would best fit their needs and those of their children, and once the divorce is finalized, what that would look like day in and day out for them. In Georgia, it’s required that for every divorce and custody case that you would have to have a parenting plan. That parenting plan, there is a form, a suggested form under Georgia law that we use. It addresses every day of the week, every holiday, every special circumstance for you, and outlines exactly the parenting time that you would have and the parenting time that your spouse would have.

It’s very important that during your custody case, you pay very close attention to that parenting plan because, ultimately, that’s going to guide you day to day on what you’re going to do, especially if you can’t reach an agreement later on with a parent about whose day it is or what holiday should be spent with which parent. The parenting plan is going to designate your parenting time. That ultimately is when the children will be with you during the week, on the weekends, or certain holidays. That’s going to really be your guideline of how to go about exercise of visitation parenting time with your kids.

If you have a parenting plan now and you want to make some adjustments, or if you’re entering into a custody case and you don’t know what the parenting plan is, or what it should look like, or what a judge may grant parenting time in that parenting plan, please call our office. We’ll sit down with you and give you examples past parenting plans and different types of parenting time that may be creative and more unique than what a trial judge would do for you. We would sit down with you and look at your best and worst-case scenarios about parenting time and what your visitation would look like. Then we would be able to tell you what we think a judge would do or what you should settle for in any kind of negotiations or settlement discussions. We can give some good advice to you about what your parenting time would look like even after a divorce or a custody action is completed.

Do the courts favor the mother regarding child custody?

I was in a consultation the other day with a young guy who was actually the primary caretaker of his children. He had heard that if he ever wants to get a divorce that the court would automatically award custody to his wife because she was a female, she was the mother of the children, and that all judges in this area would grant custody to the mom in all cases. I highly disagreed with that. I think that in the right circumstances with the right amount of proof that in any final trial our judges have an open mind enough where if you can prove that there is a father who is ultimately the primary caregiver of the children or even in a middle road of just lending a lot of support to his children and being a very good dad, our judges are very open-minded and would consider not granting a mother custody.

With that being said, in Georgia, there is no presumption in favor of one parent or the other. Oftentimes, we would have to remind the court that both parties come to court on equal footing and that the evidence can be presented to show that the father may be the primary custodian or may be more appropriate for the children. Ultimately, the court has to decide what’s in the best interest of the children.

It’s important, especially if you are the father, that you gather evidence, and you present yourself well in court, that you are able to give specific details and examples of how you were a hands-on dad capable of taking the kids to school, and cooking them meals, and taking care of them, and not just being a weekend dad. A lot of our clients have been successful in either obtaining custody as a dad or going towards more of a joint 50/50 time schedule so that neither the mom or the dad is the primary caretaker, but instead, they actually share custody and share responsibilities. We’ve been very successful in getting our judges to consider that, but with that being said, you’ve got to have the evidence; you’ve got to have the testimony to back up what you’re saying because ultimately, if all it is your testimony against the mother’s, oftentimes, the judges will sway more in the mom’s favor if you don’t have the right presentation and the right evidence at any trial.

We can help you gather that evidence and present it in a way that the judge would be open to granting you custody if you’re a dad with those same concerns. We’ve been successful in doing that. If you have those concerns and you want to come in and talk with us, please give us a call. We’ll carve out some time to really look at your circumstances and your evidence and give you an honest opinion as to whether we think that you would be a candidate to have primary custody of your kids as a dad.

Why do I need an attorney for a child custody matter Why do I need an attorney for a child custody matter?

Oftentimes, we receive telephone calls from potential clients who really aren’t sure whether they need an attorney in their circumstance. It’s an important question because an attorney can cost a lot of money. An attorney is going to find out intimate details about your life. They’re going to get to know your children and your relationship with your children. Oftentimes, that attorney is going to be one of the most important people in your life while you’re going through this emotional turmoil of a custody case.

In choosing an attorney, it’s very important that you get to know them. You decide whether you trust them or not to really guide you through the process. I would always recommend that you get an attorney in this process because, in Georgia, a custody case can be very complicated. Oftentimes, the other side will have an attorney. The judge is going to hear from that attorney in a way that you may not be able to defend yourself to them the way that you could if you had an attorney on your side.

Oftentimes, people are very concerned about the cost of having an attorney. What we find is it’s more costly to go to court without an attorney the first time having to hire an attorney to then go back and either fix something that may have gone wrong during that hearing or maybe the judge didn’t even hear from you because you weren’t represented. It takes us more time and more resources to undo what may have been done in the first court date when you weren’t represented.

That’s why I would always say you should meet with an attorney. Based on when you meet with the attorney, if you trust them, you should always have an attorney with you, especially when there’s going to be a court date and a judge is going to see you in the courtroom. You want to make sure that somebody that you trust and someone who’s on your side is going to present your evidence, your testimony, and your side of the story in a way that the judge can understand and really comprehend so that the best outcome is had in any custody case.

Call Our Georgia Child Custody Lawyers

This is a challenging time. We want to help you get through it. It is not easy for anyone to go through a child custody battle. Our Georgia child custody lawyers want to make this a bit easier for you. Call us today to set up a consultation.