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What To Expect At Your Child Custody Hearing


For many parents, child custody determination can be by far the most intimidating part of their divorce.  This can be compounded even more by the fact that child custody hearings can involve a review of evidence and determination of issues that seem extremely broad in scope.  In addition, in some cases, a determination of custody may involve the investigation and input of a Guardian ad Litem and/or a Custodial Evaluator.  Therefore, if you have at least some idea of what to expect at your Georgia child custody hearing, it can make the process seem less frightening, allowing you to focus on what really matters.  

Prepare For Your Hearing 

One of the most important things to know about your child custody hearing is that you must come prepared.  Most Georgia courts require that a parenting plan be submitted at your hearing.  If both parents can come to an agreement on the terms of the parenting plan, they may present one parenting plan to the court, often called a consent parenting plan.  Alternatively, each parent can submit his or her own proposed parenting plan.  The judge can choose one of the submitted plans, blend aspects of both, or even create its own.  Failure to have your own plan or to have contributed to one could possibly result in the other parent’s plan being chosen.   

Another way to prepare for your hearing is to make sure you have all the relevant information that you will need close at hand. The judge has the right to question you about anything they think is important in determining what would be in your child’s best interests, including your finances, your relationship with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, your past history, including any criminal record, and so on.  Failure to answer these questions can result in the court making inferences against you in its custody determination.    

The Decision 

After the court has reviewed the evidence, testimony, and parenting plans, the judge will decide the issues of  custody and parenting time.   There are many different factors that a judge has the right to entertain in making their decision, such as each parent’s relationship with the child or children, each parent’s current living situation and financial ability to meet the child’s needs, and the mental health of each parent. The judge will always rule in the best interests of the child. 

The judge will decide custody (physical and legal), as well as visitation for the non-custodial parent. If this decision goes against you, it is possible to modify custody, but only once per two-year period unless a substantial change in circumstances has occurred. A “substantial change” can mean a variety of things, including a change in the needs of the child, a change in the desires of the child, and/or a financial change. 

Can A Family Lawyer Help You Today? 

While custody hearings are often very short, they are still very high-stakes, and it can be a great help to have an attorney present with you who understands the way these proceedings are supposed to go. The Atlanta child custody attorneys at Buckhead Family Law are happy to try and assist you with your case. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.


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