Atlanta Grandparent & Third-Party Custody/Visitation Lawyers

Children are human beings and it is the responsibility of both parents to raise them with love and to care for their emotional, physical, and educational needs, and to make decisions about their future. If a divorce involves no children it should be a lot easier to come to a settlement. Of course, this is because children are the only treasures you share, as a grandparent or third-party, with parents that cannot be given a monetary value or split in two. Yet, the rights of grandparents and third parties are not always at the forefront when a couple is going through a divorce.

Most judges will tell you that they dread custody cases. They do not like to play God, and in many divorce custody cases, that is what they are asked to do. It is heartbreaking to see two parents fight about who will have control over their children’s lives. Judges must draw from their knowledge, past experience, the presentations of the parents and their lawyers, as well as from neutral experts, to make these all-important decisions about the children’s futures.

The family law attorneys of Kessler & Solomiany, LLC understand the importance of what’s at stake when presenting your case as a grandparent or third-party before a judge in family court. We will support you throughout the legal issues that accompany child custody disputes and advocate for your custody rights. Regardless of whether the child custody case results from a divorce or another family change, our experienced Atlanta grandparent custody and visitation attorneys are ready to fight for our clients’ interests in protecting their family. Contact us today at (404) 688-8810 to schedule a consultation and learn more about your legal options for custody or visitation rights as a grandparent or third-party.

What is “custody?”

The term “custody” refers to a parent’s legal right or obligation to house and care for their children, and to make decisions concerning their upbringing, schooling, religion, medical care, and other matters. Generally, custody is divided into two areas: physical custody and legal custody. We will explain the difference between them in a moment, but first it is necessary to understand how custody decisions are made.

The best custody determination occurs when both parents agree on custody matters without going to court. In these situations their lawyers can draw up an agreement that outlines the framework of the custody of their children and the parents can implement it immediately. This agreement may include things such as where the children will live, how long they will spend with each parent, who will make decisions regarding education and medical care, and even, who will pay for summer camp. The possibilities are endless and therefore your custody agreement can be tailored to your specific facts.

Unfortunately, many parents cannot come to an agreement on these issues because each parent wants the same role in the lives of their children. As you can imagine, these issues are highly sensitive and negotiations can drag on or grind to a halt at any given moment. If this occurs, the parents must go to trial and have their custody issues resolved by a judge.

What is legal custody?

Legal custody is another intangible concept. Simply stated, it means that a person is given the right to make the legal decisions about the children’s upbringing, such as medical care, education, and religion. “Joint legal custody” is emerging as a favored concept in many divorce cases. What this means is that parents with joint legal custody both have the right to make important decisions about school, medical care, religion, and other important issues in their children’s lives as well as have access to their children’s records.

Whether it is joint legal custody, sole legal custody, or primary legal custody, a good lawyer will make sure there is a provision that both parents make every effort to agree on these important issues. However, it is important for one parent to have “primary legal custody” for times when both parents cannot agree on certain issues. Since parents cannot always agreement on everything, the custody agreement will name one parent as the default, the person to make the decision.

What is physical custody?

Physical custody refers to where the children will live—their primary place of residence. It can also refer to what periods of time the children will be with each parent, grandparent, or third-party. Additionally, visitation (also called “parenting time”) is a part of physical custody. Therefore, you might have physical custody of the child, but the child visits with the other parent, grandparent, or third-party, less than 50 percent of the time.

The issue becomes, which person is the child’s primary caretaker? As a general rule, if the children are in your care for at least 50 percent of the year, then you are designated the “primary physical custodian.” The primary physical custodian usually makes the day-to-day decisions about the child’s life. Ideally, he or she will make these decisions with input from the other parent

The person with primary physical custody might make other, more important decisions, such as where the children go to school or camp, what extracurricular activities he or she may participate in, and what doctor to call when the child has an earache. Ideally, both parents will discuss these issues and agree on decisions concerning their children. If not, they will defer to the agreement provisions covered under “legal custody.”

What is joint custody?

Joint custody is not as legally significant a term as you might think, although you hear it often in the news or in movies. More significant are the details, the fine print of the custody agreement. Most parents would be unconcerned with the label of custody if they could see their children often (perhaps Wednesday through Sunday), rather than have “joint custody” that translates to only one weekend a month with their children. Therefore, the details are most important. Do not get hung up on the words. Granted, “joint custody” may sound nice, but you should focus on the specifics of your agreement such as the dates and times you will spend with the child.

Can I reach an agreement about custody without a lawyer?

Yes. It is important to try to agree on as many issues as you can before trial. It will benefit both the children and yourselves not to extend a custody case any longer than it needs to be. Discuss the basic elements of the child’s life: school, religion, camp, soccer, etc. Chances are high that you will not agree on everything. But you may continue to agree on many things that you and your spouse, or the current caretaker, have always agreed upon. You can also turn for help from respected members of your community, like a clergyman.

How is custody decided in a courtroom?

The judge will base his or her decision on a “legal standard.” This term refers to basic rules that the judge may use to help make a decision. Generally, a judge will consider many factors to determine custody. The judge must determine what is in the best interest of the child. It may seem obvious what the best interest of the child is; however, it is one of the simplest, yet most vague standards in the law. It is almost always best to try and resolve custody between yourself and your spouse, or the current caretaker, than to leave it in the hands of a judge. Judges are human and they will base their determinations on the law and past experience.

What is the lawyer’s role in litigating custody disputes?

The lawyer’s role in a custody case is to present a complete picture to the judge of what it would be like if the judge granted custody to his client. This does not necessarily mean that the attorney’s client is a superior parent, grandparent, or has a lot of money. Instead, the lawyer will stress that his client can provide the child a warm, safe, loving, and healthy environment in which the child can prosper. Perhaps the best indicator of this is the client’s past history of taking good care of the child. In some circumstances, the lawyer may need to impeach the other party’s character to prove his client is better suited to have custody of the children.

Contact Us

When it becomes impossible to amicably reach a custody or visitation arrangement with the parents, or current custodians, of a loved one, it is important to hire an attorney that can protect your legal rights. The attorneys at Kessler & Solomiany, LLC will help you understand your legal custody and visitation rights as a grandparent or third party, even if you decide the settle the matter outside of court. Contact us at (404) 688-8810 or online for a consultation today.

Grandparents Rights FAQs

Do grandparents have any rights of custody or visitation with their grandchildren in Georgia?

Yes, grandparents and third parties (aunts, uncles, other relatives and sometimes even non-relatives) do have rights in Georgia to seek custody or visitation with their grand children (or with the children of others for a “third party”), but there is a very strong preference for natural parents to have custody of their own children.

My grandson has lived with me for the past three years. His parents (my son and his wife) have had little or no contact with him during that time, but now, they want my grandson to live with them. Is there anything that I can do to ensure that my grandson stays with me?

In a custody proceeding between the parents and a grandparent, the court will determine custody based on the best interest of the child standard. This standard requires the grandparent to show that (1) parental custody would harm the child; and (2) granting custody to the grandparent will promote the child’s health, welfare and happiness. A grandparent has a more difficult legal standard to meet than does a parent when seeking custody of a child.

My grandchildren have lived with me for the past three years. Their parents (my son and his wife) have had little or no contact with the children during that time, and now they want the children to live with them. What can I do to ensure that I will be able to visit them?

Georgia law allows grandparents to seek visitation rights with their grandchildren in any case involving custody of the grandchildren, including a divorce between a child’s parents. In such cases, the court may grant visitation rights to the grandparent if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that (1) the health and/or welfare of the children would be harmed unless the visitation was granted and (2) granting the visitation would be in the best interest of the children.

If you have more questions, do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys of Kessler & Solomiany, LLC at (404) 688-8810 or visit our website to learn more.

How have grandparent visitation rights expanded under new law?

A new law could make it easier for grandparents to persuade judges to grant visitation rights with their grandchildren – Read Full Article

Grandparents, purse strings and divorce

Grandparents, purse strings and divorce – Reuters Article