Issues Regarding Children

Custody. Decisions concerning custody of minor children in divorce cases are made based upon the "best interests of the children". In determining what custody arrangement will be in the children's best interests, the Court considers the following:

a) The physical and mental health of the parents and the children;

b) The emotional bonds between each of the parents and the children, and the emotional bonds of each of the children with their siblings;

c) Information concerning the historical framework of the family, such as evidence of the typical interactions of the parties with the children in a variety of settings, including home, school, church and extra curricular activities;

d) The desires expressed by the parents concerning custody, as well as the desires expressed by the children (if of sufficient age), may be considered by the Court, but are not binding;

e) In contested custody cases, or when there are questions concerning the parenting skills/abilities of one or both parents, the Court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), who will represent the interests of the children in the divorce case. The GAL will conduct an in-depth investigation into the home environments and backgrounds of each of the parents. The GAL is also authorized to interview teachers, counselors, medical professionals, coaches, relatives, and neighbors, and will usually spend time observing each parent interacting with the children during the investigation. The GAL then makes recommendations to the Court concerning custody and parenting plans, although the Court is not bound by those recommendations.

Types of Custody

There are two types of custody to be considered in divorce cases: (1) legal custody; and (2) physical custody.

(1) Legal Custody defines the rights of the parents to make decisions concerning the raising of their children. One parent can have sole legal custody, or the parties can share joint legal custody of the children. If the parties share joint legal custody, they are required to discuss issues concerning the children, and attempt to agree on a decision that is in the best interests of the children. If they can't agree, one parent or the other would have the final decision-making authority. Although issues regarding decision-making can vary from case to case, in general the primary decision-making issues are:

a) Healthcare decisions, such as choice of health care professionals (medical doctors, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists), and decisions regarding treatment options.

b) Education decisions, such as which schools the children will attend, whether tutoring or other special programs are appropriate, and other issues related to the education of the children.

c) Religious Upbringing, including selection of the church the children will attend, religious studies, as well as how and when the children will be introduced to alternative religious doctrine or beliefs.

d) Extra Curricular Activities, including decisions about the sports, music, dance, art, summer camps and other similar activities the children will engage in outside of home and school.

(2) Physical Custody determines the primary residence of the children, and establishes how the parents will share physical possession of their children. In January, 2008, new laws went into effect in Georgia requiring parents in a divorce and/or custody action to file a parenting plan with the Court, specifically outlining a detailed parenting time schedule to be followed by the parents and children. The parents may submit one parenting plan on which they both agree, or each parent may submit an individual parenting plan, in which case the Judge will decide how the parents will share access to their children.

Parenting Time Schedules. The most common Parenting Time Schedule assigns primary physical custody to one parent with specific periods of parenting time for the other parent. The Parenting Time Schedules can be "custom tailored" to accommodate the work schedules of the parents, in concert with the children's best interests.

Parents who demonstrate a healthy, positive "parenting relationship" with each other may enter into a Shared Parenting Time Schedule, where the children spend relatively equal amounts of time with each parent. For this type of Co-Parenting Plan to work effectively, the parents must typically reside in fairly close proximity to each other, and they must be able to communicate effectively.


“Gary is a very practical lawyer. He does what it takes to get the job done as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible. I found Gary to be very level-headed, fair-minded, diligent and knowledgeable. I learned to value all these traits in Gary while he led me through the difficult process of divorce. We worked as a team, he made sure I was educated, and then we made important decisions together, which I really appreciated.” Kirt P. – 12/14/2009


 Accepted to the bar in    1977

 Former President of the    North Fulton Bar    Association

 Member of the Family     Law Section of State Bar

Areas of

 Domestic Relations/Family     Law


 Criminal & DUI


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