What are the steps for filing for child custody?

Follow these steps to become the custodial parent of your child

Parents of children born in a legally recognized wedding in Monroe, GA, have joint responsibility for the child. In case of a divorce, each parent must defend themselves in court and prove they deserve to be given the physical custody of the child. Divorce is not always easy, but couples can be given co-parenting rights if they deserve it. In case one parent is deemed unfit, one will become the custodial parent while the other will be given visiting rights. Both parents, however, have legal custody of decisions affecting the child or children.

Getting custody or visitation rights, however, could be challenging in 2021 if the child is born out of wedlock. The father can go through a legitimation process and fight for child custody and visitation rights. However, this does not mean that the father cannot be the custodial parent of such a child. He can fight for child custody or visitation rights in a court. Before we discuss how to get child custody and visitation rights, let us look at the grounds that could make one parent lose custody of their child in Monroe, Walton County.

Factors that cause mothers lose child custody in Monroe

Traditionally, mothers stayed at home taking care of their children and were thus considered the primary caretakers. This law has changed as women currently have 9-5 jobs just like men, and the responsibility to take care of children now lies with both parents. Georgia is a 50-50 custody state as far as child custody is concerned. If one parent is engaged in violent behavior including emotional, physical, or verbal abuse, they could lose custody to the present parent. In Monroe, a mother may lose physical custody of their child if they are engaged in any of the following:

  1. Parental neglect. If a mother neglects her child’s physical, educational, health, or emotional needs, the other parent can sue them. Anybody who interacts with the child, or the child, can report the mother for neglect. Most cases of neglect are reported by teachers, the spouse, or caretaker. While a mother can lose custody of their child for failing to enroll them in a school, she cannot lose custody over mistakes such as picking the child late from school.
  2. Domestic violence. If a woman abuses her spouse or child in any way, the environment is considered too hostile for the child. Her partner can sue to have child custody rights taken away from her.  Abuse could be:
  • Physical abuse involves slapping, hitting, or pinching.
  • Emotional abuse involves harassing or belittling the child.
  • Parental alienation is inciting a child to hate the other parent.

Once a report is made, judges will look at the child’s interests which could cause the abusive parent to lose custody of visiting rights. An existing restraining order can also cause you to lose those rights as a parent.

  1. Inadequate parenting skills. While a mother could be the sole custodian of a child, she could lose those physical or legal custody rights if she fails to take them to school, makes decisions that endanger the child, or neglects her responsibilities as a mother.
  2. Emotional instability. Issues such as mental breakdown, mental disorders, drug addiction, and smoking could make a mother lose physical or visitation rights.

How fathers lose physical custody and visitation rights in Monroe

Fathers in Monroe have a right to be the physical custodians of their children. However, they can lose this right in case of habits such as:

  1. Bringing undesired overnight guests whose presence affects children’s wellbeing or security.
  2. Right of first refusal where the mother is the preferred caretaker instead of having the child stay with babysitters and other family members.
  3. Engagement in illegal activities such as gambling, reckless driving, and other forms of crime.

Being kept away from your child is not an easy decision. It all depends on what the judges consider to be the best interests of the child. However, if you feel the process has been unfair, or you have changed the things that were making you lose, you can go to court to fight for physical custody of the child.

Remember that having visitation rights or being the children’s biological parent does not give you the ultimate legal rights to make decisions that affect the child. If both parents are not in agreement regarding important issues such as education and healthcare, the custodial parent gets to make the final decision. Below are the steps you should follow to get back physical custody or visitation rights during a divorce or if you have lost them.

How to get child custody and visitation rights in Monroe

1. Prepare properly

You cannot go to fight for child custody if you are not properly prepared. In Monroe, Walton County, a  14-year-old child can choose which parent to live with especially during divorce. They are required to sign an Affidavit of Custody Election then present it to the court. This means your relationship with the child at the time of divorce matters. If you have been their favorite parent, they will choose to go with you. While the court is inclined to do as the child wishes, the judge will always consider the child’s best interests before issuing a judgment. For you to win child custody rights, you must prove your ability to:

  • Provide for the child’s basic needs
  • Give the child a stable life
  • Be involved in the child’s daily activities
  • Be mentally fit
  • Emotional ties with the child
  • Not be a violent or abusive parent
  • Offer a safe environment for the child
  • Meet the child’s needs
  • Ensure a smooth relationship with the child’s half-siblings
  • Prove that you are not engaged in any criminal activities

2. Get an experienced family lawyer

To get the sole custody of your child, you must prove that you are the only parent who cares. To get joint custody, you must also prove that you are a good parent. Whether you are deserving or not, no situation cannot be salvaged. You need to research on past custody cases in Monroe and how the judges made their ruling, and review the State custody laws. Most importantly, you must ensure that your presentation takes care of the child’s best interests because that is what the judge will look at.

A family attorney in Monroe can review your case and advice on what you should do to win child custody in Monroe. You need to familiarize yourself with child custody laws, and only an experienced attorney can help you. Build a smooth attorney-client relationship with a reputable family law firm so you can get all the relevant information you need to stay ahead of the proceedings. An experienced lawyer in Monroe will also coach you on the right questions to ask, listen to your presentation and ensure that your 15 minutes before a judge count.

3. Complete the custody or visitation form

Before you fill your child custody forms, go to the local court and obtain self-help information to help you. The clerk can give you the resources you need to get started, even if you do not have a lawyer. However, they may not be able to give legal advice or assistance. If you need assistance filling the custody or visitation questionnaire, contact a local family lawyer. Ensure that you do not leave any blanks. When done, file them in court or send your lawyer.

4. Prepare for the hearings

You may have one or several hearings before the court issues a decision. The first hearing may last about only 15 minutes, so your presentation must count. If you have an existing attorney-client relationship, they have already taken you through this process. If you are doing this all by yourself, practice your speech several times in front of a friend. Write down the things you need to address so as not to forget, and say only the important things to save time.

5. Attend all hearings

Even if you have legal representation, you need to be present for all hearings. Listen to what your partner is saying, but do not be cowed or intimidated by their presentation. Stay calm and respect the judge as any violent behavior could be evidence that you cannot be trusted with custody. In addition, remember to dress professionally and be punctual. When it is your turn to speak, speak clearly and audibly, and answer all questions thoroughly.

6. Wait for the ruling

You may not get the court’s ruling immediately.  Once you have done your part, rest assured that you will either get physical custody or legal custody of the child. If the decision does not favor you, the courts will give recommendations on what you should do to get custody. If they said you get a job or a better house, work on this even as you prepare to appeal the decision later. If they give you custody, remember this ruling is not final and your partner will be working hard to take custody rights from you. Any conduct that is not endanger the child will work to your disadvantage. Guard your position with jealousy. And since raising children is the responsibility of both parents, follow the co-parenting instructions given in the ruling. Do not deny the other parent legal custody or visitation rights if the court has granted them.

Fighting for child custody in Monroe? Hanks, Ballard & Barth (HBB) can help

HBB is a law firm serving clients in Monroe and Madison, GA. We specialize in criminal defense, personal injury, family law, estate planning, divorce, corporate law and related practice areas. Our family lawyers have helped many clients win adoption, custody, visitation, spousal support and child support cases. With over 60 years of combined experience in this field, you can count on us to keep it our confidential till you win. Fill the contact form on our website or call our phone number, (770) 267-8988, for a free consultation.