Child Custody & Child Support Attorney in Sandy Springs, Georgia
Two Types of Custody: Legal and Physical
About Legal Custody
Legal Custody concerns who will make the decisions concerning the minor child or children. Most divorcing couples share legal custody (joint legal custody) where one parent is the final decision maker if the parties cannot agree.
About Physical Custody
Physical Custody concerns where the children will live most of the time. "True" joint physical custody is where the child or children spend about 50% of their time with each parent. Many parents share physical custody where one parent is the primary physical custodian, i.e., the child or children spend the majority of time with that parent.
Custody disputes are decided by a judge, not by a jury. In custody disputes, the judge may appoint a guardian ad litem, a person, often an attorney, who "represents" the interests of the minor children. The guardian investigates the case and the abilities of both parents to raise children and then makes a custody recommendation to the judge. The judge may follow the recommendation of the guardian, or the judge may ignore it. In some cases, a custody evaluator may be appointed by the judge. The evaluator also investigates the case and makes custody recommendations, but does not legally represent the interests of the children.
In either case, the judge may appoint this person, or the attorney may request it. Obviously, a judge cannot investigate custody, visit with or telephone various friends and family members, or visit with or talk to the children. Therefore, in disputed custody cases, a guardian and/or custody evaluator is often appointed. The judge will award custody based on what the judge decides is in the best interests of the minor children.
Children, ages 14 years and older, may select which parent they choose to live with, but the judge does not have to follow the child's selection if the judge feels the other parent having custody would be in the best interests of the child. Children 11-13 years of age may select their choice for the custodial parent, but the judge does not have to follow it.
Third parties may petition for custody; but to prevail, they must prove both parents are unfit to have custody, a very high standard.
Determining Child Custody in Georgia
In Georgia, both parents share responsibility for their child but that does not mean that they pay equal amounts of child support. The monthly amount (if any) for each parent varies according to numerous factors.
The state guidelines for child support are based upon the income of both parents, the number of children who require support, and the amount of time that each parent spends with the children.
The courts also have a certain amount of discretion and consider factors such as the best interests of the child, the stability of the parent who is the current primary caregiver, and the financial situations of both parents.
Visitation and Custody Agreements
Countless custody battles have been played out in courtrooms all over the country, and unfortunately, the casualties can include the relationships and emotional well-being of the parties involved, especially the children.
My clients rely upon my experience as a skilled lawyer, not as a gladiator. I am an aggressive advocate for my clients and my goal is to negotiate and mediate, whenever possible, to save my clients time and money. But I do not hesitate to litigate to protect the rights and the best interests of my clients.
Determining Child Support
The parent with physical custody or primary physical custody (the children live with this parent greater than 50% of the time) receives child support for the minor child or children until all the children have reached age 18 or graduated from high school, provided the child is a full-time student; however, child support terminates at age 20, even if the child is still a full-time high school student. Georgia now uses a two-income model to determine child support. The percentage of the gross income model is no longer used.
The gross (before tax) income of both parents is added together, some adjustments are made, and this determines the basic child support obligation. The basic child support obligation amount is then divided between the two parents by their income percentage, to determine the presumptive child support amount. This is then adjusted by the amount paid for health insurance and daycare. The parent with physical custody or primary physical custody then receives child support from the other (non-custodial) parent. Gross income includes just about all income, including bonuses, commissions, interest & dividends; it does not include alimony, public assistance, or child support received. (to view click here).
Child Support Example
The Father's monthly gross income is $8,000.00 per month
The Mother's monthly gross income is $4,000.00 per month.
There are two minor children.
The Father is paying $200.00 per month for health insurance for the minor children, and the mother is spending $2,260.00 annually on after-school care and summer care. (to view click here)
The basic child support obligation (from the table) is $1982.00.
If the Mother is the primary physical custodial parent, the presumptive amount she will receive from the father is $1,380 and if the Father is the primary physical custodial parent, the presumptive amount he will receive from the mother is $602. (to view click here)
There are other factors that can be used to vary these amounts such as but not limited to child support paid for other children from a previous relationship, college expenses, and parenting time.
Post Minority Child Support & College Expenses
In Georgia, parents can agree to be responsible to pay support beyond age 18 or graduation from high school, or pay college expenses; but a court cannot order them to do so. However, once they have agreed to pay for college or post majority support, that obligation is just as enforceable as the duty to pay child support for children under age 18.
Alimony is still available in Georgia. In order to receive alimony, the spouse seeking it must prove that they need it and that the other spouse has the ability to pay it. Once these two thresholds are met, then other factors such as the length of the marriage, the income of both parties, and the reasons for the break up of the marriage are considered. Whether to award alimony is totally within the discretion of the trier of fact, the judge, or a jury. Georgia is one of the few states where you have the right to a jury trial. There is no legal presumption that anyone is entitled to alimony, and no formula to determine how much alimony should be paid, or for how long it should be paid. Many attorneys claim that the rule of thumb is one year of alimony for every three years of marriage; however, there is no law that requires this or even suggests it. Some say that alimony is alive and well in Georgia, and in some jurisdictions, it is; however, the amount and the length of time it will be paid are up to the whims of the judge and/or jury.
Why Choose Me?
For more than 15 years, The Law Offices of Miles W. Rich has offered comprehensive legal services to people throughout Georgia who struggle with issues of child support, custody, and visitation.
As an experienced Roswell child custody attorney, Miles W. Rich has become well-known for creating effective, cost-efficient legal strategies after providing truthful legal counsel about the options and the most likely outcomes for each person's unique circumstances.