Whenever child custody of a minor is involved in a legal proceeding in Carrollton, the state of Georgia mandates that the parties submit a parenting plan to the court. While the term parenting plan may be familiar to most, what this legal document must contain is a much more confusing topic. Simply put, the soon-to-be exes get together – usually with separate legal counsel – and work out certain rules and minimum standards that will govern the minor’s custody as well as parenting time. While an agreement between the soon-to-be ex-spouses is considered a best case scenario because everyone is on the same page, it is not always possible. If the couple cannot agree on a parenting plan, then each submits a separate one to a Georgia court. The court will then choose one – meaning you may be stuck with a parenting plan arrangement that is unacceptable to you.
Parenting Plan Basics
Typically, a Carrollton parenting plan is a formal document that has all the particular details that determine the manner in which a couple’s minor children will be raised and parented after the couple’s divorce. The state of Georgia – like most of the states across the country – requires a parenting plan from each and every divorcing couple with children. The public policy reason behind this is to ensure the protection of the child or children’s best interests. The standard by which a court must determine issues in family law matters regarding minors across the United States is “the best interest of the child.”
There are specific issues that must be included in a Carrollton parenting plan at a minimum. Some of this information includes:
- Dividing parenting time and visitation (i.e., where the children will spend their time);
- Giving decision-making authority to both or one parent regarding the children’s upbringing;
- Deciding whether or not supervision or other unusual issues may occur during visitation;
- Determining which parent will be responsible for, and the type of transportation the children will use during, school breaks, holidays, and other special occasions; and
- Any other issue that may arise or affect visitation or parenting time.
Making Changes to a Parenting Plan
If a Carrollton couple cannot come to an agreement on a Georgia parenting plan, a negative outcome is not absolute. This is because the state of Georgia allows custody arrangements to be modified, although this can only occur once every two years. The exception to this rule is if one of the parties – the party seeking the modification – can prove that there has been a material shift in circumstances. Commonly, material changes are those that affect a parent’s ability to make payments and otherwise maintain the lifestyle for the children that is similar to what the minors are accustomed to.
Moreover, changes in a Carrollton parenting plan can be affected even before it is put into place. Under Georgia law, a child who is between the ages of 14 and 18 can choose which parent he or she wants to live with. The minor’s choice is usually determinative unless it is not in the best interest of the child to allow for his or her preferred arrangement. It is important for any parent to know that this is a possible outcome. If your minor child chooses contrary to the parenting plan, the couple may have to start all over again and come up with a different program.
Seek a Knowledgeable Attorney
If you are in an amicable situation with your spouse so that the two of you are able to put together a Carrollton parenting plan, you both may be able to avoid numerous headaches regarding child custody and parenting time. If you are unable to come to an agreement, you can still compromise on some issues with the help of good legal counsel. The skilled Carrollton family law attorneys at Moffitt Law, LLC can explain your options under Georgia law on these matters. Contact us today for your initial case evaluation.