Providing Zealous Representation in Paternity & Child Custody Disputes for 20+ Years in North Georgia
David McLeod is an experienced family law attorney at McLeod Law Firm P.C. He knows that the most difficult and challenging of all family law issues for most people are custody and visitation disputes. Whether you are going through a divorce or involved in a legal action to establish a paternal relationship, child custody disputes can be marred by pain, animosity and bitterness.
When a custody dispute is part of a divorce, the anger and hostility that often accompany the deterioration of a marriage can complicate the process of reaching a constructive parenting plan that is in the best interest of one’s children. Child custody disputes that are part of a paternity action are frequently made more difficult by the financial pressure imposed by child support obligations, which are often contingent on the custody arrangement between the parents. An experienced child custody attorney can help you negotiate with the other parent to reach a constructive divorce agreement on custody and visitation.
McLeod Law Firm P.C. is ready to help. We serve all of North Georgia including Gainesville, Hall County, Cumming, Dawsonville, Forsyth County, and Dawson County.
While most parents want to protect their children from the stress and pain that may accompany a divorce, parents going through a divorce are coping with their own pain, which can make the process of protecting one’s children more difficult. McLeod Law Firm, P.C. believes a child custody case creates an opportunity to reorganize the family structure rather than tear it apart. David McLeod has strong southern values, and he is committed to protecting your rights as a parent and your child’s best interest.
We also recognize that sometimes it is impossible for parents to agree on a custody arrangement that will be in the best interest of their children, and McLeod Law Firm, P.C. is prepared to employ our many years of experience and well-regarded courtroom advocacy to help you pursue the best possible result for you and your child. We know that most parents feel even more anxiety when faced with a custody dispute because they are unfamiliar with the legal process.
We have tried to provide information on many of the common questions we receive below. The best way to learn about your rights and what to expect is to call McLeod Law Firm at(770) 536-0202.
Family courts in Georgia always prefer that parents reach an agreement on shared child custody which may be based on an equal time-share arrangement, a more traditional primary parent or any other agreement that is reached by the parents and in the best interest of the child. This typically helps avoid the conflict and stress, which can affect your child, and creates the foundation for a constructive co-parenting arrangement between you and your spouse.
A negotiated agreement that promotes a frequent and continuing relationship with both parents also can protect your children from feeling like a divorce means the loss of a parent. Even if you reach an agreement with the other parent, it is important to seek legal advice from an experienced Georgia child custody attorney.
As a Georgia family law attorney Mr. McLeod can evaluate your agreement and advice you regarding how it compares with what a court might decide as well as warn you about any potential issues.
Potential Custody Arrangements Under Georgia Law
Some Georgia courts prefer joint custody and may order such an arrangement where both parents are generally available and there are no serious issues regarding the fitness of either parent. This general rule does not apply in the following situations:
One parent works long hours or is on the road for extended periods of time
A parent has a history of abuse toward the children or their spouse
There are serious drug, alcohol or domestic violence issues
The child has been living primarily with one of the parents for a period of time
A parent because of physical or mental disabilities is unable to effectively care for the child’s needs
The parent has a criminal background with felony convictions particularly involving violence or sex offenses
These types of issues tend to make it more likely that the other parent will be given primary or even sole physical custody. Depending on the specifics of the case and seriousness of these issues, the judgment may even impose supervised visitation.
A custody case with any of these issues is much more complicated so it is essential to seek an experienced Georgia child custody lawyer as soon as possible. There are two types of custody “legal custody” and “physical custody.” Legal custody refers to the responsibility for making decisions about the child’s medical treatment, schooling, religion and other major decisions about the child’s life and welfare. Physical custody concerns where the child actually lives.
Georgia’s Best Interest of the Child Standard in Contested Custody Cases
When parents are unable to agree on a custody arrangement, the court will make orders regarding custody and visitation based on the “best interest of the child” legal standard. The court will weigh a number of factors when making a child custody determination including:
Emotional ties between the child and each parent as well as any siblings
The ability and willingness of the parent to provide love, education, guidance and support
A parent’s knowledge and familiarity with the child’s needs
The nurturing and safe nature of each parent’s home environment
The length of time the child has lived in a stable environment with the parent and need for continuity
The stability and support system of the parent
The mental and physical ability of the parent to care for the child
The degree of involvement of the parent in the child’s education and extracurricular activities
A parent’s work schedule (i.e. availability and flexibility based on work demands)
Any home, school or community record of the child (i.e. school performance is important)
Past parenting and prospective future parenting ability
Willingness to promote frequent and continuing contact with the other parent
Any recommendations by a child custody evaluator
Abuse, family violence or past criminal activity by the parent
Evidence of a parent’s substance abuse
[Derived from O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3]
Even a cursory review of these factors makes it clear that absent certain “red flag” issues, the court is concerned with a parent’s proven ability and availability to care for the minor child. Georgia courts also look closely to the parent most likely to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent. What this means is that there are certain positions taken by parents that will typically be viewed negatively. We have provided a couple of examples of situations involving otherwise fit parents that can hurt a parent’s request for primary custody:
Unrealistic 50-50 Custody Requests: A court may view negatively a parent who insists on having 50% custody despite this request being unrealistic because of one’s work schedule. A parent who works 14 hours per day or is gone on business for weeks at a time will typically have their request for 50-50 physical custody viewed negatively. A judge is likely to view such a request as motivated primarily by concerns regarding child support. This mistake is compounded when the solution offered by a parent is to leave the child for extended periods with a babysitter or new partner with whom the child does not have a long established and close relationship. Georgia courts will most often choose to have the child in a fit parent’s care as opposed to another caregiver.
Attempts to Alienate the Child’s Affections: Courts pay close attention to the willingness of a parent to promote and preserve the child’s relationship with the other parent. If a parent openly attempts to alienate their child by denigrating the other parent and/or discouraging the child from telephone contact or physical time with the other parent this can be a sufficient basis to tip the scales toward the other parent.
While it is almost always best to develop an agreement for shared custody with the other parent, sometimes this is simply unrealistic. The experienced family law attorneys of McLeod Law Firm will try to help you when communication with the other parent and attempts to reach an agreement fail. Where arriving at an agreement is not possible, we will diligently fight to protect your relationship with your child and help you identify and obtain the custody and visitation arrangement that is best for your child.
Mr. McLeod is an experienced child custody and visitation attorney and has handled virtually every type of custody and visitation issue including:
Establishment of paternal relationships and support obligations
High conflict custody disputes
Temporary and permanent custody orders as part of a divorce
Situations involving “red flag” issues like drug/alcohol abuse, domestic violence, child abuse or criminal records
Move-away or parent relocation cases
Modification of custody or visitation orders
Contempt for failing to comply with custody or visitation orders
McLeod Law Firm, P.C. has been representing Georgia parents in custody disputes for over 20 years. We have both the perspective and experience to guide you through the process and obtain the best possible outcome. We provide candid advice and guidance that will help you form realistic goals and determine the best approach to arriving at custody arrangements in your case. We will do all that we can to help you reach an agreement with the other parent to avoid the turmoil and anxiety of a high conflict custody dispute. If this proves to be unrealistic, we will help you protect your child’s best interest by zealously representing you in court. We know that nothing is more important than your relationship with your child so we work hard to protect your parent-child relationship.
McLeod Law Firm, P.C. provides diligent legal representation based on commitment to our clients’ best interest across North Georgia including Gainesville and Hall County, GA as well as Cumming, Dawsonville, Jackson, Forsyth and Dawson County. We continually update our law practice to incorporate the most appropriate communication, technological, and legal advances in an effort to better serve our clients. We are located in historical downtown Gainesville, Georgia.
CALL (770) 536-0202 TODAY FOR YOUR INITIAL CASE EVALUATION!