Things You Need to Know About a Parenting Plan in Georgia

Under O.C.G.A. § 19-9-1, every domestic relations case in Georgia in which children are involved – whether a divorce case, modification of custody, modification of visitation, legitimation, or other custody matter – now requires the adoption of a formal Parenting Plan before a case can be finalized. If the parties reach agreement without the necessity of trial or hearing, the Parenting Plan can be by consent and can be submitted to the trial judge for approval. If the parties cannot reach agreement, and the child custody or visitation matters are decided by the trial judge, the judge will enter her/his own Parenting Plan after considering the testimony and evidence presented by the parties.

In Gwinnett County, as well as in all of Georgia, a Parenting Plan is an extremely crucial component of domestic litigation. It defines who has primary physical custody of the child/children– i.e. who the children live (vs. visit) with. It defines which parent has final decision-making authority as to key issues in the overall growth and development of the children (education, medication, extracurricular activities, extended travel, hazardous activities, religious upbringing, basic medical, psychological decisions, etc.). The Parenting Plan states who will be the child’s legal custodian, which for the majority of the time will involve “joint legal custody." If nothing else, it is here in the area of joint legal custody and joint decision making where hiring a divorce or family lawyer is almost mandatory in order ensure that Parenting Plan actually sets forth in detail exactly what it is that “joint legal custody" actually involves and exactly what rights and obligations each joint legal custodian have. Most pre-printed standard templates of a Parenting Plan that can be found on many county websites (as well as the Plan adopted by the Georgia Uniform Superior Court Rules) fail to adequately address the real issues that parents actually face when the hard work of co-parenting between 'exes' begins.

Areas such as defining what specific rights a joint legal custodian actually has; the nature, frequency and duration of telephone, email, text or video chat communications; extracurricular activity division of transportation; designation of other adults to assist in child exchanges; rules surrounding exposure of children to new romantic partners; use of alcohol and prescription drugs around the children, specific holiday definitions, possible drug-testing scenarios, and a variety of other issues aren’t sufficiently addressed on pre-printed forms.

Since the Parenting Plan is the key and crucial document in a custody case, it is simply essential that a parent involved in custody litigation seek to hire a qualified family and domestic relations lawyer experienced in divorce, custody and modification cases. At Fox Firm, P.C. – the law firm Douglas N. Fox began in 1995 to give clients winning solutions – child custody matters are handled with the utmost attention, care and foresight. Feel free to email me at dfox@douglasnfox.com or call my office at 770.277.4883.