How to File for Child Custody in Georgia

By Christine Funk, J.D.

How to File for Child Custody in Georgia

By Christine Funk, J.D.

In Georgia, as in other states, courts make child custody determinations based on the best interests of the child or children. The state of Georgia believes that a close and ongoing parent-child relationship is vital to children's best interests. Additionally, Georgia recognizes the value of providing and maintaining continuity in the child's life as part of the child's best interests.

Little boy in pale blue polo coloring in a book while sitting next to a woman, who is using a laptop

Steps in filing for child custody include a petition, developing a parent plan, and going to court. Check out the guidelines below to help you begin and get through the Georgia process.

1. Fill Out a Petition

If you are divorcing, the petition for child custody is included in the divorce papers. If you are seeking to modify a current custody arrangement or formalize a custody arrangement, file a petition for change of custody in the county superior court of the custodial parent's residence. If you are seeking a change in custody, you must provide proof to a “material change in family circumstances" that directly impact your child's well-being and best interests.

2. File the Petition and Serve It on the Other Party

You must file the petition with the court and serve it on your child's other parent. You may use a process server or the sheriff's office to serve the papers.

3. Be Prepared for a Response

Your child's other parent has the right to object to the request for a change in custody, or propose an alternate solution.

4. Develop a Parenting Plan

Create a parenting plan for the child or children. Ideally, this will be done as a joint proposal from both parents. However, if the parents cannot agree about what is in the child's best interests, each parent may create their own proposed parenting plan. The plan must keep the state's guiding principles in mind: close and ongoing parent-child relationships with each parent, and providing and maintaining continuity in the child's life. A plan where one parent has full and complete custody and the other parent only sees the child every other weekend is unlikely to be considered acceptable.

The parenting plan must account for where the child will sleep and which parent the child will be with for every day of the year. This includes plans for holidays, school breaks, vacations, birthdays, and other special occasions throughout the year. Because children's needs change as they grow, the parenting plan must anticipate this and demonstrate their recognition of their child's changing needs. Plans should take this into account, so that the need for future modifications are kept to a minimum. It must also address transportation arrangements for the child, and how these costs will be paid. Finally, it must include an agreement about how one parent con contact the child when the child is with the other parent.

5. File and Serve the Proposed Parenting Plan as Ordered by the Court

If you and your child's other parent agree on a parenting plan, file it with the court in accordance with the date set by the court. If you and your child's other parent do not agree on a plan, file your individual proposed parenting plan with the court. If you fail to file your it with the court, or you fail to provide proper service of your parenting plan on the other party, the court may simply adopt the other parent's plan.

6. Go to Court

If you are in agreement, this step may not require a court appearance. However, if your county requires a court appearance even when there is an agreement, you will need to make a court appearance. If the parties cannot agree, the court will hold a hearing to determine child custody issues. Because this hearing requires complying with the rules of evidence and the rules of court, consider hiring an attorney.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.