State Considers Bill to Change Child Custody Presumption

The state legislature in Nebraska will soon be considering a bill seeking to modify an existing law concerning parental rights. Although this bill is being considered in that state, Georgia may see similar discussions and proposals in the future. Under the existing law, judges in divorce cases must consider the best interests of the child in determining custody.

Additionally, parents must attend mediation sessions and devise a parenting plan. The new bill is proposing to abolish the best interests determination, instead seeking to have the child spend equal time with both parents. The granting of equal parenting time would be the presumption in every case, and it will be up to the parents to show why there should be a deviation from that situation, if necessary.

When a couple with children gets divorced, they must come to an agreement on the custody arrangement of the children, or have the court order one. Typically, one of the parents will be granted physical custody and the children will live with them most of the time. They are considered the custodial parent. The other parent, the non-custodial parent, will have visitation rights with the children and will often retain legal custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions concerning a child's health care, religion and education.

Although this is the most common arrangement there are other types, including split custody and joint custody. In creating the best arrangement, courts must determine what is in the child's best interests. Among the factors included in making this determination are a stable home environment, the health of the parents, any history of abuse by either parent or the child's age.

The proposed bill mentioned above would seek to make an arrangement in which both parents have an equal amount of time with their children the presumption in every case. It would be up to the parents to provide evidence to the court as to why that arrangement would not be ideal for the child. There are arguments on both sides of this issue as to what is best for the parents and the child. Any parent going through a divorce should seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney to assist them with the creation of a child custody arrangement.

Source: Star Herald, "NSBA opposing Parenting Act changes," Maunette Loeks, Sept. 25, 2013

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