In order for a child custody hearing to go smoothly, it is best for both parents to work together before the hearing to establish a parenting plan. While it can be difficult to work closely with a partner you are divorcing or separated from, it is in the best interest of both the parents and the child to know what will be required in a parenting plan and to come to the hearing prepared, having already agreed on a number of issues as much as possible.
Parenting plans should include several key elements. A parenting time schedule should indicate who will have custody of the child each day of the year, transportation arrangements define how the child will travel between parents when they are transferring custody and contact provisions for each parent to be able to reach the child when he or she does not have custody of the child.
The judge hearing your case will listen to both you and your former partner and make custody decisions with the best interests of the child in mind. The judge may grant either sole custody or joint custody of the child at his or her discretion. If the judge chooses to grant sole custody of the child to one parent, the non-custodial parent will be unable to make legal decisions on behalf of the child. Joint custody entails that the judge believes that both parents can work together to make decisions for the child and share approximately equal parenting time. At the age of 14, a child may self-determine which parent to live with, and may formally request a change in custody every subsequent two years.
Divorcing a partner is always a difficult process, but working together to make the best possible life for your child is a worthwhile endeavor. An experienced custody attorney can guide you through the process and ensure that the child's needs are given the highest consideration.
Source: State of Georgia, "Learning about Child Custody," accessed July 08, 2016