Providing Zealous Representation in Paternity &
Child Custody Disputes for 20+ Years in North Georgia
David McLeod is an experienced family law attorney at the
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.
The 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.
The 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
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 the 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 the 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
- 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
Georgia's Best Interest of the Child Standard in Contested
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 the 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
The 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.
The 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!