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Domestic Violence

What is Supervised Visitation and When May it be Ordered?

Monday, March 17th, 2014

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Supervised visitation is not a concept that is unique to Georgia. There are several states that recognize the concept of supervised visitation in situations in which the court presiding over the matter deems is appropriate. In Georgia, supervised visitation may be defined as visitation that occurs between a non-custodial parent and his or her child that is monitored or supervised by a third party.

Generally, the third parties that serve as monitors during supervised visitation are social workers or other qualified child care professionals that monitor the well-being of the child and the interaction between the parent and the child during visitation. Under certain circumstances however, family members or other household members may serve as supervisors as long as certain guidelines are followed. O.C.G.A. § 19-9-7(d). The supervisors normally do not play an active role in the visitation session, but instead observe the visitation session quietly and make observation notes concerning the attitude and actions of both the child and the parent during visitation. In most cases, the monitor will only interrupt or intervene in a visit if the parent threatens the child’s safety or wellbeing.

Supervised visitation is usually court ordered in child custody matters where there are allegations of or prior instances of family violence, child abuse, neglect, drug abuse or alcohol dependence. See generally O.C.G.A. § 19-9-7. Because Georgia courts prefer for children to maintain ongoing relationships and have contact with both parents after a divorce or other family change, supervised visitation is ordered in lieu of completely denying one parent visitation with his or her child in matters where one parent has committed acts of family violence.

Although supervised visitation is normally court ordered, in situations where one parent’s ability to positively interact with his or her children independently is in question, parents may agree for that parent’s visitation to be supervised until that parent is able to positively interact with his or her child without supervision. In situations such as this, the parent may also choose the agency or supervised visitation provider that will facilitate the visits. Alternatively however, in instances where the supervised visitation is court order, the decision regarding who will facilitate the supervised visitation is often made by the presiding court, not the parties involved.

 

 

 

 

My Spouse Has Abused Our Children in the Past; Will He be Granted Custody or Visitation?

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

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Depending on the particular circumstances of the case, it is likely that both parents will be awarded some visitation or parenting time with their children. In Georgia, a judge may award visitation or parenting time to a parent who has committed certain acts of family violence “only if the judge finds that adequate provision for the safety of the child and the parent who is a victim of family violence can be made.” O.C.G.A. § 19-9-7(a). In order to ensure that adequate provisions for the child’s safety have been made, the court may issue the following orders or place one or more of the following conditions on that parent’s visitation or parenting time:

(1) Order an exchange of a child to occur in a protected setting;

(2) Order visitation or parenting time supervised by another person or agency;

(3) Order the perpetrator of family violence to attend and complete, to the satisfaction of the judge, a certified family violence intervention program for perpetrators as defined in Article 1A of Chapter 13 of this title as a condition of the visitation or parenting time;

(4) Order the perpetrator of family violence to abstain from possession or consumption of alcohol, marijuana, or any Schedule I controlled substance listed in Code Section 16-13-25 during the visitation or parenting time and for 24 hours preceding the visitation or parenting time;

(5) Order the perpetrator of family violence to pay a fee to defray the costs of supervised visitation or parenting time;

(6) Prohibit overnight visitation or parenting time;

(7) Require a bond from the perpetrator of family violence for the return and safety of the child; and

(8) Impose any other condition that is deemed necessary to provide for the safety of the child, the victim of family violence, or another family or household member.

O.C.G.A. §19-9-7(a)(1)-(8). The reason why Georgia courts may opt to allow visitation with one or more of the above outlined restrictions in lieu of simply refusing to award a parent with a history of family violence visitation or parenting time is that it is the public policy of Georgia to encourage and foster relationship between children and both parents. Put plainly, the court prefers for both parents to play a role in their children’s lives if at all possible. However, there are situations in which a parent may lose parental custody of his or her children. According to Georgia statutory law, the criteria for loss of parental custody in Georgia is:

“If a child is found under circumstances of destitution and suffering, abandonment, or exposure or if the child has been begging or if it is found that the child is being reared under immoral, obscene, or indecent influences which are likely to degrade his moral character and devote him to a vicious life and it appears to the appropriate court by competent evidence, including such examination of the child as may be practicable, that by reason of the neglect, habitual drunkenness, lewd or other vicious habits, or other behavior of the parents or guardians of the child, it is necessary for the welfare of the child to protect the child from such conditions, the court may order that the parents or guardians be deprived of custody of the child and that appropriate measures as provided by law be taken for the welfare of the child.”

O.C.G.A. § 19-7-4.

If you are currently involved in a child custody or divorce matter and your spouse or ex-spouse has a history of family violence or child abuse, it is imperative that you contact a Georgia family law attorney with experience handling complex child custody maters to guide you through the process of determining what custodial arrangement will be in the best interest of your children.

It is recommended that you seek legal advice from a lawyer to assist you in a custody case involving domestic violence issues.

I Fear My Ex is Abusing Our Children During Visitation, What Can I Do?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

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It’s always a parent’s worst nightmare to learn that his or her child is being hurt, neglected or abused by another individual. This anguish is often compounded if the person who’s causing harm to the child is the child’s other parent. Often parents are unsure how to best deal with the situation, especially if the parents are ex-spouses or co-parents abiding by the terms of a court ordered visitation and child custody arrangement.

If you are in such a situation, where you know or have reason to believe that your child or children are being abused by your ex-spouse during visitation, there are steps that you can and likely should take to protect your children. First, if there is ever a situation where your children are at risk of imminent bodily harm or injury, contact the authorities immediately. Second, although it may be very tempting to do so, you should refrain from attempting to limit or interfere with your ex-spouses parenting time with your children, because doing so would be a violation of the court’s custody and visitation order and would subject you to a possible contempt citation. Although you may not interfere with the violation of the court’s order concerning parenting time, if you have concerns about your children’s safety while they are in the care or your ex-spouse, you should contact a Georgia child custody attorney as soon as possible to discuss filing an emergency petition for modification of custody. Filing an emergency petition for modification of custody and visitation will ensure that the court will hear and rule on the matter more quickly, which is essential in matters where the safety and welfare of children is involved.

Why Do Women Stay In Abusive Marriages?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

As divorce attorneys, we see couples seek divorce for a myriad of reasons, ranging from financial difficulties to infidelity. Even though divorce is a readily available option for couples who are unable to reconcile their marital problems, many victims of domestic violence in Georgia remain in unhealthy and abusive marriages. The question is: Why?

There is no one size fits all answer to this question, but some common reasons why a woman may remain with an abusive mate include:

1. A belief that her partner will eventually reform his ways.

2. Doubts that she will be able to survive economically or otherwise without her abuser.

3. Fear that her abuser will seek and obtain custody of the children if she leaves.

4. Fear that her abuser will hurt, or even kill, her or her children if she leaves.

5. Lack of child support or adequate child care, prohibiting her from obtaining suitable employment.

Regardless of why a woman may decide to remain in an abusive relationship, one thing is certain – no one deserves to live in fear or suffer abuse at the hands of anyone, especially their significant other. If you know a woman who is currently in an abusive relationship, or if you are have suffered abuse at the hands of your spouse, help is available. The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence, and the Georgia Commission of Family Violence are just a sampling of the resources available. Although resources and centers such as the ones previously mentioned are available to help, if you or a loved one is in imminent danger, contact 911 immediately.