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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:
- Order an exchange of a child to occur in a protected setting;
- Order visitation or parenting time supervised by another person or agency;
- 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;
- 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;
- Order the perpetrator of family violence to pay a fee to defray the costs of supervised visitation or parenting time;
- Prohibit overnight visitation or parenting time;
- Require a bond from the perpetrator of family violence for the return and safety of the child; and
- 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.
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.
Practice Pointer - In cases of family violence in particular, don't go it alone!
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.