Section 5 of HB 369 is where the most substantial changes to Georgia law were made in the bill. It affected several existing Code sections and I will address each by reference to the statute it changed or added.
OCGA section 19-9-5 also had minor stylistic changes made. It deals with the parties’ ability to agree on custody matters and the court’s ability (and responsibility) to review and approve, where appropriate, those agreements:
“(a) In all proceedings under this article between parents, it shall be expressly permissible for the parents of a child to present to the judge an agreement respecting any and all issues concerning custody of the child. As used in this Code section, the term ‘custody’ shall include, without limitation, joint custody as such term is defined in Code Section 19-9-6. As used in this Code section, the term ‘custody’ shall not include payment of child support.
(b) The judge shall ratify the agreement and make such agreement a part of the judge´s final judgment in the proceedings unless the judge makes specific written factual findings as a part of the final judgment that under the circumstances of the parents and the child in such agreement that the agreement would not be in the best interests of the child. The judge shall not refuse to ratify such agreement and to make such agreement a part of the final judgment based solely upon the parents´ choice to use joint custody as a part of such agreement.
(c) In his or her judgment, the judge may supplement the agreement on issues not covered by such agreement.”