2008 The New Year will bring several new laws to Georgia including more changes to the state’s rules for divorcing parents. The new law streamlines the process for determining child custody because the bill’s sponsors said our old laws often trapped kids in traumatic legal battles.

Representative Judy Manning (R) chairs the House Children and Youth Committee. She and other sponsors of the new law said they’d heard from parents of kids stuck in custody fights that never seemed to end.

So, the 2007 legislature passed some changes.

One requires each parent in a custody contest to file a parenting plan with the court. The hope is the judge could then get both parents to sit down and agree on a final plan; so mom and dad won’t fight to pile up hours with the kids, just to win custody from a judge who doesn’t know their individual lives.

“The idea that you can count the hours that you had with your child was really too tight for the parents. It got to be too personal, and too much of a squabble,” Manning said.

Other parts of the new law:

  • Judges can award attorney’s fees. That’s supposed to keep wealthier parents from using constant challenges as a weapon.
  • Parents can further streamline the process by agreeing to use binding arbitration instead of the courts.
  • Kids 14 and over can no longer be the sole deciders of which parent’s house they’ll call home.

    “Sometimes it became part of a bidding war, where one parent would promise a car or a computer or a cell phone or whatever,” Manning said.

    Two years ago, there was a huge fight over how to divvy up money between so-called first and second families. But, this law – to shorten the pain for all kids – passed both the House and Senate with just one no vote.

    The new law also requires courts to keep track of how many custody fights they handle. Up to now, lawmakers and judges haven’t been able to get good statistics on how many kids are affected by custody battles.

  • The video of the broadcast of this report is here.

    SOURCE: WXIA (11Alive.com) by Denis O’Hayer

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    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Public Policy Statement

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Appeals

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Parenting Plans

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Arbitration in Custody Cases

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: No Presumptions in Favor of Either Parent or Form of Custody

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Best Interest Standard

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    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Effective Date