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Do Georgia Custody Parenting Plans Have Requirements to be Approved?

Yes, under Georgia law there are several requirements a parenting plan must contain. In Dunn vs. Dunn, a 2023 Georgia Court of Appeals divorce case, it was held that the trial court was mistaken by failing to incorporate or address several issues and “recognitions” that are specifically required to be in parenting plans as required by O.C.G.A. §19-9-1.

Statute O.C.G.A. §19-9-1 provides that the final order in any legal action involving the custody of a child must incorporate a permanent parenting plan that, unless otherwise ordered by the court, includes the following language or recognitions:

  • A recognition that a close and continuing parent/child relationship and continuity in the child’s life will be in the child’s best interest;
  • A recognition that the child’s needs will change and grow as the child matures and demonstrate that the parents will make an effort to parent that takes this issue into account so that future modifications to the parenting plan are minimized;
  • A recognition that a parent with physical custody will make day-to-day decisions and emergency decisions while the child is residing with such parent; and
  • That both parents will have access to all of the child’s records and information, including, but not limited to, education, health, health insurance, extracurricular activities, and religious communications.

In Dunn, the Wife filed for divorce against the Husband, and sought in relevant part, permanent custody of the parties’ minor children. The Husband counterclaimed for sole custody. Ultimately, the trial court held a bench trial during which both parties, three witnesses, and the guardian ad litem testified. The court issued a final judgment and decree of divorce granting the parties joint legal custody of their four children with the Wife having primary physical custody and final decision-making authority, and incorporated a parenting plan into the divorce’s final order. The Husband appealed the final order, contending that the trial court erred in failing to incorporate a parenting plan as required by O.C.G.A. §19-9-1.

The Court of Appeals agreed and found that the parenting plan in question did not comply with the requirements of O.C.G.A. §19-9-1 because it did not include any of the “recognitions” outlined above. Because the parenting plan was statutorily inadequate, the Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case for compliance with the statutory requirements.

It’s of the utmost importance that all requirements are met when seeking to incorporate a parenting plan into a final decree of divorce or custody case. There are additional terms that must be included in a parenting plan other than those at issue in Dunn. All of the attorneys with Naggiar & Sarif, LLC are well-versed in drafting parenting plans in compliance with Georgia law. If you need assistance with a matter pertaining to minor children, the attorneys with Naggiar & Sarif, LLC are ready to help.