Temporary Custody Laws For Children in Georgia

By Elizabeth Rayne, J.D.

Father and daughter

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In some cases, it is in the best interest of the child to create a temporary custody arrangement before the court makes a final determination of custody. Temporary custody is often awarded in cases of divorce, but it may also become an issue between unmarried parents. Additionally, in cases of abuse, a grandparent or other relative may seek temporary custody of the child.

Temporary Orders

When parents get divorced, either parent may request a temporary hearing before the final trial. During the temporary hearing, the court may establish orders affecting custody, support, alimony or parenting time. The temporary orders will only be in effect until the final trial, during which the judge will make final rulings and establish the permanent custody arrangement. In some cases, the court may require parents to bring a proposed parenting plan to the temporary hearing to assist the judge with deciding the temporary custody arrangement.

How to Request Temporary Custody

In order to request temporary custody, you must first request a temporary hearing, also known in some Georgia counties as Rule Nisi. Check with your county courthouse to obtain the correct Rule Nisi or temporary hearing request form. Fill out the form, and submit an original and one copy of the form to the courthouse. The judge will set a date for the temporary hearing. You must serve a copy of the request with the hearing date to the opposing party. At the temporary hearing, the court will determine temporary custody, based on the best interest of the child.

Unmarried Parents and Custody

In Georgia, if the parents are not married, the mother will have custody of the child until paternity is established. The biological father may file a petition in court to "legitimate" his child. The mother has the right to contest the petition by asserting the petitioner is not the biological father of her child or has lost his "opportunity interest" to develop a relationship with the child. In the same petition as the one for paternity, the father may request custody or visitation with the child. The father has the option to request a temporary hearing to establish a temporary custody order.

Temporary Custody by Other Parties

In situations of abuse or neglect, the state or a third party may intervene and request temporary custody of a child from the court. The juvenile court has the power to grant custody to parties other than the parents when the parents are unfit to care for the child. Following allegations of abuse or neglect, the court my temporarily grant custody to the Department of Children and Family Services or to a family member. The court may return custody to the parents if the situation has improved, such as when parents have undergone substance abuse treatment.