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Visitation & Parental Rights


When two parents decide to end their relationship, some of the most challenging issues that may arise involve arrangements relating to child custody, child support, and visitation. If you are facing a potential conflict in this area or want to learn more about your options, you should contact the family law lawyers at Rowsey & Stelter. The Atlanta attorneys on our staff have helped many parents understand and navigate rules regarding visitation and parental rights. We proudly serve clients in communities throughout Georgia, such as Marietta, Alpharetta, Sandy Springs, and Roswell.


If a child is born to a married couple, both parents have equal rights, even if they marry after the mother became pregnant. A father also has parental rights if he was married to the mother at the time the child was conceived, notwithstanding any subsequent divorce. However, if the parents were never married, only the mother has parental rights, unless the child has been legally legitimated. Whether the father’s name is listed on the birth certificate has no impact on this rule.

Any individual with parental rights may have the authority to retain custody and to make decisions regarding the upbringing of the child. Even when a couple divorces or separates, both parents retain their rights unless a court-imposed order intervenes. While a court does have the power to terminate parental rights, this action is taken only in a narrow range of extreme circumstances because of its gravity.

Custody is divided into two types: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the right of a parent to live with a child, while legal custody concerns the authority of a parent to make decisions on behalf of the child with respect to health, education, and other important issues. When parents divorce or separate, they must establish a parenting plan that addresses their allocation of these rights. They can arrive at this arrangement on their own and submit it to the court for approval, or the court can devise a parenting plan if the former spouses cannot agree. In many cases, the parents will continue to share both physical and legal custody in a framework that is called joint custody. However, a court can allocate sole physical or legal custody, or both, to one parent or the other if it finds this appropriate in a certain situation.


A party that does not have physical custody of a minor still may have visitation rights. Like custody, these are based on the court’s determination of what is in the best interests of the child. Visitation rights may apply in cases where it is not appropriate for one of the parents to retain physical custody.

In some instances, it may not be feasible for a parent to spend significant time living with the child, such as if he or she has a job that entails a distant move or extensive travel. When this happens, the parents or the court may develop a parenting plan under which one parent retains physical custody, and the non-custodial parent has visitation rights. His or her opportunities to see the child will be regularly scheduled and may not be infringed unless the court alters them.

In other situations, visitation rights may be granted if one parent is found unfit to retain custody. This may happen if he or she has serious mental or physical problems, or has a history of substance abuse or domestic violence. Georgia courts encourage children to develop relationships with both parents, but they have discretion to disallow visitation or custody if the child’s safety or proper development is at risk. The court may even require that any visitation is supervised by a third party.

Non-parents may also have these rights. For example, a child’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, or even step-parents may petition for the right to see a child, even if they are estranged from the parent or other adult who retains physical custody.


These are just some of the issues that may be involved in parental rights and visitation. They are complex areas where the advice of a legal professional is especially valuable. To speak with a knowledgeable attorney in the Atlanta area, contact the divorce lawyers at Rowsey & Stelter for a free consultation. Many former spouses and parents from Fulton, Cobb, and DeKalb Counties have benefited from our guidance and representation. We can be reached at 770-993-5317 or through our online form.

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Roswell, GA 30075

(770) 993-5317

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