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Custody and visitation: don't be blind to the risks

Tonight's post on the perils of custody was written by one of our Atlanta divorce attorney's, Dina Khismatulina.

Sharing custody of your children is highly stressful and emotional. Parents often disagree on how to raise their children, and anything can easily become a hot issue - from children's extracurricular activities, to choice of schools, summer camps to visitation schedules, medical treatment and even children's clothes. I even argued a case in which the parents had to go to court over ADHD medication.

It is no secret that modification of custody and contempt actions take time and money

  The prospect of paying legal fees for at least several months in order to change the current situation, coupled with family law courts' backed up schedules, can send anybody into disarray. Feeling powerless in such situations sometimes pushes parents to make crazy decisions. "An eye for an eye" is still a popular concept in custody battles.

For example, it is not uncommon for parents to decide to withhold visitations in order to get child support, or block telephone or Skype access between a child and the other parent in order to make the other parent more inclined to cooperate. Or, a parent might take his or her children and flee.

That is why it is critical to know that in Georgia, interference with court-ordered custody is taken very seriously, and, under O.C.G.A. §16-5-45, such interference can result in criminal charges punishable by a fine and/or even jail time. It is worth noting that any person who, without lawful authority to do so, knowingly or recklessly takes or entices any child away from the individual who has lawful custody of such child, or knowingly harbors any child who has been abducted, or intentionally or willfully retains possession of the child upon the expiration of a lawful period of visitation with the child, commits the offence of interference with custody. The first instance of interference is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of between $200.00 and $500.00, or jail time of up to five months, or both. The second conviction is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.00 or jail time of up to 12 months, or both. The third and any subsequent conviction is a felony punishable by up to 5 years.

If a parent removes a child from the state and intentionally retains possession of the child in another state after the expiration of lawful visitation for the purpose of keeping a child away from the lawful custodian, such interference is always a felony and punishable by jail time of up to 5 years.

So, avoid making hasty decisions. As Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." Besides, you want to see your children, and there will be very limited opportunities to see your children if you end up in jail.

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