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Can Fathers Win Child Custody in Georgia?
Two very commonly asked questions among fathers seeking to win custody of their children in Georgia are: “Can father win child custody in Georgia?” and “Are mothers more likely to be awarded custody over fathers?” To the relief of many men seeking custody of their children in Georgia, the law on both of these matters is very clear. Dads may absolutely be awarded child custody in Georgia, and an award of child custody is not dependent on the sex of the parent, but on the best interests of the child or children involved.
There is no presumption in favor of either a mother or a father under Georgia law.
According to Georgia law concerning child custody, “In all cases in which the custody of any child is at issue between the parents, there shall be no prima-facie right to the custody of the child in the father or mother. There shall be no presumption in favor of any particular form of custody, legal or physical, nor in favor of either parent…” O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3 (a) (1). This statement of Georgia law clearly indicates that regarding child custody determinations in Georgia, both mothers and fathers have equal status under law. Gambrell v. Gambrell, 244 Ga. 178 (1979). Thus, in a contest over child custody between a mother and father, the court may not prefer one parent over the other simply due to the gender of the parent.
In fact, if a court presiding over a child custody matter determines that such a ruling is in the best interests of the child or children involved, Georgia courts may, and often do, award primary custody to the father. See Powell v. Powell, 277 Ga. 878 (2004). Some factors that a court may consider in deterring the custody arrangement that would best serve the child’s best interests include:
- The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child.
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child.
- Each parent’s knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child’s needs.
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, day-to-day needs, and other necessary basic care, with consideration made for the potential payment of child support by the other parent.
- The home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child rather than superficial or material factors.
- The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- Each parent’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the child’s education, social, and extracurricular activities.
- Each parent’s employment schedule and the related flexibility or limitations, if any, of a parent to care for the child.
- Each parent’s past performance and relative abilities for future performance of parenting responsibilities.
- The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationships between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child.
See O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(3). For a more exhaustive discussion of child custody in Georgia and how it is determined, see our articles addressing Child Custody. Specifically, you may wish to begin with our articles entitled: “Determining Child Custody: Best Interests of the Child” “Legal Custody: Generally” and “Physical Custody: Generally.”