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In the event the parties can not agree, the court looks to the best interest of the child to determine custody.  Of course, in many cases, what is in the best interest of the child is often hotly debated.  In these cases, Georgia law provides that the duty of a judge in a case concerning child custody is to determine what will best promote the child’s welfare and happiness by considering any relevant factor including, but not limited to:

  1. The emotional ties existing between each parent and the child
  2. The emotional ties existing between the child and his or her siblings
  3. 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
  4. Each parent’s knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child’s needs
  5. 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
  6. The home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child 
  7. 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
  8. The stability of the family unit of each of the parents and the presence or absence of each parent’s support systems within the community to benefit the child
  9. The mental and physical health of each parent
  10. Each parent’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the child’s education, social, and extracurricular activities
  11. Each parent’s past performance and relative abilities for future performance of parenting responsibilities
  12. The home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of the child

O.C.G.A. § §§ 19-9-3(a)(3)(A)-(Q)

Child's Election

At age 14, a child may elect which parent he or she wants to be their physical custodian. Georgia law provides that: “In all custody cases in which the child has reached the age of 14 years, the child shall have the right to select the parent with whom he or she desires to live. The child's election for purposes of custody shall be presumptive unless...

Special Child Custody Factors

  • Physical Abuse

    Depending on the particular circumstances of the case, it is likely that both parents will be awarded some visitation or parenting time with their children. In Georgia, a judge may award visitation or parenting time to a parent who has committed certain acts of family violence “only if the judge finds that adequate provision for the safety of the child and the parent who is a victim of family violence can be made.” O.C.G.A. § 19-9-7(a). In order to ensure that adequate provisions for the child’s safety have been made, the court may issue the following orders or place one or more of the following conditions on that parent’s visitation or parenting time:

  • Alcohol & Substance Abuse

    One parent’s decisions regarding his or her consumption of alcohol may potentially have a negative impact on that parent’s chances of obtaining custody of his or her children. As mentioned in our other articles, Georgia courts look to several factors when determining child custody. These factors include a parent’s decisions concerning alcohol consumptions. Although a judge will not grant

  • Moving

    Given the modern world, it is common to have parents ask about how moving (especially out of state) may impact custody decisions in their case.  In short, it depends upon the entire set of factors, but in general, the parent attempting to move away with the child should give serious consideration as to the effect this type of move may have on the other parent's ability to maintain an ongoing relationship with their child.  

  • Co-Parenting

    Although it may seem like a daunting task to sit down with your ex-spouse or soon to be ex-spouse to work out a parenting plan or visitation schedule, one thing is certain-- you and your co-parent are the only two people who truly know your children, their needs and your schedules. Only you can create the plan that will best fit the needs of the divided family. In order to create a plan that works, you must work together. You must co-parent. Co-parenting includes coordinating your schedules and those of the children, working together for visitation exchange, working out holidays and making collaborative decisions regarding the children.

  • Parental Employment

    Many parents facing the eventuality of divorce may wonder: “May my job affect my ability to obtain custody of my children?” Parents who have erratic or very demanding work schedules, parents who have to travel frequently for work or parents who engage in work in specific industries, like the entertainment industry, may worry that their employment may affect a court’s custody determination...

  • Parental Alienation

    Parental Alienation often involves one parent making disparaging, negative and sometimes false statements to the child involved about the other parent in order to cause the child to foster negative feelings toward the other parent and cling more closely to the alienating parent. Parental alienation is more than just one or two instances of a parent making negative statements about the other parent, but involves systematic behavior of the alienating parent with the ultimate aim of causing the child to despise or shun the other parent just a much as the alienating parent does. Regardless of how parental alienation is defined, it has a negative impact not only on the parent who is the brunt of the alienation, but also on the children who are victimized by it.

Custody Evaluations

A judge may order an evaluation to aid in the custody determination. 

  • Guardian Ad Litem

    A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is either an attorney or other qualified professional, such as a mental health professional, appointed by the judge to assist in a domestic relations case concerning...
    Read More
  • Psychological Evaluations

    Superior court judges presiding over cases involving child custody determinations may seek recommendations from outside sources in determining what custody or visitation arrangement will be...
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