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Appeal of Georgia custody determination

The Supreme Court of Georgia often hears appeals of custody determinations, though the standard to overturn a trial court’s ruling on this issue is very high. In a recent case, the parties’ Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce awarded the parties joint legal custody of their eight-year-old daughter, with the Wife receiving primary physical custody and the Husband receiving visitation. Reed v. Reed, S11A0085 (2011). The Husband appealed, challenging the trial court’s custody determination. Id.

The Supreme Court of Georgia disagreed with the Husband, emphasizing long standing Georgia law that, so long as the trial court used its discretion “to determine solely what is for the best interest of the child and what will best promote the child’s welfare and happiness,” the Court will not interfere. Id. at 1-2; OCGA §19-9-3(a)(2). The Court found that there was“ample evidence” to support the trial court’s custody award, specifically that “…Wife had served as primary caregiver since the child’s birth and had a strong, loving relationship with the child, and that Husband had on occasions both before and during the divorce proceedings exhibited conduct casting doubt on his trustworthiness, truthfulness, and judgment.” Reed, at 2.The Supreme Court of Georgia touched on the Husband’s argument that the trial court “failed to consider the Wife’s anticipated move to North Carolina,” but held that the trial court considered this fact and “did not find it dispositive with regard to the child’s best interests.” Id. Thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion and the judgment was affirmed.


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