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Child Custody – Georgia Case Law Update

On March 23, 2009, the Supreme Court of Georgia affirmed the trial court’s denial of the wife’s motion for new trial in her divorce action in Rembert v. Rembert (S08F1582). Specifically, the wife alleged that the trial court erred in granting final decision making authority to the husband, who was the primary physical custodian of the parties’ children, and in awarding primary physical custody to the husband.

In regard to decision making, the wife argued that the parties did not truly have joint legal custody because the husband had final decision making authority. The Supreme Court disagreed,reaffirming a prior holding that the language of the statute governing legal custody “clearly vests in the trial court discretion to decide which parent should be empowered to make final decisions where the parents are unable to agree.” Citing Frazier v. Frazier, 280 Ga. 687, 690 (2006). As the primary physical custodian, it was appropriate that the father had final decision making authority in the likely event that the parties would not agree.

In regard to primary physical custody, the Supreme Court held that it would not disturb the trial court’s judgment awarding custody to the father, who had a stable home and a job with a regular schedule, instead of the mother, who was dating a married man, was a full time student with substantial debt, and had threatened the life of a neighbor.

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