What's Going to Happen to My Children?
When going through a divorce, a question on the forefront of nearly everyone's mind is "what is going to happen to my children?" Determining child custody is complex, and often extremely challenging for parents to work through. In Georgia, custody is awarded based on the "best interests of the child" standard. This standard allows a judge to use their discretion in determining "what will best promote the child's welfare and happiness" when awarding custody.
Factors Used to
There is a plethora
of factors that are considered when making this determination -however- just
as the factors are used to award custody, they can also be used to revoke it.
Being awarded custody is by no means permanent, and Georgia courts have decided
that since children are living beings who mature
and develop in unforeseeable directions, the initial award of custody may not
always remain the selection that promotes the best interests of the child.
Georgia law sets
forth factors that a Judge must consider when determining custody. However, a
judge is not limited to making a determination based off the statutory factors -he or she is free to consider anything else the judge feels might have an
impact on the best interests of the children. If upon examination
of the statutory factors, and any other applicable circumstances, a judge finds that a
parent exhibits behaviors which do not meet the appropriate best interest of the
child standard, a parent stands to lose custody of their child. The statutory list is by no means exhaustive, and Georgia gives judges broad discretion
in determining child custody.
While it is true that Georgia highly values the relationship between children and parents, the State will not put a child at risk just so they can remain in custody of a parent. When a parent fails to meet any of the statutory factors, they open themselves up to the risk of losing custody of their children. Everything in a custody proceeding is done with the best interests of the child coming first and foremost, and for that very reason the decision to revoke custody from a parent is not made lightly. Courts are required to make a threshold finding that there has been a material change in circumstances before it considers what is in the best interests of the child for the purpose of determining whether to modify custody.
To avoid something like this happening to you, it is important to remain calm, encourage your child to have a relationship with the other parent, and above all else, remember what is at stake, your children. The interests and what is best for your children come first.
Written by: Sandra Elizabeth Kuhlmann