GeorgiaChild Custody Law
Georgia Child Custody Guide :: Table of Contents
Child custody is defined as the guardianship over a child, which covers both physical custody and legal custody. In a child custody dispute the court may award joint custody to both parents or sole custody to a single parent.
Child custody cases in Georgia can be either contested and resolved by court order, or noncontested and defined in a child custody agreement between the parents. A custody agreement or order will legally determine, at minimum, the following things:
- Where the child lives (physical custody)
- Who is involved in making parenting decisions (legal custody)
- How the visitation schedule with non-custodial parents or relatives is arranged
This page describes how a contested child custody case is handled in the Georgia court system, and what factors are used to determine which parent gets custody.
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After a breakup or divorce in Georgia, couples with children must come to a child custody agreement that describes which parent the children will live with, how visitation will be scheduled, and how the non-custodial parent will pay child support.
Some of the factors considered by Georgia in child custody cases include the child's wishes and any history of domestic violence.
What Criteria is Considered in Determining the Child's Best Interests?The duty of the judge in all such cases shall be to exercise discretion to look to and determine solely what is for the best interest of the child and what will best promote the child's welfare and happiness and to make his or her award accordingly. In determining the best interests of the child, the judge may consider any relevant factor including, but not limited to:
- The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child
- The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and his or her siblings, half siblings, and stepsiblings and the residence of such other children
- 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
- 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
- The mental and physical health of each parent
- Each parent's involvement, or lack thereof, in the child's educational, 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
- The home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of 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 relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child
- Any recommendation by a court appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem
- Any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse or criminal history of either parent
- Any evidence of substance abuse by either parent
What Happens if there is Evidence of Domestic Violence?In addition to other factors that a judge may consider in a proceeding in which the custody of a child or visitation or parenting time by a parent is at issue and in which the judge has made a finding of family violence:
- The judge shall consider as primary the safety and well-being of the child and of the parent who is the victim of family violence
- The judge shall consider the perpetrator's history of causing physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or causing reasonable fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault to another person
- If a parent is absent or relocates because of an act of domestic violence by the other parent, such absence or relocation for a reasonable period of time in the circumstances shall not be deemed an abandonment of the child for the purposes of custody determination
- The judge shall not refuse to consider relevant or otherwise admissible evidence of acts of family violence merely because there has been no previous finding of family violence.
If the parents are on amicable terms they may agree to custody terms in a parenting agreement between themselves, or via a mediator. If child custody is disputed, however, they will have to receive a child custody order from a Georgia judge, who will attempt to make a custody decision that is in the "best interests of the child".
In the state of Georgia, a number of factors are taken into account by the courts when determining who gets child custody. This section describes Georgia's custody factors, considerations, and presumptions when evaluating a custody order.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating child custody in the state of Georgia?
Georgia has a list of statutory factors that are considered by the court when determining a custody order. This list may include factors such as the child's age, the living situation of each parent, any history of abuse or neglect from either parent, etc. Although there is a statutory list of factors, consider other factors at its discretion depending on the particular circumstances of the case.
Do judges in the state of Georgia favor joint custody?
Judges in Georgia are authorized to order either joint or single-parent custody of a child subject to a custody dispute.
Courts in Georgia do not have a presumption in favor joint custody orders when evaluating child custody. The judge will evaluate the specifics of the custody dispute to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
Do Georgia courts encourage parents to cooperate together to raise the child?
It is not particularly encouraged that the parents cooperative together to raise the child.
Are the child's wishes considered when determining custody in the state of Georgia?
In Georgia, the court does consider the child's reasonable wishes when determining which parent wins custody. The judge may take the child's age, maturity, and judgement into consideration when considering the child's custody preference.
Do Georgia courts consider domestic violence when determining custody?
Georgia has laws that explicitly permit the consideration of domestic violence in conjunction with child custody. This may mean that domestic violence is a statutory factor in custody determinations, that the court has a presumption against custody for abusers, or that special procedural considerations are imposed in cases involving domestic violence.
Do the courts in the state of Georgia have the right to hire an attorney or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child?
Georgia has statutory authority for appointment of a guardian ad litem or attorney specifically to represent the child in a custody case. This person advocates for the best interest of the child, and is tasked with investigating the family situation and advising the court what custody situation would be in the best interests of the child.