Divorce is a difficult process for everyone involved, and the most challenging aspect for many families is determining child custody arrangements. In Georgia, child custody laws are designed to prioritize the best interests of the child while ensuring that both parents have a chance to maintain a relationship with their children.
Today, we want to provide a comprehensive guide to understanding child custody in Georgia, outlining the various types of custody, how custody decisions are made, and more:
Types of Child Custody in Georgia
Georgia law recognizes two types of child custody: legal and physical. Legal custody refers to the right of a parent to make major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, including education, healthcare, and religious training. Physical custody pertains to the actual living arrangements of the child and which parent they reside with.
Both legal and physical custody can be either joint or sole custody. Joint custody means that both parents are responsible for making decisions about the child’s upbringing, while sole custody grants that responsibility to only one parent. Similarly, joint physical custody involves the child living with each parent for a significant portion of the time, while sole physical custody means the child resides primarily with one parent and has visitation with the other.
How Custody Decisions Are Made in Georgia
Child custody decisions in Georgia are made by the court when parents are unable to reach an agreement on their own. Georgia law requires that the judge make a decision based on the best interests of the child. The court may also appoint a Guardian ad Litem, a neutral third party, to represent the best interests of the child and help the judge make the final decision.
Factors Considered in Determining the Best Interests of the Child
Georgia courts consider a variety of factors when determining the best interests of a child in a custody case. Some of these factors include:
- The emotional ties between the child and each parent
- Each parent’s ability to provide a stable home environment
- The capacity of each parent to meet the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs
- The mental and physical health of both parents
- Each parent’s involvement in the child’s life and their ability to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent
- The child’s preference, if the child is of sufficient age and maturity to express a preference
- Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse by either parent
- The willingness and ability of each parent to encourage and support the child’s relationship with the other parent
It is important to note that the court does not automatically favor one parent over the other based on gender. Both mothers and fathers have equal rights to custody, and the court will consider the best interests of the child in determining the appropriate custodial arrangement.
Modifying Child Custody Orders in Georgia
Once a child custody order is established, it may be modified in the future if there is a significant change in circumstances that affects the best interests of the child. Some examples of significant changes may include a parent’s relocation, a change in the child’s needs, or a parent’s inability to comply with the existing custody arrangement.
That said, to modify a custody order, a parent must file a petition with the court and demonstrate that the change in circumstances warrants a modification of the custody arrangement.
Navigating the complexities of child custody in a Georgia divorce can be daunting, but understanding the basics of the state’s custody laws and the factors that the court considers can help parents to advocate for the best interests of their children. But of course, it is always advisable to consult with an experienced family law attorney to ensure that your rights as a parent are protected and that you are making informed decisions about your child’s future.
Hanks, Ballard & Barth is a law firm offering expert attorneys that are ready to assist clients in a variety of practice areas, helping clients get the best outcome possible. If you seek a family law attorney in Monroe, GA, work with us today!