Child custody agreements are one of the most difficult aspects of a divorce. Weekends, school breaks and holidays are usually important dates for families, and you must suddenly share them. Just because two people no longer desire to remain together doesn’t mean they don’t want to be in their child’s life.
According to a 2018 study, Georgia fathers receive the fifth-least amount of custody time among the 50 states. Only Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee ranked lower. This is a sad reality for many Georgia families. It’s unclear from the law alone why Georgia fathers don’t receive more parenting time.
Determining your “child’s best interest”
One of the greatest factors in determining child custody is the best interest of that child. This phrase covers a lot of ground in a court room when attempting to answer as many questions as possible about the family’s situation.
Georgia’s child custody statute says the court must consider all factors before ruling. This is to increase the likelihood of a fair hearing for all parties. Those factors include:
- Preference of the parents and child: The court will consider the wishes of the parents and the child when determining custody.
- Suitability of the parents: The goal of the court is to place the child in the situation where the child is likely to develop into a properly functioning adult. That means a parent’s ability to meet the mental and emotional needs of their child come into play. Additionally, a parent’s ability to provide food, clothing, education and healthcare for their child also matters.
- Welfare of the child: Of utmost importance is that the ruling places the child in a home free of domestic violence, sexual abuse or substance abuse. It’s the court’s job to put the health and safety of a child first.
- Uniqueness of the situation: Aside from ensuring the child’s health and safety, disrupting their life as little as possible is another goal. Experiencing their parents’ divorce is likely disruptive enough. Courts will weigh their relationships with any siblings, location of their school and any community ties such as religious groups or clubs.
If it’s any consolation for the parent without primary custody, a child may choose who they want to live with upon reaching the age of 14. They may have their custody changed every two years after that.
There is so much that goes into determining the custody of the child that it is seldom a simple decision. Many factors and circumstances come into play and the court must weigh them against each other.