Are you considering filing for child custody in Georgia? Whether you're planning to use a lawyer or file pro se (which means representing yourself), you'll want to first learn everything you can about the child custody laws in Georgia. Never assume that the case will go your way. It's always best to read the child custody laws for yourself so that you can be the best advocate for your children. Here's what you need to know to get started:
Child Custody Laws in Georgia
Primarily, you can expect family courts in Georgia to base child custody decisions on what is known as the best interests of the child standard. This means that the judge will look first to what is best for the children in your case, before considering what you want or what your ex wants. It's also important to note that the state of Georgia evaluates each case individually. The judge takes the time to get know your situation and examines the types of child custody options available before deciding to rule for sole custody or joint custody. That's why it is so important to get to know the child custody laws in Georgia for yourself, so that you can know ahead of time what to expect.
Best Interests of the Child
What does the phrase 'the best interests of the child' really mean? Family courts in Georgia use the following factors to determine the best interests of the child:
- The child's wishes: At the age of 14, a child can determine where he/she would like to live. (If the child is 11 to 14, the court will consider the child's wishes.)
- The relationship between the parent and his/her child
- The relationship between the child and his/her siblings
- Each parent's ability to provide for the child, financially
- The safety of the home environment
- The mental and physical health of the parents
- Each parent's employment schedule and flexibility to care for the child
- Each parent's willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the co-parent
- Each parent's involvement in the child's educational, social, and extracurricular activities
- Any evidence of domestic violence or abuse
- Evidence of criminal activities
Parenting Plans in Georgia
In addition, Georgia requires parents to submit a parenting plan to the courts for initial child custody determinations and modifications. A parenting plan will include:
- Recognition that a close and continuous relationship will be in the child's best interest
- Recognition that a parent with physical custody of a child will make day-to-day decisions for the child when the child is with the parent
- How holidays, birthdays, and school vacations will be handled by both parents
- Allocation of decision-making to one or both parents with regard to the child's education, health, extra-curricular activities, etc.
Parents who cannot agree on a parenting plan should present a proposed parenting plan to the court. If either parent does not submit a parenting plan, the judge may adopt the plan of the other parent, if it is deemed to be in the best interests of the child.
For more information regarding child custody in Georgia, please refer to the Georgia Domestic Relations statute or speak with a qualified attorney in Georgia.
Edited by Jennifer Wolf.