When parents divorce or separate, child custody is often a central focus of the legal proceedings. Parents may agree on the terms of a custody agreement. However, when parents disagree, the court must make custody decisions for them.
Judges do not give parents a preference in child custody cases. All custody cases are decided based on the best interests of the child. Even if the parents agree on custody terms, judges review the agreement to ensure it is in a child’s best interest.
What Is Child Custody?
Child custody refers to legal and/or physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions for a child. Decisions you can make for your child if you have legal custody include, but are not limited to, decisions related to health care, education, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing.
Physical custody refers to the parent caring for a child’s day-to-day needs. Generally, a child lives primarily with one parent, even when parents share joint custody. The parent who has the child with them most of the time is the custodial parent.
What Factors Affect Child Custody Decisions in Georgia?
Georgia Code §19-9-3 lists the factors judges must consider when deciding custody decisions. Judges may also consider other factors relevant to determining the best interests of a child.
Five of the factors that affect child custody decisions in Georgia are:
A Parent’s Willingness To Take Care of a Child
Some parents might not want to have primary custody of their child. Their job or career could prevent them from being home when the child needs them or being available to take the child to school, sports, and other activities.
Therefore, a parent can willingly concede to allow the other parent to have primary custody. The judge could also decide a parent is unwilling to care for a child if the parent says they will hire babysitters to do most of the parenting. The judge might place the child with the other parent in that case.
A Child’s Needs
Some children may have special needs. One parent may be more equipped to care for the child’s special needs. If so, the judge might grant primary custody to the parent who can provide the care the child needs.
Evidence of Child Abuse or Domestic Violence
Courts take allegations of abuse and domestic violence very seriously. The court will investigate the allegations to protect the child. If there is sufficient evidence to prove that a parent is guilty of child abuse or domestic violence, the judge may grant sole custody to the other parent.
Some parents allege abuse and violence as a way to gain sole custody. False allegations of domestic violence and sexual abuse could backfire on a parent. The judge would view false allegations made knowingly by a parent very negatively when deciding custody.
The Relations Between the Child and the Parents
A relationship between a child and a parent could affect child custody decisions. For example, suppose a parent has not developed a close relationship with a child, but now they want joint custody. The other parent might request a psychological evaluation to determine how forcing the child into a relationship now would impact the child.
Another example would be if a parent had evidence that the other parent was engaging in parental alienation. If so, the judge might grant sole custody to the parent who is not engaging in such tactics, which can be harmful to a child.
The Stability of the Home Environment
The court is concerned about providing a stable, safe home environment for a child. If a child has been living in a home for as long as they remember and they have siblings that remain in that home, removing the child from the home could be detrimental to the child.
On the other hand, suppose a home is unsafe, or the parent exposes the child to things that could harm the child. In that situation, the judge might grant custody to the other parent, even if the child must move to a new home.
Other Factors That Could Affect Child Custody in Georgia
Your Douglasville child custody lawyer discusses other factors that could impact custody matters in your case. Being prepared to respond to various allegations by your ex can help you win a child custody case.
An experienced attorney is invaluable during a child custody case. Your attorney prepares you for what to expect, gathers evidence to support your allegations, and prepares a strategy for obtaining your desired outcome. Most importantly, your attorney advocates for your parental rights and the child’s best interest.
Contact the Georgia Family Law Firm of Bardley McKnight Law for Help Today
We proudly serve Douglas County and its surrounding areas:
Law Firm of Bardley McKnight Law Offices
12461 Veterans Memorial Hwy, Suite 470
Douglasville, GA 30134