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Statutory Factors for Determining Custody in Georgia

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When parents decide to divorce or separate in the state of Georgia, there is an urgent need to determine how the couple will share custody of their children. At Buckhead Family Law, we understand that determining custody is never an easy task. Sometimes, a custody agreement can be reached just between the parents if they remain amicable and can agree as to what is best for their children. Often times, however, you will need to work with your attorney and may even need to appear before a judge to iron out custody arrangements and details. Regardless of the circumstances, the main priority is to always consider the best interests of the children involved. There are statutory factors for determining custody in Georgia, and they will play a key role and become a central part of the argument for each parent.

Statutory Factors for Determining Custody in Georgia

Georgia has custody laws that a judge needs to follow to ensure that the child’s best interests are the primary reason and focal point for all decisions. It is up to the parents (and their lawyers) to show that they fulfill these requirements. In a perfect situation, both parents fit into the statutory factors for determining custody in Georgia, but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

Child custody laws in Georgia, as set forth in O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3, dictate that a judge needs to consider all of the following factors, along with anything else he or she deems appropriate that may impact a child’s best interests:

  • The home environment of each parent;
  • The parent’s ability to care for the child;
  • The emotional ties to the child;
  • The parent’s ability to provide the child with necessities such as food, clothing, and medical care;
  • The relationships between the child and any sibling, stepsibling, half-siblings, and children who are in the home;
  • The parent’s involvement in extra-curricular activities and school;
  • The stability of the parent;
  • Any history of substance abuse by the parent;
  • Any history of abuse (physical or sexual) by the parent; and
  • Any history of neglect or criminality with the parent.

Sometimes, the judge has a difficult time determining which parent fits best when looking at each specific category, so he or she will appoint a guardian ad litem, who will represent the best interests of the child in court. He or she may also assign a custody evaluator who needs to meet with the family to help assess the overall situation and give their opinion on the custody arrangement based on their findings and observations. Of course, lawyers are also necessary to help present the case to the judge.

Often the judge tor will use a chart (as shown below) when evaluating the statutory factors for determining custody in Georgia. Parents and lawyers can also utilize this chart to proactively prepare their arguments for each category.

Georgia Custody Factors

 

O.C.G.A. 19-9-3(a)(3)(A)-(Q) Mother Father Notes
(A) The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child;      
(B) 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;      
(C) 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;      
(D) Each parent’s knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child’s needs;      
(E) 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;      
(F) The home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child rather than superficial or material factors;      
(G) 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;      
(H) 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;      
(I) The mental and physical health of each parent, except to the extent as provided in Code Section 30-4-5 and paragraph (3) of subsection (a) of Code Section 19-9-3 and such factors as provided in Code Section 15-11-26;      
(J) Each parent’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the child’s educational, social, and extracurricular activities;      
(K) Each parent’s employment schedule and the related flexibility or limitations, if any, of a parent to care for the child;      
(L) The home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of the child;      
(M) Each parent’s past performance and relative abilities for future performance of parenting responsibilities;      
(N) 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;      
(O) Any recommendation by a court appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem;

 

     
(P) Any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse or criminal history of either parent; and

 

     
(Q) Any evidence of substance abuse by either parent.      
Totals:      

 

What Happens After Determining Custody?

After determining custody, Georgia law also requires divorcing parents to submit a Parenting Plan to the court that focuses on addressing the best interests of the child. Parents have the option to work together to create this plan, or they can submit separate plans that the court may then consider separately or combine. The Parenting Plan should outline the needs of the child and propose how the child’s time should be divided. There are many different custody schedules that can be considered when developing a Parenting Plan, based on the needs of your children and your family.

The plan will also dictate the parameters for each parent’s access and relationship with the child, including both physical and legal custody. The judge will take the plans and determine how the elements of each fit into the best interests and lifestyle of the child.

Get Help with Your Custody Battle Today

In the end, every parent values time with their child. If you want to discuss the statutory factors for determining custody in Georgia or if you need to reevaluate or modify your child custody agreement in Atlanta, our team is here for you. This can be a confusing time in your life, but professional help is available. The lawyers at Buckhead Family Law are here to assist you and help this be a positive turning point for your family. Schedule a consultation by calling at 404-600-1403.

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