What Are The “Best Interests of the Child?”
In child custody and visitation determinations, one may hear the phrase “the best interests of the child” fairly often. This is the standard that Georgia courts must use when making decisions that concern the lives of children, most often during divorce proceedings. It is a good idea for you as a parent to have an understanding of what constitutes the best interests of the child, so that you can react accordingly if custody issues come up during your divorce.
No Clear-Cut Definition
While no one definition of “best interests of the child” exists, the general understanding of the term is that it refers to the caregivers and overall situation that will allow the child or children to flourish the most, in a physical, mental and emotional sense. That situation comprises assurances of safety and health for the child, as well as a resolve to work toward avoiding family separation at all possible costs – it is the public policy of the state of Georgia to ensure that a child has a relationship with both parents unless it is not in that child’s best interests.
Thus, the “best interests of the child” is a shorthand of sorts, signifying that custody determinations in divorce cases must be made so as to put the couple’s child or children in the best possible place to grow. When courts are making custody determinations, they have a list of approximately 20 factors that must be considered before a decision can be made. However, these factors are not exhaustive, and if you can add anything to your case that might help the judge decide, it is incumbent on you to include it.
In addition to the factors described in the relevant statute, other factors can play a role in determining the best interests of the child. The parenting plan or plans put forward by the divorcing spouses is often something the judge will consider, especially if the spouses can agree on one plan. Generally, parents will know their children best, and they will have the most information close to hand in determining the best possible parenting plan going forward. However, that does assume both parents will act in good faith, and not out of simple selfish desires to have more parenting time or to ‘win’ over the other parent.
Another factor that is sometimes overlooked is the child’s preference. Georgia law mandates that a child who is between 11 and 14 years old can state a preference as to which parent they would prefer to live with, and it will be considered by the judge as another factor. The choice of a child aged 14 years old and above will generally be honored unless it can be shown that their pick is not in their best interests, which can be surprisingly difficult to prove.
Call An Atlanta Family Lawyer
When determining child custody, the best interests of the child will always be paramount for the court. If you are unclear as to what your children’s best interests are, it may not reflect well on your ability to act in the best way for your children. Contacting a dedicated Atlanta child custody attorney can help clear matters up. The experienced Atlanta child custody lawyers at Buckhead Family Law are ready and willing to try and help you through what is often the toughest part of divorce proceedings. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.