Child custody is a legal term regarding guardianship which can be described as the practical and legal relationship between a parent/guardian and a child in that person’s care. Child custody consists of legal custody, which is the right to make decisions about the child, and physical custody, which is the right and duty to house, provide and care for the child.
Is Child custody law the same all over the US?
The simple answer is definitely not! The state of Georgia has its own set of laws and regulations regarding child custody that judges follow when hearing cases and awarding custody.
Does a mother get initial custody after a divorce in Georgia?
Under Georgia law, both parents are equal when it comes to child custody arrangements. The law makes sure the child’s best interest is served and safeguarded. The court will use different factors to assess a child’s best interests. In Georgia, judges will generally consider the following when making custody decisions:
- each parent’s physical and mental health
- each parent’s emotional stability
- each parent’s relationship with the child
- each parent’s education and work skills
- each parent’s living situation and ability to provide a room for the child
- the child’s bond and emotional ties to each parent
- the child’s special needs
- the child’s current living situation and contact with each parent
- the child’s relationship with extended family members
- each parent’s current employment and earning capacity
- each parent’s motives for seeking custody
- each parent’s financial situation
- either parent’s history of domestic violence or child abuse
- the child’s preference—if the child is of a sufficient age and maturity
- recommendations from expert witnesses, custody evaluators, or psychologists
- each parent’s willingness to allow the child to have a meaningful relationship with the other parent, and
- each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s emotional, physical, educational, and social needs.
A judge may also consider other relevant conditions or circumstances in a custody case. For example, a court may look at where each parent lives, the local school system, the parent’s access to quality medical care, or the parent and child’s ties to their community.
Do you know the difference between legal and physical custody?
When going through a divorce in Georgia with minor children involved, there are two categories of custody that you must consider: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody has to do with a parent’s rights and responsibilities to make major decisions concerning the child, including the child’s health care, education, extracurricular activities and religious training. Physical custody has to do with where the child is physically living.
It is very common to see joint legal custody in divorce cases because it allows both parents to have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions which, in turn, provides both parents the opportunity to remain involved in their child’s upbringing.
In Georgia, it is not as common to see joint physical custody as it is to see joint legal custody. Joint physical custody means that the child has equal time and contact with each parent. In some situations, due to a parental work schedule or a child’s extracurricular commitments, joint physical custody is not practical.
Do children have the right to choose which parent they want to live with?
In Georgia, children above the age of 14 are allowed to decide which parent they would prefer to live with. Typically, the court will grant the teen’s request, except when evidence is given contrary to the child’s desire. Although children between the ages of 11 and 13 can express their opinion regarding their preferred guardian, the court has the right to make the ultimate decision to choose what is in the child’s best interest. Every case is fact-driven and the particular circumstances of the family’s situation will matter as much, or more than the child’s age and the child’s preference.
Can a parent lose his visitation rights if he or she doesn’t pay child support?
The answer is No. Child custody and child support are completely separate agreements under Georgia law, and lack of payment cannot legally justify withholding contact with the children. Inversely, the parent ordered to pay child support is still obligated to pay even if the safeguarding parent is withholding visitation. The best solution for these issues is to consult a qualified Family law attorney regarding likely contempt.
For more information on child custody or other family law issues, contact Crystal Wright at (404) 594-2143 to schedule an appointment. Crystal Wright is recognized as a premier Family Law attorney throughout the state of Georgia. Our team of experts regularly handle a wide range of legal matters and will provide outstanding service to you, your family or your business.