How Does a Judge Determine Custody in a Suwanee Divorce Case?
Custody matters can be a particularly stressful part of a divorce case, especially if you are unsure how courts decide custody arrangements. It’s important to understand that judges in Georgia always prefer for the parents to make their own child custody agreement, as it can be better for the child, faster, and more economical for all parties. Having a judge determine your child’s living and care arrangement should be a last resort when all other options have been exhausted, though it is sometimes necessary when parents cannot agree.
Best Interest Factors
What’s in the best interest of the child will always have legal priority in the judge’s decision. In the State of Georgia, a variety of different factors are considered:
- The nature of the relationship, or the connection, between each parent and the child (children)
- The nature of the relationship, or the connection, among siblings (if you have more than one child)
- The ability and desire of each parent to encourage the child’s education, both academically and in real life
- How familiar or involved each parent is with the child (children)
- The ability of the parent to provide proper nutrition, medical care, and day-to-day things like hugs and attention (taking child support obligations into consideration)
- The ability of each parent to create a warm, nurturing home environment (everything from cleanliness to saying “I love you”)
- What will be least disruptive to the child’s life and daily routine is a huge factor
- The support network that each parent has access to, as well as the relevant extended family that each parent possesses
- The overall health of each parent is also factored in (there are some exceptions)
- How involved the parent has been up to the divorce in the child’s upbringing (to include attending their soccer games and helping with homework, for example)
- The work demands of each parent are considered.
- The court will consider any special needs the child or children have as well as their history (grades, behavior problems)
- The parent’s ability to continue into the future at their current level of commitment, as well as each parent’s track record
- How each parent portrays the other parent in front of the child is also considered.
- Recommendations by counselors, social workers, and other experts may also be considered.
- Any prior incidents of abuse, violence, or criminal activity (even if they did not involve the child)
- Addiction and/or alcohol abuse by either parent
Can Your Child Decide For Themselves?
In Georgia, if the child is over 14, he or she can choose which parent they’d like to live with. A judge must still approve of the decision, and the non-custodial parent can provide evidence as to why the judge should not allow the child’s decision. However, judges give heavy consideration to the child’s choice, and any evidence presented would have to be very significant to have a judge overrule the child.
Our Suwanee Family Law Attorneys Can Help
At Banks, Stubbs, & McFarland, a Suwanee, GA, family law firm, we can guide you through the challenging process of divorce and child custody. We are happy to consult with you about your unique situation. Simply contact us via our contact form or call 770.887.1209 to book a meeting with us.