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The basics of child custody in Georgia

Divorce brings with it a variety of issues, from property division to alimony and more. However, for divorcing parents in Georgia, most other aspects tend to pale in comparison to their primary concern:  child custody. Ending a marriage is stressful for everyone but there are added complications when children are involved, with both parents usually wanting what's best for the child but also scared of relinquishing parenting time or parental rights.

If you are in this situation, you may find it useful and reassuring to familiarize yourself with the child custody laws in Georgia so that you feel prepared and know a bit about what to expect, as this aspect of divorce, more than any other, may escalate quickly due to the heightened emotions often involved. Luckily, there are legal professionals who specialize in family law and can offer their guidance and representation.

Child custody concerns

As is typical in many states, family courts in Georgia will primarily base custody decisions on the best interests of the child. But what, exactly, does that entail? For the most part, it means a judge will put the well-being of your children ahead of what either parent wants. Some of the factors a judge will consider include:

  • The child's wishes
  • The relationship between each parent and the child
  • Each parent's ability to provide financially for the child
  • Each parent's willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The safety of the home environment
  • The health of each parent, both mental and physical
  • Each parent's employment schedule and flexibility to care for the child

Of course, evidence of criminal activities or domestic violence and abuse by either parent will also heavily affect child custody outcomes.

Parenting plans

Georgia family courts also require parents to submit a parenting plan that covers aspects including holidays, birthdays and school vacations, as well as decision-making responsibilities regarding day-to-day issues and more broad matters like education and extracurricular activities. If both parents cannot come to an agreement, they have the option to submit separate proposals, and a judge may consider both before making determinations or modifications.

Your child's well-being

While it can be hard to remain calm when your children are involved, it may help to remember that child custody isn't about winning and losing. Take comfort in knowing that, in the end, both you and the court system have the same goal: To make sure that the custody agreement is the best conceivable outcome for your child.

Whenever possible, the legal system prefers that a child continue to have a healthy relationship with both parents following divorce. However, if you are concerned about your son or daughter's well-being or safety with your soon-to-be-ex spouse – be it physical, emotional, mental or any combination thereof -- a family law attorney can offer insight into how best to legally address those worries for the good of your child.

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