The custody process can seem confusing and overwhelming. When you first start out, you are likely to have many questions.
One of your main questions may be how a Georgia court decides custody. The courts use a set of factors that are based on the best interests of your child.
Before getting into these factors, it is important to understand the different types of custody. A court decides both legal and physical custody.
Legal custody involves making major decisions on behalf of a child. These are usually decisions involving healthcare, education or religion. Physical custody involves which parent the child lives with and when.
Courts grant joint legal custody in most custody cases. This means both you and your co-parent have equal rights when it comes to making decisions for your child.
This means that no major decision can be made for your child unless you and your co-parent agree to it. If you do not agree, it is best to talk over things and try to come to a solution, rather than leaving it up to a court.
When it comes to physical custody, courts continue to use the best interest of the child standard when determining a physical custody schedule.
Generally, shared physical custody is assumed to be in the child’s best interest, versus one parent having primary physical custody and the other parent only receiving partial physical custody.
However, many cases still result in one parent receiving primary physical custody. The court examines several different factors when deciding on physical custody. Some include:
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The ability of each parent to provide for the child’s basic needs
- Each parent’s home environment
Some more practical-type factors include the work schedule of each parent and how much time each parent can devote to the child’s activities. Trying to argue for primary physical custody when you work long hours and/or have an irregular work schedule can be an uphill battle.
You may have legitimate concerns about your co-parent’s ability to care for your child due to a history of domestic violence, criminal background or their mental and physical health. These are also factors that could result in one parent receiving primary physical custody.
Can the child decide?
While it is important to know what factors a court considers when deciding custody, it is just as essential to know what cannot be considered.
A court cannot consider a parent’s gender. Additionally, a court generally cannot consider the wishes of the child.
There is an exception when a child reaches the age of 14. At that point, the court is not required to grant custody based on what the child wants, but it can consider the child’s preference.
It can be difficult to know how these factors affect your situation since everyone’s custody case is different. Having your situation evaluated by a professional can provide you with some answers.