Georgia custody laws require certain legal standards to be applied to child custody determinations. Child custody is a very broad term. For example, there are different types of custody. And the specific custodial arrangement between the parents may be different for each custody case.
What does primary physical custody mean under Georgia custody laws?
Primary physical custody under Georgia custody laws means that the child spends time primarily with one parent and has visitation with the other parent. The parenting plan, which is a written document that sets forth the details regarding custody and visitation, may contain a custodial arrangement where the child spends approximately equal time (50/50) with each parent.
Note that the term “custody” may also mean “legal custody,” which refers to rights and responsibilities for major decisions regarding the child, including the child’s education, health care, extracurricular activities, and religious training.
In determining custody issues, the court looks for the best interest of the child and considers what will best promote the child’s welfare and happiness.
What is the best interest of the child in determination of child custody in Georgia?
Generally, child custody laws in Georgia require the court to look at the best interest of the child in deciding custody matters.
The best interest of the child is determined by considering many factors, including:
- The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child;
- The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and his or her siblings, half siblings, and stepsiblings and the residence of such other children;
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child;
- Each parent’s knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child’s needs;
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, day-to-day needs, and other necessary basic care, with consideration made for the potential payment of child support by the other parent;
- The home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child rather than superficial or material factors;
- The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
- The mental and physical health of each parent;
- Each parent’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the child’s educational, social, and extracurricular activities;
- Each parent’s employment schedule and the related flexibility or limitations, if any, of a parent to care for the child;
- The home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of the child;
- Each parent’s past performance and relative abilities for future performance of parenting responsibilities;
- The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child;
- Any recommendation by a court appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem;
- Any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse or criminal history of either parent; and
- Any evidence of substance abuse by either parent.
What age can a child decide which parent to live with?
A child who is 14 years old or older has a right to choose the parent with whom the child wants to live, subject to the court’s review. “The child’s selection for purposes of custody shall be presumptive unless the parent so selected is determined not to be in the best interests of the child.” O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3.
The court may also consider the desires of a child who has reached the age of 11 but not 14 years, but such child’s selection is not controlling. Again, Georgia custody laws require the best interest of the child standard to be applied.
Can a father get full custody under Georgia custody laws?
Yes, a father may be awarded “full” custody of the child. Georgia is not a “mom state” or “dad state.” Georgia custody laws state: “…there shall be no prima-facie right to the custody of the child in the father or mother. There shall be no presumption in favor of any particular form of custody, legal or physical, nor in favor of either parent.” O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3.
Thus, a father may get custody of his child if awarding the father custody is for the best interest of the child and will best promote the child’s welfare and happiness.
Can you get 50/50 custody as a father?
Yes, a father may get 50/50 custody of the child. 50/50 physical custody is a custodial arrangement where the child spends approximately the same amount of time with each parent. An example of this arrangement may be where the child spends rotating weeks with each parent (1 week on, 1 week off).
A father, just like a mother, may be awarded any type of custody by the court after the court determines what is in the best interest of the child and what will best promote the child’s welfare and happiness. Thus, a father is not prohibited from getting sole custody or 50/50 custody.
Do you pay child support if custody is 50/50?
There is no law that you will not pay child support just because the physical custodial arrangement is 50/50. In other words, there will be situations where one parent may pay child support to the other parent even in a 50/50 custodial arrangement. The court looks at the Georgia child support guidelines and considers factors such as the best interest of the child and the circumstances of the parents.
Who has custody of a child when the parents are not married in Georgia?
Per Georgia custody laws, the mother has custody of a child when the parents are not married. In order for a father to obtain legal rights regarding a child born out of wedlock, he must do so through legitimation. The father would start the process by filing a petition for legitimation with the superior court.
How do I file for custody of my child in Georgia?
Custodial issues may arise in many different contexts, and how to file for custody depends on the specific context in which the custodial issue arose. For example, if there are minor children between the spouses, custody may be an issue in the spouses’ divorce case. Also, custody may be addressed in a post-divorce action to modify custody and/or visitation. Thus, how to file for custody depends on the circumstances.
Talk with a Georgia custody attorney about your options.