When the parties involved in a divorce cannot agree on child custody, how does a judge or jury decide who gets custody of the child? In Georgia, the trier of fact must determine what is in the best interest of the child. Of course, that begs the question “How does one decide what is in the best interest of a child?” To determine the best interest of the child, we must consider the following factors:
How to care for the best interest of your children while going through a divorce:
The best interest of your child is the primary factor the court considers in a child custody case. Both parents will have to present strong evidence to support their claim to be the primary custodial parent. The factors that contribute to the best interests of the children are:
Age and health of the kids
The court takes into consideration the age and the health of the children when granting child custody to one of the parents or both of them. If the kids are infants and need constant care, the court will take that into consideration when deciding upon the custody and the visitation rights of the parents. If the kids are older (12-17), the court will consider or perhaps even defer to their wishes regarding custody and visitation.
Bond the kids share with the parents
If the children are closer to one parent than the other, the court might consider the decision of the child. But again, this decision also depends upon the age of the child. In Georgia, a child aged 14 and older can have his or her say in this matter.
The time spent by parents with the kids
If the child has been taken care of by one parent more than the other, that parent would be given more weight in the court’s decision. Sometimes a parent might not be very actively involved in taking care of the child on everyday basis. Therefore, the parent who has spent more time with the child would get an edge in this case.
If one of the parents has had a history of domestic violence or substance abuse, it is natural for the court to provide the custody of the children to the other parent to create a safe living environment for the kids. The court also sees to it that the parents have no criminal records whatsoever.
Employment and income of the parents
If one of the parents does not have stable job, then the case might tilt in the favor of the one who does. Another factor is the income of the parents. The parent who is earning more and is capable of taking care of the children is sometimes given an edge over the other.
Ultimately, the parent who is capable of providing the children better facilities in terms of education, food and home will usually have a stronger case, absent any mitigating or contradictory factors. In the eyes of the law, superior material circumstances is a strong factor in determining the best interests of the kids, although a parent with lesser means can overcome this if the other parent has a criminal record, history of abuse, mental or emotional deficiencies or other problems.
If your child has special needs, the ability of you and the other parent to meet those needs may also be considered, regardless of what the causes of divorce may have been. Special needs include the gifted child who has special educational needs, as well as the child with physical or emotional problems and handicaps. This will probably involve expert testimony to verify the child’s condition and needs and to show which parent is best able to meet those needs. This is not limited to the financial ability to meet those needs, since that can be taken addressed through child support. However, if the child needs daily in-home physical therapy, for example, the judge may grant custody to the parent who works fewer hours and therefore has more time for therapy.
How a judge determines child support in a divorce case
The State of Georgia uses a standard calculation to determine child support. A calculator is available online at: http://csc.georgiacourts.gov
Alternative Dispute Resolution: Mediation
Family mediation may offer the opportunity to resolve your divorce litigation while achieving peace and understanding. You can respect the years you spent with your spouse and the rewards you exchanged when you mediate the divorce. The last few years of your marriage probably haven’t been happy ones. However, you married because you were in love. It is important for your personal well-being, and your children’s well-being, to be at peace with the divorce and to be able to move on.
The process of divorce is emotionally taxing. When children are involved, the divorce case becomes more complex and much more emotional. It is important to partner with a Divorce and Child Custody lawyer that is experienced and compassionate enough to help you get the results that are in you and your children’s best interests.
Matthew Michaud of the Potra Law Firm understands the challenges of divorce and child custody cases. He has provided excellent counsel for Georgia clients for 20 years. Matthew is passionate about helping families when they are faced with complex family law issues. Matthew’s primary practice area is Family Law, concentrating in the areas of Divorce, Child Custody Issues, Child Support Issues, Mediation, and Legitimation. Matthew attended The University of Georgia School of Law and received his Juris Doctorate in 1998. The attorneys of the Potra Law Firm provide focused and experienced representation from your initial consultation until the resolution of your legal matter. We are dedicated to serving individuals and businesses and offer a broad range of legal services.
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