Mar 17, 2023 | Child Custody,  Family Law,  

How is Child Custody Determined in Georgia?


When you’re separating from your spouse, significant changes are happening in your family – and you’ll need to make decisions that serve everyone’s best interests. A vital component of a divorce is deciding who will have custody of your children.

A child’s welfare is among a parent’s chief concerns. Knowing who will watch, care, and provide for your children is critical after a divorce. You want what’s best for them, and, understandably, you likely want them to live with you. Understanding Georgia’s custody laws will allow you to work with your family law attorney for the best-case scenario.

What Child Custody Looks Like in Georgia

As defined by the state, child custody refers to the legal guardianship of parents and their children. There are levels or types of custody. Not every situation is the same, and your circumstances can differ from another family’s.

Under ideal conditions, parents could spend the same amount of time and have the same amount of input in their children’s lives. However, in divorce cases, there is often some contention between parents on how their children should be raised and who should have final decision-making power.

After a divorce, parents may be awarded different types of custody, like:

  • Physical Custody: the household where the child will primarily physically live.
  • Legal Custody: the parent who will make major decisions for the child about their education, medical, or religious needs.
  • Sole Custody: one parent will be responsible for making all decisions about the child while they live with them.

There can be variations of these custody arrangements. Parents can share these responsibilities 50-50, or one parent could have more responsibility than the other. Typically during mediation, your attorneys will come up with a a parenting plan that both spouses can agree to. During this time, you can also argue for either joint or sole custody.

What Impacts Child Custody Decisions?

In Georgia, the children’s best interest is central to custody decisions. The goal is to keep their lives as  stable as possible during the potential upheaval divorce can bring. A judge will examine several factors to ensure a custody decision will not inhibit children’s development.

One of the factors the judge must evaluate might include the child’s opinion. If they are 14 or older, a child can choose their custodial parent in most scenarios. For children ages 11 to 14, a judge will consider their opinion on custodial parents. A common misconception is that the judge is required to go with the child’s choices. However, the judge will make the final custody decision, and this may overrule the child’s choice.

Under Georgia law, a judge will consider these factors when regarding custody:

  • The emotional ties between each parent and their children
  • The emotional relationship between the children and their siblings, half-siblings, or stepsiblings
  • Where all the children from the relationship live
  • How much the parent in question will care for the children and encourage their growth
  • How capable each parent is in providing basic needs, like shelter, day-to-day needs, and medical care, for their children
  • What kind of environment each household offers the children
  • The available stability each home provides the children to continue living their lives
  • Each parent’s mental and physical health
  • The children’s academic and criminal record
  • A parent’s criminal record, if it exists (this could include violence, sexual or domestic abuse)
  • The willingness of both parents to continue to support their children and foster their interests and well-being
  • Any other evaluation the court requires, including using a guardian ad litem (legal representation for the child)

In cases of domestic abuse, a judge will consider the children’s safety first. They will likely place a child with the parent who was a victim of abuse to distance the child from the potential abuser.

In some cases, a judge may permit a trial period to see if the custody arrangement is a good fit or if there should be any change.

Securing Your Child’s Custody

Custody usually becomes an issue for parents during or after a divorce. Even if you feel your soon-to-be-ex will cooperate and make decisions in your children’s best interest, that isn’t always the case.

What Can Disrupt a Custody Case?

Some people won’t cooperate during custody decisions as an act of protest or punishment, even if they don’t really want sole custody. Reaching a joint custody agreement by working with your spouse is possible. Your experienced attorney may be able to work with your spouse’s attorney to find an agreement. When you can’t create a plan that all parties like, you will need to prepare your arguments for a judge.

How to Prepare for a Custody Hearing

You should collect evidence that will back up your argument for custody. If you believe your former partner is not fit to have physical or legal custody of your children, you need evidence to support your claim. They will likely have an argument prepared to back their claim.

You’ll need evidence that can support the factors a judge will consider. Different records can be helpful; your pay stubs can prove income or show that you can provide for your children. You may also need eyewitness testimony to show you supported your children in their academic or extra-curricular activities. You should be thinking of anything that might encourage a judge to choose your parenting plan.

Why You Need a Cobb County Family Law Attorney

Your custody battle is not something you should work on alone. Hire an experienced and compassionate Cobb County family law attorney to fight for your family.

Gentry Law Firm LLC is extremely skilled in divorce and child custody matters. Your attorney will guide you through the process, find evidence to support your parenting plan, and negotiate with your ex. They can handle the legal aspects of your case so you can focus on raising your children.

Call a Georgia Child Custody Lawyer Today

Child custody disputes can be heated. Parents care about their children, but sometimes when they have to work with an ex, they forget that they should be working towards the kids’ best interests. When you need a strong legal representative in your corner, call the Gentry Law Firm. We’re ready to hear your story and help you get the custody agreement that works for you and protects your children.

Our founding attorney William C. Gentry established this firm to help families. We understand how difficult these matters can seem, but we’re prepared to help you deal with daunting details. Don’t let your ex walk all over you. We can help.

Call (770) 425-5573 or use our contact form to schedule your free initial consultation.