Guide to Child Custody Laws in Georgia
The family court can be difficult to navigate, especially for parents who have not had much experience with court processes.
Understanding child custody laws in Georgia will help reduce your fears and anxieties so that you can begin to come to an agreement with your ex-spouse regarding parenting responsibilities.
This guide will help you understand how child custody laws in Georgia will affect your case, and when judges will rule for each type of custody.
Rights of Children Over 14
In many states, children have no right to decide which parent to live with until they are the age of majority. Minors in Georgia, however, have their voices heard by the court.
Child custody laws in Georgia allow minors 14 and older to choose which parent they would prefer to live with. Children 11 to 13 will be allowed to discuss their wishes with the judge, but the judge may still choose to award custody to the other parent if it seems to be in the best interests of the child.
Parenting Plans and Mediation
In many cases, divorcing parents can work out an agreement as to how to divide their parental responsibilities.
If you can negotiate an arrangement with your ex-spouse that fairly divides your parental responsibilities, you can draft it into a parenting plan.
The court must approve your parenting plan before it is final, but in the vast majority of cases, child custody laws in Georgia give a lot of weight to any parenting plan with involvement from both parents.
If you and your ex-spouse are having difficulty agreeing about one or more issues relating to the division of your parenting responsibilities, the court may order you to attend mediation.
Mediators are specifically allowed by child custody laws in Georgia and can help you to find a parenting plan that meets your needs and the needs of your children.
Unlike the laws in many states, child custody laws in Georgia do not express a preference for either joint or sole custody.
In many cases, especially if the parents are living far apart or are very antagonistic toward each other, the judge may rule that sole custody is in the best interests of the child.
Under a sole custody arrangement, one parent has responsibility for all major decisions in the child’s life. Typically, visitation will be awarded to the parent who has not been awarded custody.
If the non-custodial parent poses a threat to the child’s well-being, the visitation may be supervised according to child custody laws in Georgia.
In other cases, the judge may rule that it is in the best interests of the child for parents to split either legal decision-making authority, physical custody of the child, or both.
While custody can in some cases be split exactly equally, this is often impractical for parents. Usually, one parent will be assigned primary custody.
Joint custody is not explicitly preferred under child custody laws in Georgia, but if parenting plans ask for joint custody it will almost always be given.