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Many divorces involve more than property division and alimony considerations when children are involved. Divorcing parents may have disagreements over who will have custody of the children. The gold standard of any custody decision is what custody arrangements best serve the interests of the child.
While most custody disputes occur in the process of divorce, occasionally, such disputes can occur even when the parties involved have never been married. Sometimes, disputes can also involve third parties, such as grandparents or other relatives, often seeking custody after the death or incapacitation of a parent.
In Georgia, the court considers the best interests of the child when making custody determinations, meaning that the focus is on the child, not the parents or those seeking custody, in the decision making process. Factors that may be considered for this purpose include the sex and age of the child, the child’s needs (this includes emotional, social, moral, material and educational needs), the interpersonal relationship between the parents and child and other children involved as well as the environment provided by each party, and the preference of the child, if the child is of sufficient age and maturity.
The child may select which parent shall have custody if he/she is 14 or older and the child’s selection for purposes of custody shall be presumptive unless the selected parent is determined not to fit with the best interests of the child. If the child is between the ages of 11-14, the judge will put emphasis on the desires and educational needs of the child in making a decision. In this case, the judge shall have complete discretion in the decision making process and the child’s desires will not be the sole deciding factor. In either case, both parties should avoid putting the child in the position of having to choose one parent over the other, as this will not serve the best interest of the child.
In granting custody, evidence presented in court and relevant to the well-being of the child is considered, and factors that don’t affect the relationship between the child and the person seeking custody are not considered in the courts. For example, a parent’s gender or sexual orientation isn’t a factor considered in child custody disputes unless it is directly relevant to the case.
In Georgia, there are two types of custody, legal and physical custody. Most cases result in both of the custody types being shared by both of the parents. This means that parents must share in decision making regarding the children and also have equal rights to the child’s medical and educational records. If the parents cannot reach a mutual decision, final decision making will typically be awarded to the parent who has primary physical custody. Usually, primary physical custody is awarded based on who has been the primary caregiver to the child during the marriage, but as mentioned, other factors may be taken into consideration in order to serve the best interest of the child.
Joint physical custody is the norm in the state of Georgia, meaning parents will typically share in equal or near equal parenting time. Sole custody is rare and means that all custodial rights are awarded to one parent and the other has no rights. A decision for sole custody does not alleviate the other parent from responsibilities such as child support obligations.
The process of child custody is typically decided twice, initially being addressed at the temporary hearing. Permanent custody is determined at the trial of a case or at any point prior to the final hearing when the parties are able to reach a final agreement.
Coleman Legal Group, LLC team of divorce and family law attorneys handles cases in the following cities and communities: Atlanta, Alpharetta, Roswell, Johns Creek, Milton, Cumming, Marietta, Sandy Springs, Woodstock, Kennesaw, Gainseville, Norcross, Lawrenceville, Midtown, Inman Park, Duluth, Buckhead, Dunwoody, Vinings, Old Fourth Ward, Sugar Hill and Smyrna.
Our dedicated team of divorce and family law attorneys frequently handle cases for clients residing in the following counties: Fulton, Gwinnett, Forsyth, Cobb, DeKalb, Henry, Cherokee, Douglas, Carroll, Coweta, Paulding, Bartow, Hall, Barrow, Walton, Newton, Rockdale, Henry, Spalding, Fayette and Clayton.
Coleman Legal Group, LLC’s Georgia lawyers practice in the areas of Divorce, Family Law, Bankruptcy, Immigration and Business Law. We have two convenient offices located at:
Alpharetta Georgia Office
5755 North Point Parkway
Alpharetta, GA 30022
Atlanta Georgia Office
659 Auburn Avenue Northeast
Atlanta, GA 30312
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