In a Georgia family law case, it is common for the parties to start out with presumptions as to how the court will assess the situation and make its determinations. For example, with child custody, people might immediately think that the court will tilt its decision toward the mother. While many believe that to be the template, the law says otherwise. It is in these circumstances that people who are trying to be given custody should understand specifically what the law says. This is especially critical in emotional aspects of the case like those regarding children.
What a judge will consider when deciding on child custody
Contrary to the widely-held perception that a mother will get custody, the law does not discriminate between genders. Nor does it have a predetermined preference for the type of custody arrangement there will be – legal or physical. The judge can order joint custody, sole custody, joint legal custody or joint physical custody. No jury is empaneled to assess and decide on custody – it is at the judge’s discretion. The priority in these cases is to serve the best interests of the child. That supersedes the parents’ desires and will be used as the basis for the child custody determination.
Regarding best interests, the judge can use any factor including personal, financial and emotional considerations. The child might have an emotional connection with one parent over the other. There might be siblings and other relatives that are part of the child’s life and are integral to development. One parent might be more equipped to provide guidance, love and affection than the other. These are all fundamental parts of the case.
Any child will need the basics to survive and thrive each day. That will include clothes, food, a safe place to live, education and more. A home must be a safe environment for the child and go beyond simply having items in the home that will be categorized as material or superficial. Giving the child “things” does not overtake the care, love and attention he or she will need. Children benefit when they have a stable environment. With that in mind, continuity will be key.
Any child will need social interaction and extracurricular activities. A parent should be willing and able to provide and encourage that. Some parents work more than others and cannot be with the child as often. The court will look at the work schedules and how it impacts the child. Parents are encouraged to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent if it is safe to do so. This is independent of acrimony between them. Allegations of abuse will be investigated and clearly factor in the decision.
Parents should understand the entire process and be fully protected
The child’s needs are paramount in any family law and child custody case. Still, it is easy to get caught up in preconceived notions and allow fear to negatively influence how to address child custody disputes. From the start, it is essential to know that whether it is a male or female who is seeking custody, the court will look at the best interests of the child first and foremost. Some cases care negotiable and others need to go to court for a judge to issue an order. No matter what, it is wise to know the law from the start and have assistance to try and achieve a positive result.