If you are in a legal dispute in Georgia in which child custody and visitation must be determined – or if you are contemplating such a dispute – you will be in a much better position by knowing the criterion by which Georgia courts resolve disputes over child custody and visitation rights, the “best interest of the child” standard. That standard takes many, many factors into consideration, but this article will seek to explain some of the most common characteristics – relating to the child, the parents, and overall situation – that a judge will take into account when making a custody and visitation determination.
Several of the factors that a court will consider, regarding the child or children in question, are age/gender, heath, and current routine.
- Age and Gender: The age of your child has a particularly big effect on custody, especially if he or she is over 14 years old.
- Health: The court will consider the health of your child, including any existing physical illnesses and medical or mental health conditions.
- Existing routine: Your child’s routine will play a large factor in the court’s decision, especially looking at their daily activities, where they go to school, and how long they’ve resided at the same house.
Other key factors that a court will consider do not relate exclusively to the child but, rather, they either concern the existing parent/child relationship or have to do exclusively with the parent.
- Parental Compatibility: “Compatibility” is a broad term and courts may interpret it quite differently from one another. Generally, this means that courts are looking at aspects such as:
- Emotional compatibility: Does the child show emotional closeness toward one parent over another? Does one parent seem to display a significantly higher closeness to the child than another parent?
- Discipline compatibility: Does the child seem to behave better with one parent versus another? Does one parent seem to have established a more stable, consistent sense of discipline than another parent?
- Parental Ability: The courts will consider many factors that relate to the ability of the parents to take care of their children including:
- The health and lifestyle of each parent
- Any history of abuse or violence
- Any other factors that affect or interfere with critical activities such as feeding, clothing, and providing medical care
- Stability: While “stability” is open to broad interpretation, the courts will look for any evidence that points toward a stable environment for the child. In many cases, that includes continuity of living in the same house, going to the same school, participating in the same extracurricular activities, and socializing with the same friends. It also means parental stability. If one parent has continually lived and maintained the same house for his or her children while another parent lived in various other places during that time, then the court will likely favor the parent who stayed in the house the most.
- Past Cooperation Ability: Part of establishing stability also means cooperating with your spouse. If one spouse shows greater cooperation ability while another spouse constantly makes things more difficult, then the courts may favor the cooperative spouse when awarding custody.
If you or a loved one are facing a divorce or in need of assistance in a case involving child support or child custody, you need the help of an experienced Georgia family law attorney to guide you through the process. The experienced family law attorneys at Berelc Law Office, P.C. can assist you in maximizing the precious time that you have access to your children. Call us at (706) 356-0518.