Legal Information: Georgia

Custody

Updated: 
September 29, 2016

How will a judge make a decision about custody?

Generally, the state of Georgia encourages a child to have continuing contact with both parents.*  However, custody will be determined according to what the judge considers to be in the child’s best interest. The judge may consider any relevant factor including, but not limited to the following:

  • Love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and each parent, as well as his/her siblings, half siblings, and stepsiblings;
  • Ability of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue raising and supporting the education of the child;
  • Each parent's knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child's needs;
  • Ability of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, day-to-day needs, and other necessary basic care; (Note: When looking at this, the judge will also take into consideration the fact that the other parent might provide child support);
  • Home environment of each parent (focusing on if the environment will allow for the nurturing and safety of the child, rather than superficial or material factors);
  • Importance of continuity in the child's life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable environment;
  • Stability of each parent’s family and community support systems;
  • Mental and physical health of each parent; (Note: The judge has the power to order a psychological or medical evaluation of the family);*1
  • Each parent's involvement in the child's educational, social, and extracurricular activities;
  • Each parent's employment schedule (looking at how flexible the parent’s schedule is and what limitations exist, if any, to care for the child);
  • Home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of the child;
  • Each parent's ability to manage parenting responsibilities (both past and future);
  • Each parent’s willingness and ability to encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship with the other parent (if it is in the best interests of the child);
  • Any recommendation by a court-appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem (attorney or representative appointed for the child during the court case);
  • Any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse or criminal history of either parent; and
  • Any evidence of substance abuse by either parent.*2

When evidence of family violence is found, the judge will also take into consideration:

  • the safety and well-being of the child and of the parent who is the victim of family violence – this should be one of the judge’s main concerns; and
  • the abuser’s history of violence or of causing reasonable fear of violence to another person.*3

Note: For purposes of a custody decision, if a parent is absent or relocates because of domestic violence, this will not be considered child abandonment (assuming that the parent is away for what is considered to be a reasonable amount of time).*4

* O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(d)
*1 O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(7)
*2 O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(3)
*3 O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(4)
*4 O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(4)(C)