Who can get custody?
A judge will decide who should have custody based on what s/he thinks is in the best interest of the child. The judge will assume that parents should share the rights and responsibilities to a child.1 Parents have a legal duty to maintain, protect, and educate their children until the children are no longer legally in their care.2 “Parents” usually means biological or adoptive parents under the law.
If one parent dies, the other parent generally is entitled to custody. However, if the that parent has been criminally indicted for murder or voluntary manslaughter of the other parent, the judge has the option to decide not to give that parent custody.3
There are some cases in which someone who is not a child’s biological or adoptive parent may be able to get custody. This person could be legally unrelated to the child, such as a parent’s spouse or partner, or the child’s relative who has been acting as a parent.4 For example, a stepparent who has not legally adopted his/her spouse’s child may be “legally unrelated” to the child, and may have to apply as an “equitable caregiver” to have custody or visitation rights. You can learn more about non-parents getting custody at I am not the child’s biological or adoptive parent, but I have acted in a parental role. Can I get custody?
1 O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3
2 O.C.G.A. § 19-7-2
3 O.C.G.A. § 19-9-2
4 O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3.1