In eras past, fathers entered into divorce proceedings with certainty that they will gain custody of their children. Years later, fathers entered into divorce proceedings knowing that child custody often went to mothers.

Today, Georgia judges determine child custody with the child’s best interests in mind. Both fathers and mothers have equal chance to gain primary physical and legal custody.

Determining custody

If possible, it’s a good idea for you and your spouse to work out as may details about custody for your child before a custody hearing. A parenting plan can include:

  • A parenting time schedule
  • A holiday and vacation schedule
  • A transportation and drop-off schedule
  • A certain way of contacting the child

The judge will consider your child’s health, safety and welfare in granting physical custody and legal custody. Legal custody involves who makes medical, religious and education decisions about your child. Physical custody involves who is your child’s primary caregiver.

After the judge awards custody, it can’t be changed unless there’s a significant change in the family’s circumstances that leads to a court order.

Your child can choose who to live with after age 14 or older and can ask for a change in custody every two years.

Determining paternity

Only the mother of a child born out of wedlock has custody rights. Even if you are listed on the birth certificate as the father of the child, you still don’t have rights to custody or visitation.

To acknowledge that you are the father of the child, you must file a legitimation action with the court or both parents can sign an acknowledgment of legitimation. This will give you the ability to petition for custody, visitation and child support.

Child custody is a difficult – and very important – matter. You need to get advice from a qualified, experienced attorney to help you make decisions that are in your best interest and the best interest of your child.