Divorce is accompanied by many difficult issues and none may not be as important, and potentially sensitive, as determining the custody of the children. To assure their children’s well-being and protect their rights, parents should prepare for the child custody requirements of Georgia law.

Georgia courts reach decisions based upon the best interests of the child. This criteria overrides the parent’s interests and wishes. The child’s best interests is comprised of several factors.

The child’s wishes play a role. A child can determine where they want to live when they are at least 14 and a judge will consider their wishes when they are 11 to 14-years-old.

Other factors include the relationship between the child and their parent, the relationship among the child and their siblings, each parent’s financial ability to take care of the child, home environment safety, each parent’s health, and a parent’s employment schedule and flexibility for childcare. The court will also consider each parent’s readiness to encourage a relationship between the child and a coparent, whether there is evidence of domestic violence abuse, any evidence of crimes, and each parent’s engagement in the child’s scholastic, social and extracurricular activities.

Parents must also present a parenting plan to the court. These should contain acknowledgment that a close and ongoing relationship with parents is in the child’s best interest and that a parent with physical custody will decide the day-to-day matters when they are with the child.

Setting forth how both parents will deal with holidays, birthdays and school vacations is another important component. Parenting plans should also set forth how decisions are apportioned among the parents on the child’s education, health, extra-curricular activities and other important issues.

Parents may try to negotiate an agreed-upon parenting plan. When they do not reach agreement, each parent should submit their own plan to the court. If one parent does not present a plan, the judge will adopt the plan submitted by the other parent if it is in the child’s best interests.

Legal representation can help a parent negotiate these matters and pursue a plan that protect the child’s interests. They can also fight for these rights in court.