As a divorcing father, you may have concerns about child custody. Maintaining a good relationship with your kids is important to you and important for them.
The good news is, judges often recognize that fathers play a crucial role in their children’s lives. Courts are unlikely to assume that mothers should automatically receive primary custody. As you proceed through your divorce, you can insist on your rights as a father.
Having legal custody of your children means you can make decisions about their lives. Examples include determining where they go to school and which church they attend. Medical decisions such as diagnosing a mental disability or receiving vaccinations also fall in this category. Georgia courts often award parents joint legal custody, where both share in the decision-making process.
When your children live with you, you have physical custody of them. In Georgia, parents typically share physical custody, meaning that each parent spends time caring for the children.
Georgia law specifically states that courts should not favor either the mother or father in awarding custody. Instead, a judge rules in the best interest of the children, taking several factors into account. Among them:
- Bonding between parent and children
- Bonding among children and siblings in the household (including half-siblings and stepsiblings)
- Parent’s knowledge of children’s needs
- Home environment
- Parent’s physical and mental health
Children who are 14 or older may select which parent to live with. Children aged 12-13 can express their wishes to a judge, but the court makes the final ruling.
As you approach your custody negotiations, you should know how courts make custody decisions. Having the proper guidance can empower you to stand up for your rights, and those of your children.