Defining the best interests of the child is not straightforward. For married couples in Georgia who have children together, making the decision to part ways can be a difficult task. Parents may wish to protect their kids throughout divorce, but child custody can be a challenging topic. However, by seeking guidance on aspects to address concerning the best interests of the kids, parents could become better prepared to pursue an acceptable parenting plan during divorce proceedings.
There are numerous factors that are taken into consideration when determining the best interests of children. Factors such as the age of the kids and their relationships with each parent can play an integral role in the process. Other topics that can influence the process could include the scheduling needs of each parent and the educational and medical needs of the kids and their ability to adjust to the coming changes.
In situations where a child has special needs, each parent’s ability to provide for his or her needs may play a role in the process. Another topic to address could include the living arrangements of each parent and their ability to provide the kids with a stable environment. If other parties reside in a parent’s home, the interactions between them and the kids could also be taken into consideration when determining what is in their best interests.
With a multitude of factors to consider regarding the best interests of the child, child custody can seem an intimidating topic. Parents who are going through a divorce could benefit from speaking with an attorney early on for guidance in navigating the process. An attorney can assist a client in Georgia in pursuing a parenting plan that is in keeping with the needs of his or her children.
O.C.G.A. 19-9-3 states:
(3) In determining the best interests of the child, the judge may consider any relevant factor including, but not limited to:
(A) The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child;
(B) The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and his or her siblings, half siblings, and stepsiblings and the residence of such other children;
(C) The capacity and disposition of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child;
(D) Each parent’s knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child’s needs;
(E) The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, day-to-day needs, and other necessary basic care, with consideration made for the potential payment of child support by the other parent;
(F) The home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child rather than superficial or material factors;
(G) The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
(H) The stability of the family unit of each of the parents and the presence or absence of each parent’s support systems within the community to benefit the child;
(I) The mental and physical health of each parent;
(J) Each parent’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the child’s educational, social, and extracurricular activities;
(K) Each parent’s employment schedule and the related flexibility or limitations, if any, of a parent to care for the child;
(L) The home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of the child;
(M) Each parent’s past performance and relative abilities for future performance of parenting responsibilities;
(N) The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child;
(O) Any recommendation by a court appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem;
(P) Any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse or criminal history of either parent; and
(Q) Any evidence of substance abuse by either parent.
(4) In addition to other factors that a judge may consider in a proceeding in which the custody of a child or visitation or parenting time by a parent is at issue and in which the judge has made a finding of family violence:
(A) The judge shall consider as primary the safety and well-being of the child and of the parent who is the victim of family violence;
(B) The judge shall consider the perpetrator’s history of causing physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or causing reasonable fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault to another person;
(C) If a parent is absent or relocates because of an act of domestic violence by the other parent, such absence or relocation for a reasonable period of time in the circumstances shall not be deemed an abandonment of the child for the purposes of custody determination; and
(D) The judge shall not refuse to consider relevant or otherwise admissible evidence of acts of family violence merely because there has been no previous finding of family violence. The judge may, in addition to other appropriate actions, order supervised visitation or parenting time pursuant to Code Section 19-9-7.