Traditionally, Georgia courts presumed that mothers were the primary caregivers
in any family, and would therefore almost automatically give ex-wives
custody of the children. Today, more women are in the workforce and more
fathers are actively involved in their children's lives. It's
now fairly common for Georgia courts to grant fathers more say over
child custody matters.
Georgia courts decide child custody disputes on what they see as the best
interests of the child, and the court presumes that some form of joint
custody is in the child's best interest. Children over age 14 may
decide the parent with which they want to live, and the court must abide
by this decision unless the child chooses a parent whom the court has
already decided is unfit.
It's important to note that "joint custody" does not necessarily
mean that parenting time is split 50/50. Physical custody determines which
parent will live with the child, while legal custody determines which
parent has the right to make decisions about schooling, health and other
issues of raising the child. Courts may insist on some unequal division
of these types of custody at the end of a marriage, based upon the child's
A big part of what the court is looking for is continuity. If a mother
has been spending more time with her children than the father, and has
been making decisions about schooling and other important matters, the
court is likely to grant her legal custody of the child. Suddenly switching
these duties to the other parent could be disruptive to the child. However,
if the father has been the one spending more time with the kids and making
the childcare decisions, the court is likely to give him legal custody.
Another important thing to remember is that, unless there is a history
of violence or some other exception, all biological parents have some
visitations rights to see their children, even if they don't have custody.
The divorce process can be ugly. Two people who once loved each other can
sometimes get to a point where they can't stand the sight of each
other. But when children are involved, they must put their conflict aside
and work together to come up with a parenting plan. The court will insist
on putting the best interests of the child first. Parents must do the same.