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 best interests.
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.