If you are a parent seeking custody of your children, you may be feeling scared, intimidated, and perhaps angry. These emotions are understandable, considering what is at stake in these cases.
That said, having a basic understanding of the legal process and laws in this state can provide a valuable sense of clarity and confidence. Below are three basic – but crucial – things every parent should know if they are seeking custody of a child in Georgia.
- There are different types of custody. In Georgia, parents can have physical and/or legal custody. Physical custody is where the child lives; legal custody allows a parent to make important decisions for the child. Custody could be joint with both parents having physical and/or legal custody, or one parent could have sole custody. In other words, it is not necessarily all or nothing when it comes to custody in Georgia.
- Courts determine custody based on a child’s best interests. Unless parents can agree on custody matters, the courts will decide how to award custody. They will do this based on numerous factors that affect a child’s best interests. Such factors include the existing relationship between a parent and the child, the parent’s health and age, as well as a child’s physical, emotional, social, educational, and medical needs. The courts may also acknowledge the preference of the child if he or she is 14 or older, and the preference does not conflict with his or her best interests.
- Fathers must establish paternity, legitimation to seek custody. Unwed parents in Georgia must establish paternity either voluntarily or with genetic testing. If a father was not married to the mother when a child was born, he must establish paternity through these avenues to be named as the biological father. To seek custody, he must also file a legitimation action, which establishes his legal relationship with his child.
These are just a few general details about custody laws in Georgia. While it can provide some clarity, this information does not include everything a parent should know; child custody is one of the most complicated areas of family law. However, having a basic understanding of the process and laws in Georgia can help you make informed decisions. Working with an attorney when seeking custody will also be important.