We, as a society, are realizing more and more just how important it is for children to have a relationship with both parents, as opposed to assuming that the mother should be the primary caregiver. A father’s role in his child’s life is crucial to that child’s development and welfare.
Legal and Physical Custody
In Georgia, if a couple was married when they had a child, the husband is presumed to be the child’s father. When it comes to determining a father’s rights concerning the child after divorce or separation, Georgia courts—like others—will base their decision on what is in the best interests of the child. The decision-making process initially treats both the mother and father as equals, and is based on a number of factors.
First and foremost, the court considers the physical safety and welfare of the child. It will look at the emotional ties between the child and each parent, as well as any siblings, half siblings, step siblings, and other family members in the respective households. The court will evaluate each parent’s ability to provide a sense of permanence and a good home environment for the child, which will also involve considering each parent’s capacity and disposition to care for the child in question.
When deciding custody, the court will examine the mental and physical health of all parties involved, as well as any criminal history, evidence of family violence, substance abuse, child abuse, and other negative factors. What is each parent’s living situation? Neighborhood? Does the child have any special needs, and how is each parent equipped to handle them?
The court will also consider the wishes of both parents, as well as the wishes of the child him- or herself. It will also hear any recommendations made by a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem or custody evaluator. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but gives a general sense of the factors a court will consider when determining child custody. If you are concerned that your rights as a father are being overlooked, reach out to an experienced fathers’ rights attorney immediately.