When seeking custody in Georgia, it is important to have a clear understanding of the laws and legal principles that apply to your individual circumstances. While the path differs for married and unmarried fathers, contrary to popular belief, the law specifically provides that preference not be given to the mother or the father. Once paternity has been established (when the parents are unmarried paternity must be established through a legal action; in a divorce, paternity is presumed unless successfully challenged by the mother, her husband, or the putative (biological) father), the law focuses on ensuring the best possible living situation for the children involved.
This is known as the “best interests of the child” standard. When assessing a child’s best interests, the Georgia courts weigh a number of factors, including:
- The child’s age and sex
- The child’s compatibility with each parent
- The child’s psychological, emotional and developmental needs
- Each parent’s respective ability to care for and nurture the child
- The parents’ ability to communicate with one another
If you read the list of factors used to determine child custody in its entirety, you will notice that none of the factors inherently favor one parent over the other.
Using the “Best Interests” Factors to Your Advantage
So, as a father, how do you tip the scales in your favor? How can you use the “best interests” factors to win a custody battle in Georgia with your former partner or soon-to-be-former spouse?
In most cases, separating and divorcing parents will establish a parenting plan amicably through negotiation, mediation or the collaborative method. During this process, both parents present their cases for their desired rights, and they work together to develop an arrangement that is mutually satisfactory. Since both biological parents start on an equal playing field, it is up to each parent and his or her attorney to present a compelling case for custody based upon the “best interests” factors discussed above.
But, if your children’s mother is unwilling to agree to an acceptable arrangement, then you will need to take your case to court. In order to win your custody battle, you will need to play up the factors that weigh in your favor while possibly highlighting the mother’s mistakes (and avoiding crucial mistakes of your own).
How Can a Father Get Full Custody of His Child?
In Georgia, it is actually most common for one parent to receive primary custody while the other has secondary. A parenting plan is required by law and most commonly provides equal division of the weekends, holidays and summer, while giving the primary custodian a majority of the week days. Although co-parenting is becoming more common, in order to establish a co-parenting relationship, both parents must be in agreement that the arrangement will serve the best interests of their children. If you do not wish to pursue co-parenting and you believe – and can demonstrate – that primary or full custody is in your children’s best interests, then you can win your battle and start your new life with your children by your side.
Schedule an Initial Strategy Session at Stearns‑Montgomery & Proctor
When seeking full custody, it is important to start preparing as early as possible. Our attorneys have extensive experience representing fathers in child custody matters, and we can develop and execute a strategy designed to secure the rights you desire. To get started with a confidential consultation, call our family law offices at (678) 971-3413 or request an appointment online today.