In many child custody cases, parents do not see eye-to-eye on custody and visitation. There also can be negative feelings between parents that prevent them from reaching agreements about their child.

If parents cannot agree on things like parenting time and visitation, a judge will make the decisions. The judge will base his or her decisions on what is in the best interests of the child. But what exactly does this mean?

How the courts decide

In determining child custody, judges in Georgia courts do not make presumptions regarding who should have custody or what type of custody to award. They base custody decisions on factors that promote a child’s happiness and welfare.

These factors include:

  • Existing bond, affection and emotional ties between the child and each parent
  • A child’s relationship with other family members
  • Parental health and age
  • Parental disposition and capacity to provide love and guidance
  • Parental ability to provide shelter, medical care, clothing, food and other essentials but they do consider child support
  • Home environment and safety of the child
  • A child’s need for stability and continuity
  • Employment schedules
  • Evidence of abuse or substance abuse
  • Willingness of parents to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent

The courts examine these and other factors to determine whether joint or sole custody arrangements would best serve a child.

Do courts expect perfection?

The list can be intimidating. Parents might feel like any shortcoming or mistake they may have made in the past could result in loss of parenting time and rights.

However, judges do not expect parents to be perfect. They expect parents to be willing and able to prioritize a child’s needs and welfare. Factors like being a bad cook or making less money than the other parent do not make someone a bad parent.

That said, if you do have things in your past that may not look good to the court, taking steps to address them and better your situation can be crucial.

Parents can be surprised by what the courts decide in terms of the best interests of a child and custody. However, understanding how judges make their decisions can help parents prepare.