In custody cases, judges typically rule in favor of the child’s “best interests,” but knowing what this means can be challenging. Judges make these rulings based on the specific circumstances of each case, and many states outline the factors for judges to consider in custody cases, which vary between states. For help identifying what judges look for in child custody cases, consider contacting a Georgia family law attorney from The Millard Law Firm by calling (678) 319-9500 to schedule a consultation.
Understanding Child Custody Cases
As outlined by the American Bar Association (ABA), child custody refers to the duty and right to look after a child daily and make key decisions concerning the child. Child custody may also refer to only one of these aspects.
When a relationship breaks down, the child custody process begins with conversations between the parents. The goal is to agree on the terms of custody and visitation and then to produce a written agreement to present to the court. After this, a judge usually awards custody aligning with the terms of the arrangement. However, if the parents fail to agree, the judge must decide instead. For many divorcing couples, the judge typically makes custody decisions at the same time as the divorce hearing.
What Is the Most Important Factor Determining Child Custody?
In custody cases, judges mainly consider what the child’s “best interests” are, considering the minor’s welfare, safety, and health. According to Georgia Legal Aid, to determine best interest, the judge will learn which parent has cared for the child and will be most likely to continue to care for the child. The judge must assess whether the parents can meet their child’s mental health, medical, and educational needs.
What Are Some Factors To Determine the Best Interests of a Child?
A Georgia family lawyer at The Millard Law Firm may be able to give more case-specific information about what judges look for in child custody cases. The following are the key considerations judges refer to when making child custody rulings:
- Child-parent relationship: A judge usually assesses how the parents cooperate during visitations and whether the parents are willing to encourage the child to develop a relationship with the other parent. Judges typically favor the most cooperative parent when awarding custody. They also review how the parents previously spent time with the child and their history of caring for the child daily. The judge is likely to favor parents with a genuine desire to look after the child. Notably, judges typically limit contact, either by removing visitation rights or introducing supervised visits, between a child and a parent if there is evidence of neglect or abuse.
- Stability and continuity: Judges often believe that further disruptions, in addition to divorce, are generally not beneficial for children. With this in mind, they consider how far apart the parents live and how shared custody may impact the child’s social ties, religious activities, and school commitments. When deciding whether to award joint or sole custody, a judge will also consider each parent’s living situation, particularly if one of the parents remains in the family home, and whether that environment is suitable for the child.
- Preferences of the child: While some states avoid these considerations, judges in other states might ask an older child about his or her living preferences when making custody decisions. Alternatively, custody evaluators may share these opinions with the judge. Some states stipulate that judges can only consider these preferences after the child reaches a particular age, whereas others consider these opinions if they involve sound reasoning.
- Age of the child: Some states enable judges to think about the child’s age when making custody decisions, and judges in these states may feel that it is beneficial for young children to live with the main caregiver.
How Do You Show the Court That You Are a Good Parent?
Effective parenting entails meeting the child’s physical and psychological needs, and parents might prove that they can do this by giving the court the following evidence.
Evidence To Ensure the Child’s Physical Well-being
Parents may prove the following to the court to demonstrate how they can protect their child’s physical health:
- Positive living environment: The parent might decide to prove that the home is a safe and stable environment that can benefit the child
- Health care access: A parent may benefit from giving the court evidence of the ability to provide the child with sufficient medical services
- Parent’s well-being: A parent may show the court that he or she is mentally and physically healthy and can, therefore, effectively care for the child
- Responsible parenting: This type of evidence includes showing the court that the parent can provide attentive and responsible caregiving to the child, such as ensuring that the child gets enough rest, gets enough food, and maintains proper hygiene
- Financial stability: Parents can prove that they are responsible by outlining how they are financially secure, including their ability to fund a child’s basic needs like housing, clothing, and food costs
- Child development awareness: Evidence of this kind includes showing an understanding of how to raise children during different growth periods
Evidence of Maintaining the Child’s Psychological Well-being
Parents may show the court the evidence below to outline their ability to ensure the psychological welfare of the child:
- Supportive parenting: A parent can opt to demonstrate how he or she has previously provided the child with a nurturing and supportive environment
- Positive relationships: The parent could show the court positive and strong relationships with the child, the child’s teachers, friends, other family members, and the other parent
- Role model: Demonstrating how the parent has displayed appropriate behaviors and coping skills that make the parent an effective role model for the child can also be effective evidence
Contact a Georgia Family Lawyer Today
Most custody cases do end in an agreement between the parents. However, when the parents cannot agree, the judge decides who gets custody and tends to rule in favor of the child’s “best interests” while also ensuring that the child-parent relationship is healthy and can enable the child to become a capable and responsible adult. To discover more about what judges look for in child custody cases, consider contacting a Georgia family law attorney at The Millard Law Firm by calling (678) 319-9500 to schedule a consultation today.