Divorce in Georgia can be an uncertain time for both parents and children. Children may express a preference for where to live, or the parents may wonder if their children are old enough to choose where to live.
Understanding the factors that influence a child’s living arrangements post-divorce sheds light on the extent of a child’s say in such matters.
In Georgia, children make up about 23% of the population. While the state does not have a specific age at which a child’s preferences become decisive, courts consider the child’s age and maturity level when weighing their input. Older children may have more influence on custody decisions because they generally have a greater ability to articulate their desires and understand the situation.
Best interests standard
The cornerstone of child custody decisions in Georgia is the “best interests of the child” standard. Courts consider various factors to determine what arrangement will serve the child’s well-being. These factors encompass the child’s emotional ties with each parent, each parent’s ability to provide a stable environment and the child’s adjustment to their community, school, and home.
Courts often grant joint custody or primary custody to one parent while allowing the noncustodial parent visitation rights. The primary custodian becomes the custodial parent, responsible for the child’s day-to-day care. Visitation rights, on the other hand, enable the noncustodial parent to spend meaningful time with the child, fostering a continued relationship.
Guardian ad litem involvement
Sometimes, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests. This individual investigates the family dynamics, interviews the child and offers recommendations to the court. The guardian ad litem’s role can ensure consideration of the child’s perspective in the decision-making process.
Mediation as a collaborative approach
To empower children, Georgia courts may encourage parents to engage in mediation. Mediation provides a platform for parents and children to express their preferences and work toward a mutually agreeable solution. While not binding, mediated agreements that align with the child’s best interests may carry weight in court.
While children in Georgia do not have the legal authority to decide where they will live post-divorce, the state’s legal system strives to incorporate their voices into custody decisions.