Determining who gets custody of the children can be one of the most contentious issues during a divorce in Georgia. It can be even more difficult when it must be decided by the court, rather than through an agreement between the parents. There are many factors to consider when creating a child custody arrangement. Each parent will present his or her strengths and former partner's weaknesses to the judge so the judge can determine where the best interests of the children will be served.
A recent case in Pennsylvania illustrates how antagonistic a custody dispute can get.
The couple was married and had two children together, but they divorced a few years later. At the time of the divorce, the children had been removed from their care because of an incident in which they had been left alone and unsupervised at home.
A joint arrangement was then worked out, with the father having primary custody and the mother having visitation rights, if and when both parties agreed. The arrangement was based in part on a determination that the father was more reliable and the mother was emotionally unstable. However, the mother alleges the court failed to consider prior criminal activity and abusive behavior by the father. The mother hasn't seen her children since last September and is now seeking to modify the current arrangement.
In determining a child custody arrangement, the ultimate consideration for the court is what is in the child's best interest. Most custody situations dictate that one parent has primary physical custody of a child and the non-custodial parent has visitation rights. However, sometimes the couple must share legal custody. Legal custody is allows parent(s) to make important decisions concerning the child's education and health care.
Among the many factors used to determine custody are the mental health of each parent, a stable home environment, parental abuse and interaction with other members of the household.
Child custody arrangements must be based on what is in the child's best interests, whether through mutual agreement or court decision. Parents should be aware of the factors governing how child custody is determined and their parental rights in any custody arrangement.
Source: New Pittsburgh Courier, "Fathers group joins mother in fight for kids," Christian Morrow, Nov. 9, 2012