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Can a child choose which parent to live with in Georgia?

by Sharon Jackson  on November 22, 2021 under 

In child custody cases, the main standard for the court’s decision is always the best interests of the child. To ensure that this standard is met, the judge looks into many factors regarding the child’s welfare and relationship with each parent. Many parents ask: Does the court consider the child’s preference as to which parent to live with? Will the child’s wishes be honored by the court? Let’s take a look at the answers under Georgia law.

Can a child choose which parent gets child custody?

In Georgia, a child’s preference can affect the child custody decision if they are old enough:

  • A child aged 11 years or older may express to the court their preference as to which parent they want to live with. The child can express their wishes by filing an Affidavit of Custody Election (commonly referred to as “election”). The judge must then strongly consider the child’s preference in determining which parent gets child custody.
  • A child aged 14 years or older may express their parental choice, and this choice becomes presumptive. This means that the child’s parental choice for custody is what the judge will grant unless there is evidence that this custodial choice would jeopardize the child’s best interests.

Note, however, that even if the court grants custody to the child’s chosen parent, the child still has to visit the non-custodial parent based on the court order.

Can a child change the court’s child custody order?

If there is already a court order on child custody, the child may be able to express their parental choice once they turn 14.

If the child files an election, this would be sufficient to warrant the process of child custody modification. In other words, it would be enough for the court to allow the modification process, but it does not guarantee that the judge will grant the requested change. Once again, the court will still need to make this determination based on the different aspects of the child’s best interests.

The child may change their election only once every two years.

How to File a Child Custody Election Affidavit in Georgia

  1. Obtain an “Affidavit of Custody Election” form from the county court where the child custody case is filed. The form may be different for cases with prior order and for those with no prior order - make sure to select the correct one.
  2. Visit an attorney’s office or notary public to fill out the form and have it notarized.
  3. Submit the document to the court.
  4. After submission, the judge will typically ask to privately interview the filing party (the child). This allows the child to speak freely and honestly and ensure that their election is voluntary.

Contact a Georgia Child Custody Lawyer

Child custody is a delicate matter that could significantly impact your child's future. If you are a parent who wants to fight for the best custody arrangement for your child, or if you have concerns about your current custody claim, entrust your case to a top rated child custody attorney.

In Gwinnett County and the surrounding areas, Attorney Sharon Jackson has earned the trust of many parents for her effective handling of child custody issues. With over a decade of legal experience and her sensitivity to family dynamics, Attorney Sharon Jackson can help achieve the best result for your child and you.

Call us today at (678) 909-4100 or use our online contact form.

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