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Is Georgia a “Mom State”? Does Georgia Favor Mothers in Custody Cases?

by Sharon Jackson  on December 5, 2022 under 

It’s a persisting misconception that mothers are automatically favored by the court in child custody battles. In Georgia, the court does not consider the gender of parents when hearing custody cases. Both legal parents have equal rights to fight for custody. However, legal complications may arise in certain situations, such as if the parents are unwed or if either parent is unfit to get custody.

Is Georgia a “Mom State”? Does Georgia Favor Mothers in Custody Cases?

The short answer is no, Georgia is not a “mom state” nor does it have a presumed preference for mothers in custody cases. In the past, family courts had the “tender years doctrine” which was a belief that it’s better for young children to grow up in the care of their mother. However, family experts have largely debunked this notion. Today, courts do not presume that one parent is better for custody based on their gender. Fathers and mothers can equally fight for custody.

However, there are specific situations where the mother may get sole custody. One is if the child was born out of wedlock. The mom is presumed to be the only legal parent of the child and thus the only custodial parent. Even if the biological father is identified, he cannot seek child custody until he establishes his legal parentage. To do this, he must go through the process of legitimation, in which he petitions the court to recognize him as a legal parent.

Another situation where the mom may get sole custody is if the other parent is deemed “unfit” by the court. It’s up to the judge’s discretion to determine whether a parent is unfit, but common reasons include abandoning, abusing, or neglecting the child. Once a parent is deemed unfit, he or she will lose their parental rights, including the right to child custody.

Can a Mom Lose Custody in Georgia?

Yes, just like any parent, a mother may lose child custody in Georgia if the court finds her to be unfit to raise the child. In general, the following can lead to a determination of an unfit parent:

  • Abandoning the child
  • Abusive or cruel treatment of the child
  • Raising the child under obscene or immoral influences
  • Failing to provide the child’s necessities of life.

The judge will examine the totality of factors in the case to determine whether a parent is unfit. For instance, a mom may occasionally serve her child cereal for dinner, but that does not automatically mean she is an unfit parent. But if the mom consistently fails to provide her child with three meals a day and other basic needs, the judge may likely find her unfit and thus terminate her parental rights.

How Do You Prove a Mother Unfit in Georgia?

To prove that a mother is an unfit parent in Georgia, you must show ample evidence that she is incapable of raising the child properly. Evidence may include:

  • History of child abuse (police reports, domestic violence records, etc.)
  • History of domestic abuse that the child has witnessed
  • History of dangerous behavior (substance abuse, reckless driving, etc.)
  • Photos and other documentation of poor living conditions
  • Documentation of the child’s missed school days, missed medical appointments, and the like
  • Documentation of poor parenting decisions (e.g. inappropriate media that the child is exposed to, letting the child stay out late without supervision, etc.)
  • Psychiatric concerns (a court evaluator may request proof such as psychiatric prescriptions and therapy schedules).

The court does not make this determination lightly. The judge will need clear and convincing evidence in deciding whether to terminate a parent’s parental rights. If you are a father or a concerned third party (such as a grandparent) seeking to protect a child from an unfit parent, it is best to get the legal help of an attorney.

Contact a Georgia Child Custody & Family Law Attorney

In Gwinnett County, parents trust Attorney Sharon Jackson for sensitive and complex child custody issues. Over the last 20+ years, Ms. Jackson has been helping her clients get the best arrangements for their children while protecting their parental rights. Consult with Atty. Jackson about your case. Call (678) 909-4100 today.


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