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What Does “Best Interests Of The Child” Mean?

by Sharon Jackson  on October 30, 2020 under 

In establishing child custody arrangements and which parent will have physical and legal custody of minor children, a Georgia family law judge wants to ensure that the child's rights are recognized and the best interests of the child are safeguarded. To protect the child's rights, when deciding child custody the judge will take into account the family situation:

  • If there are siblings
  • The gender and age of each child
  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • Which parent had been the child’s principal caretaker prior to divorce
  • If granted custody, which parent will help the child keep a strong emotional bond with the non-custodial parent

Best Interests Of The Child in Gwinnett County Georgia

Family law in Georgia requires a judge to consider the best interests of the child when making decisions about a child's future, including granting physical and legal custody to a parent or recognizing status as an equitable caregiver. In determining the best interests of the child, the court will consider many factors including: 

  • the bond between the child and parent
  • the child's age
  • a parent's knowledge about the child and the child's needs
  • the ability of a parent to provide for the basic care for the child
  • the safety and stability of the parent's home
  • how involved a parent is in the child's daily life 
  • past performance of their parental responsibilities
  • a parent's mental and physical stability
  • substance abuse
  • criminal history
  • recommendations by a court-appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem

Georgia's Equitable Caregivers' Act allows state judges more flexibility to make decisions in a child’s best interest when custody issues arise, and the parents are not the best option for child custody, and a step-parent, grandparent or other adult is a better custody option for the child.

Guardian ad Litem
Family law in Georgia requires a judge to consider the best interests of the child when awarding custody. In divorce cases concerning children, an attorney or guardian ad litem can be assigned by a judge to represent the child and ensure that their rights and best interests are safeguarded. A guardian ad litem (GAL) is a person the court appoints to investigate what solutions would be in the “best interests of the child.” The GAL might be a volunteer and a non-attorney. If the GAL is a non-attorney, Georgia state law requires the court to assign a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) with special training by the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate for divorce and child custody cases.

The GAL will conduct a court-ordered investigation and present the court with a report of their findings and custody recommendations. If the child has expressed a preference to live with one parent, the guardian ad litem will investigate that preference and present recommendations and evidence in the best interests of the child.

Gwinnett County family law courts take the recommendations of guardians ad litem very seriously. If one or both parents disagree with the GAL’s recommendation, they can present witnesses and evidence to the court to support their position, but the judge has the final determination in all custody arrangements.

Contact Gwinnett County Child Custody Attorney Sharon Jackson

The law firm of Attorney Sharon Jackson, LLC offers the highest degree of attention and experience to deal with your child custody issues, from uncontested divorces to modification orders to the most contentious child custody cases in the Atlanta courts. We can explain the applicable child custody laws, and help you fight to protect your child's best interests and your parental rights.

Call us at (678) 436-3636 to schedule a consultation with an experienced member of our team, or contact us online to speak with attorney Sharon Jackson in Lawrenceville, GA.

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