For many many years, it was just assumed in a custody dispute that the mother of the child would always get the child. It was the belief in society that the child needs its mother. Well, I think everyone would agree that this way of thinking creates its own problems. In my own observations, it seems that a children raised without a stable father figure in their lives are more likely to have run-ins with the law, have less respect for authority, have fewer moral values, and less self-respect. Now, I’m not saying that all children in a custody battle should go to the father by default; I believe that both parents are necessary to properly raise a child. Personally, I have one daughter that is less than a year old and I’m not sure I could raise her by myself. But with that said, I am happy that this trend of child custody rulings is trending down.
The current law requires a judge to make a ruling based on “the best interest of the child.” In doing so, the judge will look to statutory suggestions from Ga. Code Ann. § 19-9-3 (West):
- (3) In determining the best interests of the child, the judge may consider any relevant factor including, but not limited to:
- (A) The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child;
- (B) The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and his or her siblings, half siblings, and stepsiblings the residence of such other children;
- (C) The capacity and disposition of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child;
- (D) Each parent’s knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child’s needs;
- (E) The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, day-to-day needs, and other necessary basic care, with consideration made for the potential payment of child support by the other parent;
- (F) The home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child rather than superficial or material factors;
- (G) The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
- (H) The stability of the family unit of each of the parents and the presence or absence of each parent’s support systems within the community to benefit the child;
- (I) The mental and physical health of each parent;
- (J) Each parent’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the child’s educational, social, and extracurricular activities;
- (K) Each parent’s employment schedule and the related flexibility or limitations, if any, of a parent to care for the child;
- (L) The home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of the child;
- (M) Each parent’s past performance and relative abilities for future performance of parenting responsibilities;
- (N) The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child;
- (O) Any recommendation by a court appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem;
- (P) Any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse or criminal history of either parent; and
- (Q) Any evidence of substance abuse by either parent.
- (4) In addition to other factors that a judge may consider in a proceeding in which the custody of a child or visitation or parenting time by a parent is at issue and in which the judge has made a finding of family violence:
- (A) The judge shall consider as primary the safety and well-being of the child and of the parent who is the victim of family violence;
- (B) The judge shall consider the perpetrator’s history of causing physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or causing reasonable fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault to another person;
- (C) If a parent is absent or relocates because of an act of domestic violence by the other parent, such absence or relocation for a reasonable period of time in the circumstances shall not be deemed an abandonment of the child for the purposes of custody determination; and
- (D) The judge shall not refuse to consider relevant or otherwise admissible evidence of acts of family violence merely because there has been no previous finding of family violence. The judge may, in addition to other appropriate actions, order supervised visitation or parenting time pursuant to Code Section 19-9-7.
It is then in the judge’s discretion to make the ruling based on the needs of the child. Therefore, while I am not advocating for one parent or another, if you’re a father I would not assume that the mother will get the child and I would fight for my right’s as the child’s father.