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Best interests test is sometimes elusive in child custody cases

Whether in Georgia or another state, the best interests of the children is the critical mantra that governs ultimate outcomes in custody matters. Unfortunately, defining the term with precision is an elusive undertaking. It generally rises and falls on the circumstances of each case. Thus, it can be said that the best interests test in a child custody matter really often boils down to a fact-intensive search to determine which parent has more of the desire, sensitivities, experience and proven child-rearing capabilities to best care for the children under the circumstances.

Furthermore, if a parent has those basic qualities, and also has substantially more resources to provide for the material benefit of the children, that parent will gain an edge with the court, at least with respect to what is called physical custody. Nowadays, joint custody agreements and court orders are fairly prevalent. That kind of arrangement may retain the practice of having a primary physical custodian of the children, but it will focus on the equal sharing of parental responsibilities regarding the general welfare and education of the children.

Sometimes, however, joint or shared custody reflects an intent to divide the time right down the middle, on a 50-50 basis. There are plenty of those set-ups existing today, but that model tends to become tediously unworkable and contributes to more stress and strain for both parents and children than is necessary. To try to fill in each hour and minute with a formula of strict mathematical equality is not only practically burdensome, but often signals ongoing resentment or striving for one-upsmanship by parents who remain resentful of each other.

In Georgia and all other jurisdictions, the sharing of parental responsibility works best when the parents have overcome the past and are not harboring active resentment against each other. It helps the children to see and interact with parents who are communicating, sharing and caring in genuine ways. Thus, the nomenclature used to identify the relationship may be helpful, but it is not supreme -- where the parents participate as mature adults, the child custody situation will usually fall into place in a way that encourages the best interests of all concerned.

Source: Los Angeles Times, " For Divorced Parents: Know Your Child Custody and Visitation Rights", , June 25, 2014

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