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Child custody law now favors a shared custody effort

There are good reasons why shared custody is the favored arrangement of family law courts nationwide, including in Georgia. Experts assert that children do better with both parents in the picture. That cannot always be the case with the traditional practice of granting the sole right of child custody to one parent, and having no provision for shared parenting responsibilities.

Shared custody is a joint effort by each parent to remain actively involved in the upbringing of the child, including as to the decisions, discipline and general welfare of the child as he or she grows into adulthood. Shared custody does not work well where the parents are too embittered by their relationship with each other to focus on the welfare and needs of their children. In involves instead a generous attitude of cooperation for the good of the children.

Without seeking out the myriad studies espousing the benefits of shared custody, common sense alone tells us that a child should have the ongoing love of both parents. This is especially true at a time when they are developing the values and characteristics that will carry them through the rest of their lives. There are, however, a few exceptions to this broad principle.

Parents who are unable to participate meaningfully due to employment hours or inaccessible locations may benefit better from the older form of sole custody with narrow and restricted visitation privileges. Also, it is clearly inappropriate to give normal access to a child where there has been a recognized history of abuse or destructive domestic violence. There is also the case of the indifferent parent who, for whatever motivation, is unable to engage meaningfully in the child's life.

The aloof parent should not be given substantial privileges, unless interest and availability are later developed and proved. The trend, then, in Georgia and elsewhere is to favor shared child custody where it is feasible. In that context, the idea that the family law court should have unbridled discretion to determine the best interests of the child becomes somewhat more limited in scope.  

Source:, "Joint Child Custody and Co-Parenting after Divorce", Nov. 1, 2014

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