Joint custody with equal time sharing between two parents is an initial presumption for a child custody order in many states and in the minds of many family law judges. In reality, these kinds of custody plans may end up taking a toll on the children involved. The system is generally handled better in Georgia and some other states where the courts are not saddled with an initial presumption that joint custody and equal sharing is the first preference.
In Georgia and all other states, the role of stepparents in a child custody matter can be important. It may be that a child’s stepparent is a nurturing person who develops a strong parental role in caring for a stepchild. The relationship may be greater than what the child has with a natural parent. In one recent child custody case, however, a biological mother prevailed in a battle for custody with the child’s stepmother.
For residents of Georgia who may be entering the divorce and custody process for the first time it may help to have some preliminary ideas to think about. Divorce is never pleasant, and perhaps the best we can do is to view it as a survival experience, or a path to becoming stronger in facing life’s obstacles. With respect to child custody, this may be the toughest part, but there are ways to focus on the positive and make the most out of a new family perspective.
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.
Throughout the country, including in Georgia, there are groups that are lobbying state legislatures for passage of laws that will make it mandatory for shared custody or joint custody arrangements to be ordered by the courts. In the present system of child custody, joint or shared custody arrangements are possible. The court also has wide discretion in fashioning more traditional arrangements, with one parent as the primary physical and legal guardian, and the other parent as a secondary guardian who more or less is restricted to visitation privileges and to sharing in decision-making responsibilities.
Custody disputes are not always between two parents. Sometimes state agencies take control over a child against the will of a parent or parents. In Georgia and in every other state, complaints of parental abuse are received and processed by child welfare agencies. But these can sometimes be vengeful attacks by noncustodial parents or other disgruntled interests. Child custody is thus sometimes wrongly taken from the parents by a child welfare agency.
Georgia readers may have heard accounts of how different individuals left the church after the loss of a loved one or other sort of personal tragedy. However, despite the nearly 50-50 divorce odds for newly married couples, a new study suggests that the effects of divorce may still be as difficult as ever on children.