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The child’s preference in Georgia custody matters

On Behalf of | May 6, 2024 | Child Custody

Like most states, Georgia courts make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child and examine several factors when making their decision. However, Georgia custody law differs from other states in one important respect.

In other states, the child’s preferences are one factor considered by courts. The child’s preference is not determinative and there is no set age at which the child can choose which parent to live with.

Georgia law is different

Georgia law allows a child to choose which parent they want to live with when they turn 14.

However, many parents interpret this to mean that the child never has to see the other parent and that the child’s wishes are absolute. Neither of these are necessarily true.

Although a child may choose not to visit the other parent, the parent with custody is still expected to encourage visitation and communication with the other parent, except in extreme circumstances, such as when evidence of abuse is found.

The child’s choice is not absolute

The child’s choice of which parent to live with is presumptive. This means the court assumes it is the right choice, unless it is convinced by evidence showing that it is not in the child’s best interest.

The other parent can present evidence that the child’s choice is not in their best interest. The court must consider this evidence and could order something different if it finds that the child’s wishes are not in their best interest.

Additional custody factors are still relevant

The court must also still consider the other custody factors even in cases involving a child over the age of 14. Some of these factors include the mental and physical health of each parent, the parent’s capacity to provide for the child’s basic needs and the parent’s involvement in the child’s life.

Therefore, a child who chooses to live with their mother may still find themselves subject to a court order that they live with their father if evidence, such as evidence of mother’s habitual drug use, is shown that living with their mother is not in their best interest.

From offices in Augusta-Richmond County we serve clients in neighboring communities including Grovetown, Thomson, Waynesboro, Harlem, Lincolnton, and Wrens. Beyond Augusta we handle cases in Columbia County, Burke County, McDuffie County, Lincoln County and Wilkes County. We also proud to represent military families and veterans from Fort Gordon, Hunter Army Airfield, Fort Stewart, Fort Benning, Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem.