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Can a child express a custody preference in Georgia?

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2023 | Divorce

Statistics from the US Census Bureau revealed that 11.2% of Georgia’s adults have gone through divorce, which is higher than the national average.

Due to this high divorce rate, the courts are constantly ruling on custody cases for the children involved. As parents wait for decisions, the question of whether a child can express a custody preference carries significant weight in family court proceedings.

Age matters

In the state of Georgia, a child’s capacity to express a custody preference depends on their age and maturity level. The court gives substantial weight to the preferences of children aged 14 or older when determining custody and will consider their input while making custody arrangements. On occasion, a younger child who exhibits maturity and can articulate their preferences may also receive the opportunity to do so.

Best interests

A child’s preference is not the sole determining factor in a custody case. The court’s primary consideration is the best interests of the child. Even if a child strongly expresses a preference to live with one parent, the court may still rule in favor of the other parent if it deems it in the child’s best interests. The court also considers factors, such as the child’s physical and emotional well-being, the stability of each parent’s home and each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs.

Court proceedings

When a child expresses a custody preference, it usually takes place within the context of court proceedings. A guardian ad litem or a court-appointed psychologist may conduct an interview to assess the child’s maturity and the sincerity of their preference. The court then considers this information, along with other pertinent evidence, to render a custody decision that aligns with the child’s best interests.

In Georgia custody cases, the legal system aims to carefully balance honoring a child’s preferences with ensuring their overall well-being.