During a Georgia divorce, one of the most complicated and emotionally wrenching issues is child custody. The child is frequently caught in the middle of the proceeding wondering about his or her future. In some cases, however, the child will want to have a say in the custody arrangement. Depending on the circumstances, the court can take into consideration what the child wants. Still, age and maturity will be critical when the court assesses the child’s request and decides how much weight it should be granted.

Custody cases, a child’s age and preferences for living arrangements

The law allows for a child to state preferences for child custody. Age is a mitigating factor when the court hears a request from the child. For children 14 and older, the child can say where he or she wants to live. As with any child custody determination, the best interests of the child are paramount. If the child will not be safe or the best interests will not be served by living with that parent, the court does not need to abide by the request. The child can also ask that the custodial arrangement be changed at age 14. This would be perceived as a material change and warrant the modification. This can only occur once within two years from the previous request.

If the child is between 11 and 14, the court will assess the child’s desires, but also think about the educational requirements when deciding. It is up to the court’s discretion. The child’s desires will not be the final factor in child custody. The judge can also decide how the child’s request will be considered and if a report is needed from a guardian ad litem (a court appointed individual whose role is to watch over a person involved in the case). The main issue is the child’s best interests. A trial period can be put in place for up to six months for children 11 to 14.

Parents should be prepared for every eventuality in a family law case

As a divorce case proceeds and parents are in dispute over child custody, it might be easy to forget that a child who is of a certain age could want a role in the decision. The court does allow for this based on age and best interests. Parents should be aware of this and be prepared so they can do whatever is possible to achieve their own goals in the case. Having professional advice from the outset can help with deciding how child custody will be handled and might be beneficial to reaching a satisfactory result.