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How much say does a child have in custody proceedings?

On Behalf of | Jun 17, 2024 | Child Custody |

Children may have preferences about their living arrangements post-divorce, and the court may consider them when deciding custody cases. As a parent, it helps to understand how much your child’s wishes could influence the court’s decision during custody proceedings.

A child’s preference is among the factors in custody decisions in Georgia. However, the weight their preferences carry primarily depends on the child’s age. Children over 14 may choose which parent to live with, and their wishes carry more authority compared to younger children. However, a child’s desires will not necessarily control the court’s decisions.

The child’s best interests are paramount

Regardless of a child’s age, the primary concern in any custody decision is the child’s best interests. Therefore, the court may overlook a child’s wishes if they are not what’s best for them. Some of the other factors that a judge may evaluate when making custody decisions include:

  • The emotional ties between the child and their siblings and parents
  • Each parent’s physical and mental health
  • The abilities of each parent to care for the child
  • The child’s sense of attachment to their community, including church, school and friends
  • A history of violence, substance abuse or criminal activity by either parent

Once the judge ascertains what’s best for the child, they will make a custody decision. Courts are also aware that a parent may sometimes try to sway a child’s preference through manipulation or undue pressure. As such, judges have broad powers when deciding custody cases and can choose to consider the child’s wishes or not, depending on the prevailing circumstances.

Reaching out for legal guidance if you are going through a divorce or anticipating a custody battle can help you understand what goes into these proceedings and help you protect your parental rights.