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In child custody cases, what determines a child's best interests?

In a Georgia divorce, a couple may fight over children. Both may want custody of the kids, so how does a judge decide which parent gets physical custody? When the parents can't come to an agreement, the court will make a decision based on the best interests of the child. But what exactly determine a child's best interests in child custody cases?

The goal is to focus on the children's happiness and well-being, not necessarily what the parents what. Ideally, children would be able to have close, loving relationships with both their mother and father. But there are issues that can prevent this.

The court will look at various factors when making a decision. These include the parent's health and mental stability, culture and religion. In addition, the court will look at the child's age, gender and involvement in school and community.

The court will also look at the child's home life before the divorce and look for any signs of domestic violence, abuse, drug and alcohol use and any extreme punishment. Finally, if the children are old enough, they might be able to express their desire to live with either parent, giving the judge discretion to take this into consideration.

Overall, the court is looking for the parent who is most capable to parent the child. For example, if the mother was the one who did all of the caregiving while the father was absent from the home, then it's highly likely that the mother and children developed a bond and as such, the children will be ordered to live with their mother. The judge will also take into consideration the children's happiness and safety.

It's important to take the right approach if your goal is to seek child custody. Being knowledgeable about the situation, legal rights and options will help the process and assist the parents while the address their family law issues.

Source: FindLaw, "Focusing on the 'Best Interests' of the Child," accessed Jan. 10, 2015

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