May A Child Choose A Custodial Parent?


Determining child custody is a difficult heart-wrenching task. If parents can’t agree on the details of a child custody agreement, the court must weigh several factors to determine which parent has primary custody of the children. In a child custody case, how does a child’s preference affect the ultimate decision?

Courts will typically not consider the wishes of children age ten or younger in custody battles. Once they reach the age of eleven (11), Georgia minors gain some input in child custody determinations. In all custody cases in which the child has reached the age of 11 but not 14, a judge must consider the desires and educational needs of the child in determining which parent shall have custody.

The judge has complete discretion in making this determination, and the child’s desires are not controlling. In fact, the judge has broad discretion regarding how the child’s desires are to be considered, including through the report of a guardian ad litem. The best interests of the child standard are the ultimate controlling factor. In this case, a judge may grant the selected parent custody for a period of up to six months on a trial basis.

In all custody cases in which the child has reached the age of 14 years, a child has the right to select the custodial parent with which to cohabitate. The child’s selection for purposes of custody is presumptive unless this choice and custody by the parent selected is determined not to be in the best interests of the child. A child’s preference only applies to custody and does not apply to visitation.

Child custody cases are complicated as they involve the evaluation and analysis of several psychological factors. Call 770-246-1331 or e-mail the Parker Law Firm to schedule a consultation to discuss this or any family law issue.

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