Can Fathers Win Child Custody in Georgia?
Can Fathers Win Child Custody in Georgia?
A common question we receive is whether a father can win a child custody case. The simple answer is absolutely! In fact, we have many former clients that considered themselves the “winner” in their case. That answer, however, glosses over what is involved in making a child custody determination in Georgia.
It is essential to understand that Georgia law does not provide any bias, based on the gender of the parent, for determining custody. Georgia law goes out of the way to expressly state that it does not favor either parent when making a custody decision. O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(1). In fact, it is well settled in Georgia case law that when it comes to child custody determinations in Georgia, both mothers and fathers have equal status under the law. Gambrell v. Gambrell, 244 Ga. 178 (1979).
If the question is how to win child custody for fathers. The answer is by focusing on the child’s or children’s best interest and showing the court why you, the father, are equally fit or better fit for parenting.
Before we dive further into this answer, we will explore the concept of “winning.”
We know what fathers mean when they talk about “winning” child custody
When a father thinks about “winning” a child custody case, he already makes a mistake of how he looks at child custody in Georgia.
Good fathers mean getting a child custody order they believe to be in the child’s best interest. Poorly intentioned fathers mean using the child as leverage for child support or getting some foolish revenge against the mother. That is exactly why the word “winning” is incorrect. A victory in a child custody case can mean completely different things to different fathers.
We tailor the “winning” child custody concept toward a child’s best interest
We will refer to the concept of winning but we will tailor it so you understand what it may mean for a good father. We will focus on a father winning equal custody or primary custody.
Ultimately, however, I want you to get that word out of your head when it comes to custody and instead rephrase it with something like this: “how can I get a court order consistent with my child’s [or children’s] best interest?”
How to win “equal” child custody and parenting time for fathers
Child custody includes legal custody and physical custody. Physical custody is the label attached to the amount of parenting time. The amount of parenting time is what matters, not the label.
Winning joint legal custody is common
Courts usually grant joint legal custody to both parents unless the court believes one parent is not fit to share in the decision-making process concerning the child’s health, safety or education. Examples of parents losing legal custody include those situations that involve documented domestic violence, child abuse, serious substance abuse, serious child neglect, etc.
Winning joint physical custody for fathers requires courage and a child focused strategy
For a father to win joint physical custody and equal parenting time requires the father to show the court such a schedule is in the child’s best interest.
Fathers mistakenly believe they have a higher burden than the mother does. They sometimes believe the court will award primary custody to the mother unless the father can show the court why it should do something different. That is not Georgia law.
Both the father and the mother start in the same place unless some of the issues we discussed above apply. Absent those, neither parent really has a burden of proof to overcome anything.
Both parents should prepare to advocate their position to the court and show the court why the parenting plan they propose is in the child’s best interest.
The four ways fathers can win joint physical custody and equal parenting time
Here are some facts a father can show to help him obtain equal parenting time.
- The father has the same or similar amount of time to care for the child,
- The father has the same or similar parenting skills as the mother,
- The father is able to dedicate the same or similar amount of time to the child’s education and extracurricular activities, and/or
- Neither the mother nor the father have a history that would evidence one or both of them are a danger to the child.
Did you notice the common theme? The theme is there is nothing consistent with the child’s best interest that gives the mother a distinct advantage over parenting and therefore parenting time.
Be reassured that just because you are a father does not mean that you can not be awarded primary physical custody. Barrett Partners Group can help!