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How are child custody determinations made?

Because child custody situations are some of the most significant situations many people navigate during their lives, many may wonder how child custody decisions are reached. The guiding principle behind child custody determinations is the best interests of the child. This may bring up the question, then, how the best interests of the child are determined?

What is in the best interests of a child is, generally, determined based on a number of factors that consider the child's circumstances and the circumstances of the parent or caretaker in question. In making its determination, the court will also consider the parent's capacity to parent. Additionally, when determining what court actions, orders and services are in the best interests of the child, the court will always place the child's well-being and safety as an overarching concern when making child custody determinations.

In Georgia, the courts place particular importance on family integrity and not removing the child from its home. The court will also seek to ensure that the care, treatment and guidance the child will receive in any given child custody arrangement will foster the child's development into a self-sufficient adult. In Georgia, courts also have some discretion to consider relevant factors that help determine what is in the best interests of the child. Additional considerations may include the health of the child or parents; cultural, religious, community and school considerations; and the child's relationship with family and other household members.

The child custody process is significant for most people going through divorce or other child custody circumstances. Because of this, it can be helpful to understand the process and what to expect from it to help arrive at the best outcome possible in the circumstances.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Determining the Best Interests of the Child," Accessed August 27, 2014

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Determining the Best Interests of the Child," Accessed August 27, 2014

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