In Georgia, it depends on the child's age. The Best Interests of the Child test always applies. However, depending on how old the child is, the court may ask the child. Usually a court will not do this if the child is less than 11 years old, and if it does ask a child less than 11 it will not place a lot of weight on what the child says. If the child is 11-13 years old, the court will usually ask and give some weight to the child's preference. If the child is 14 years old or older, the child's choice is controlling, as long as the court does not find that decision to be against the child's best interests. These rules apply both to initial custody orders and to modifications.
My child wants to live with neither parent. Will that preference control?
Probably not. The child's preference is controlling only when the choice is between two parents who are both fit to care for the child. Georgia courts will usually only decide custody issues against a parent in favor of a nonparent when the parent is shown to be unfit by clear and convincing evidence. That means something more than the usual burden of proof in a civil case, but something a little less than the very high burden of proof in a criminal case. Clear and convincing evidence is a high evidence standard and is not easy to reach.
Do I need a lawyer?
There is no replacement for quality legal representation when time with your kids is at stake. The consequences of getting it wrong are too severe. Divis Law provides representation in child custody cases. We know the law and will stand and fight for you. Contact Divis Law today. Divis Law will make sure you stay informed about your case and will take the time to teach you what we are doing for you and why.