Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I was arrested in the State of Georgia on a family violence charge. I am wondering what this means and whether this charge will affect my ability to get custody of my children. I am currently in the middle of a divorce.”
All states consider family violence to be a serious offense. With that in mind, they all have laws and statutes which define family violence and consider such offenses when making child custody decisions. Although decisions may vary by state, the goal of all states is to remove children from domestic situations which may be considered dangerous.
Family violence defined for the State of Georgia
Family violence, as defined under Georgia State laws, Title 19- Domestic Relations, Chapter 13 Family Violence, is any action which is committed in the past or present “against a spouse, persons who are parents of the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same household. It includes any felony or any commission of the following offense: battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass.”
How are child custody decisions made in Georgia?
Before making any type of legal or physical custody decisions Georgia courts will evaluate a variety of factors. For example, courts will consider the following:
- Each parent’s ability to parent
- The emotional bond between each parent and child
- The emotional bond between siblings
- Each parent’s ability to provide clothing, medical care, day to day needs, and food
- The emotional health of each parent
- The involvement of each parent in the child’s social, educational, and extracurricular activities
- The work schedule of each parent
- The home environment of each parent
- The importance of the continuity of the child’s environment
- The child’s health and educational needs
- Whether either parent has a substance abuse problem
- Whether either parent has a criminal history
- Whether there has been any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse
What if there has been family violence?
If you have been arrested or convicted of family violence the court will be notified before the child custody hearing. Depending on the seriousness of the charges, whether you were arrested or convicted, and what steps have been taken to protect the child, the court may make any number of decisions.
For example, the court may decide that you will only receive supervised visits, you will be required to attend a family violence intervention program, you will be barred from overnight visits, or you will be forced to abstain from using drugs or alcohol or any other behaviors which can negatively impact your child.
Georgia courts are tasked with ensuring children are safe and custody decisions are in a child’s best interest. To that end, they will consider a report of abuse or family violence charges when making custodial decisions. Although they try not to terminate a parent’s rights or eliminate a parent’s rights to see their child, this may be a necessary step if the family violence is continual and they determine the parent does not have the ability to parent.
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