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A legislative committee is currently examining child custody laws in Georgia to determine whether joint custody is the best option in most divorce cases. The committee’s final proposal could change existing custody laws in the state.
The House Study Committee on Shared Parenting was created as part of legislation sponsored by Representative Tom Rice, who found that many fathers were struggling with child custody issues.
The committee will specifically consider the current standards for deeming a parent “unfit,” the proper age for emancipation, and whether joint custody mitigates the negative impact of divorce on children.
“Things that happen to children in a divorce can have long-term effects down the road,” said Rep. Mark Butler, R-Carrollton.
New legislation could require judges to begin child custody cases with the presumption that joint custody is the best option, with sole custody only being granted in cases where one parent is deemed “unfit.”
The legislation could also change the current emancipation age of 14, which is when children are legally able to decide which parent they want to live with.
Some judges and attorneys are concerned that the committee will pass legislation requiring judges to grant joint custody even in cases where it may not be the best option. “Judges need discretion. They do not need to be locked in,” said domestic court attorney William Sams.
Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge William Ray agreed, saying that judges need latitude in determining the best interests of children in custody cases.
Committee members are expected to make a legislative proposal by the end of this year, which means that changes to state child custody laws could come as early as next year.
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