In Georgia, child custody is determined using the “best interests of the child” standard. OCGA §19-9-3(a)(2). In custody cases where the child is under the age of 11, the court is not required to consider the child’s desires in determining which parent will have custody.
In custody cases where the child is 11, 12 or 13 years of age, “the judge shall consider the desires and educational needs of the child in determining which parent shall have custody.” OCGA §19-9-3(a)(6). The judge still has complete discretion in making the custody determination and, though he must consider the child’s desires, “the child’s desires shall not be controlling.” Id. The determination is still based upon best interests of the child and the child’s desires are a factor to be considered in making this determination.
In custody cases where the child is 14 years of age or older, “the child shall have the right to select the parent with whom he or she desires to live.” OCGA §19-9-3(a)(5). The custody selection made by a child in this age group “shall be presumptive unless the parent so selected is determined not to be in the best interests of the child.” Id. Thus, the court will follow the election of the child, unless that election is not in the child’s best interest.