Primary custody awarded to one parent in Georgia even where both are deemed fit parents
In Georgia, even in divorce cases with two fit parents, one parent will be awarded primary physical custody. In a recent divorce case with two fit parents, the trial court awarded primary physical custody of the parties’ two minor children to the Wife, and the Husband appealed. Rowden v. Rowden, S11F0812 (2011).
In affirming the trial court’s ruling, the Supreme Court of Georgia stated that: “In a contest between parents over the custody of a child [or children], the trial court has very broad discretion, looking always to the best interest of the child[ren], and may award the child[ren] to one even though the other may not be an unfit person to exercise custody or had not otherwise lost the right to custody.” Id. at 2, quoting LaFont v. Rouviere, 283 Ga. 60, 62 (2) (2008). Here, the trial court found that both parents were fit and spent quality time with the children. Id. at 3. However, “Husband did not have a concrete childcare plan for the children, nor did he engage his children in age-appropriate activities with other children that could have assisted in their social development. Wife, on the other hand, got the children involved in summer camps, lived near her own parents (who could help her with the children), and, unlike Husband, planned social events for the children such as birthday parties.” Id. The Supreme Court of Georgia therefore held that the evidence supported the trial court’s decision to award primary physical custody to the mother.
It is important to note that the trial court was not saying that the father was not a fit or good parent. Rather, it relied on the evidence above to tip the scales in favor of the mother for primary physical custody.