Divorce is tough on the whole family, but children can take it especially hard. For example, studies indicate that children will remember exactly where they were when their parents told them they were getting divorced. Studies also suggest that recalling that memory is painful for children. If that conversation is painful, imagine the turmoil your child would go through if he or she was forced to decide where to live.
Kids often do not have a say in where they will live. The court will choose for them based on what it decides is in the child’s best interest. However, in Georgia, once the child is over the age of 14, she can voice her opinion about where she would like to live. But, what happens when siblings make a different decision about their living situation? Will the court really separate siblings if they ask?
How the Judge Decides Custody in Georgia
Assuming that the parents cannot determine how custody should be arranged on their own, the court will have a temporary hearing on custody to decide how children will live while the divorce is pending. Then, a second hearing will occur to make a more finalized decision as part of the entire divorce.
The court always has the “best interests of the children” in mind when making custody decisions. The court essentially takes a look at the entire circumstances and decides how custody should be arranged to meet the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the children. Part of that analysis will be to examine the bond between siblings and where the siblings are located.
In most circumstances, siblings will go together to the same household. However, if the parties agree that splitting the siblings is a good idea, including the children themselves, then the court may grant the request, although will make every effort to arrange a parenting plan so that the siblings are with the same parent at the same time fairly regularly.
Factors the Judge Will Consider in Splitting Siblings
If two children over the age of 14 are expressing their desires to live with different parents, there is likely a reason for the request. Perhaps if one child goes with Dad, then he or she will have to switch schools just before graduation, for example. The court will consider the reasons expressed by the children to determine if they are valid and would be in the children’s best interest. The court may also appoint a guardian ad litem to conduct an investigation and make a recommendation on the children’s best interests. Although that recommendation is not binding on the court, a guardian ad litem will prepare a report for the judge that will be full of facts gathered from the investigation, which will help the court make the final decision.
As a rule, the judge will keep siblings together unless there is good reason or a request to split them. The best solution is not to let the children know they have a vote. If you have questions about custody or other issues that crop up in divorce, a family law attorney can be a great resource.