By Mike Stetzer
A current Georgia child custody bill which would require judges to spell out how they came to a custody decision during a divorce proceeding has drawn some early support and ire, and ultimately reveals how joint custody is becoming a growing legislative issue and source of debate in the state.
Specifically, House Bill 369 would make judges explain in writing how they came to respective Georgia child custody arrangements, according to a story in The Florida Times-Union Jacksonville. Sponsored by Representative Tom Price, this Georgia child custody bill would provide parents with exact points to contest when appealing custody decisions and continuing to fight for joint custody.
This Georgia child custody bill would also require parents to submit a parenting plan to the court which would lay out visitation rights and explain which parent has the ultimate say over certain aspects of a child's life.
Advocates of joint custody have called Price's bill a good start but want to see more. The Georgians for Family Law/Child Support Reform is one such group seeking to protect fathers' rights during Georgia divorces and child custody disputes by pushing for more joint custody decisions.
This Georgia group argues that sole custody is too often based on an antiquated notion that the mother is the better choice for a child following divorce. The organization claims that fathers are often at a disadvantage during child custody cases because of such opinions and assert that the best solution is to order judges to grant joint custody or encourage them to do so. Price has acknowledged that similar groups want a Georgia divorce law which would grant fathers joint custody in all cases unless they are proven unfit.
With that in mind, the President of the Georgians for Family Law/Child Support feels that Price's current custody bill does not do enough for fathers. Julie Batson said this current Georgia child custody bill does not address certain issues which have been addressed by the House Shared Parenting Study Committee. Headed up by Price, this Georgia study committee previously stated in a report that it is in the best interests of the child that both parents work together to raise their child or children.
Opponents to "shared parenting" or joint custody feel that it is not in the best interests of the child to be constantly switching between his or her mother's and father's home. One Augusta family law attorney said in the story that depriving a child of a steady environment can have detrimental effects. Lisa Clarke elaborated that children need stability and routine in order to thrive, especially after the divorce process.
Ultimately, the current debate surrounding this Georgia child custody bill reveals an important point: finding the right balance between parents' custody rights and the best interests of children can be a difficult and complicated task not only during divorce proceedings but also in the court of public opinion!