Determining the Best Interests of the Child - Georgia

Date: September 2023

Guiding Principles

Citation: Ann. Code § 15-11-1

The purpose of this chapter is to secure for each child who comes within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court such care and guidance, preferably in their own home, as will secure their moral, emotional, mental, and physical welfare as well as the safety of both the child and community. It is the intent of the general assembly to promote a juvenile justice system that will protect the community, impose accountability for violations of law, provide treatment and rehabilitation, and equip juvenile offenders with the ability to live responsibly and productively. It is the intent of the general assembly to preserve and strengthen family relationships, countenancing the removal of a child from their home only when State intervention is essential to protect such child and enable them to live in security and stability.

 Best Interests Factors

Citation: Ann. Code § 15-11-26

Whenever a determination of a child's best interests is required, the court shall consider and evaluate all the factors affecting the best interests of the child in the context of the child's age and developmental needs. Such factors shall include the following:

  • The physical safety and welfare of the child, including food, shelter, health, and clothing
  • The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and each parent or person available to care for the child
  • The child's need for permanence, including the child's need for stability and continuity of relationships with their parents, siblings, other relatives, and any other person who has provided significant care to the child
  • The child's sense of attachments, including their sense of security and familiarity, and continuity of affection for the child
  • The capacity and disposition of each parent or person available to care for the child to give them love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child
  • The home environment of each parent or person available to care for the child, considering the promotion of the child's nurturance and safety rather than superficial or material factors
  • The stability of the family unit and the presence or absence of support systems within the community to benefit the child
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  • The home, school, and community record and history of the child as well as any health or educational special needs of the child
  • The child's community ties, including church, school, and friends
  • The child's background and ties, including familial, cultural, and religious
  • The least disruptive placement alternative for the child
  • The uniqueness of every family and child
  • The risks attendant to entering and being in substitute care
  • The preferences of the persons available to care for the child
  • Any evidence of family violence; substance abuse; criminal history; or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse in any current, past, or considered home for the child
  • Any recommendation by a court-appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem
  • Any other factors considered by the court to be relevant and proper to its determination

Other Considerations

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 15-11-1; 15-11-26

In every proceeding, this chapter seeks to guarantee due process of law, as required by the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Georgia, through which every child and their parent and all other interested parties are assured fair hearings at which legal rights are recognized and enforced. Above all, this chapter shall be liberally construed to reflect that the paramount child welfare policy of this State is to determine and ensure the best interests of its children.

Factors to consider when determining the best interests of the child include the following:

  • The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and their siblings, half-siblings, and stepsiblings and the residence of such other children
  • The child's wishes and long-term goals