How Does Adultery Impact Child Custody?
The most painful and one of the most important questions in connection with any divorce is the decision of child custody. The law obliges parents, the social workers, and all others who care for the child or take part in his education and upbringing (family, school, doctors) to help the court to decide these issues. This decision must be in the best interests of the child.
The Court has the sole authority to make a final assessment of the parent who would ensure child’s “proper development.” It is measured on the basis of all known circumstances, the desire of the child and parents, health and economic status of the parents, and even on the traits of the child and the parents. In fact, in practice, when it comes to pre-school children, the court usually estimates it to be in the best interests of the child to remain with his mother.
The Court focuses on the reasons that led to the divorce when assessing what is best for the child. Of course, if there is a reason one of the parents should be deprived of parental rights (violence, abuse, neglect); the court assigns the child to the other parent.
Some experts agree that a good divorce is better than a bad marriage, especially if it is in the interest of the children. But when the time comes to make that decision, the most difficult question is who exactly will retain custody of the child.
Factors on Child Custody
The desire of the child
Children older than 15 years have the right to decide themselves with which parent to live after the divorce. And when it comes to younger children, the court obliges to take into account their likes and preferences. But, this is one of the elements of which form the base for forming the decisions, and it is not always decisive. The Court has a duty to ensure smooth communication with the child. It works through intermediaries that work with the help of a social work specialist. At ten years of age, a child has a right to decide without intermediaries and on his own initiative; he can express an opinion before the court.
The role of the others with whom the child has contact
Relatives, neighbors, and others in contact with children have an obligation to come to the Court to give evidence of the facts they know. Also, government institutions, such as hospitals and schools, and their employees must report everything they know about violations of the rights of the child such as domestic violence. Problematic behavior of the child that may have originated as a reaction to divorce should also be reported to the court.
In divorce cases involving adultery
In divorces where adultery is an element in the case, the accusing spouse must prove that adultery was the cause of the divorce for it to have any bearing on the divorce case in court. Oftentimes, adultery is an indicator, a singing canary, of a deeper underlying problem such as lack of communication.
Proving adultery can also be quite difficult. A spouse in an extra-marital affair will work hard to cover his or her tracks and hide any evidence of the relationship from his or her spouse. For a spouse to accuse the other spouse of having an adulterous affair, he or she must provide strong evidence to support his or her claim.
Even then, having an affair may have no bearing on the child custody portion of the case. A bad spouse does not always make a bad parent.
Of course, there are exceptions to the general rule. One such exception is if the cheating spouse allowed the child(ren) to witness the extra-marital relationship. Allowing children to see the adulterous relationship is considered poor judgment, as it is not in the best interest of the child to see the parent in a compromised situation like an extra-marital relationship. In those cases, child custody privileges could be limited or revoked altogether.
What to do
If you believe your spouse has been or is currently committing adultery and you want to know how it will impact your child’s custody, we encourage you to reach out to an experienced divorce law attorney in Georgia. We can help you explore your options and review the steps you need to take to file your divorce involving adultery, including what types of supporting evidence you might need and possible outcomes of your divorce case.