Many parents facing the eventuality of divorce may wonder: “May my job affect my ability to obtain custody of my children?” Parents who have erratic or very demanding work schedules, parents who have to travel frequently for work or parents who engage in work in specific industries, like the entertainment industry, may worry that their employment may affect a court’s custody determination. It is important for parents in these situations to understand that a judge will not make custody decisions based upon one factor alone. Georgia courts must take several factors under consideration before making a child custody determination. See O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3. A parent’s employment is only one of these factors. However, depending upon the circumstances, a parent’s employment may implicate several other factors used by courts in their determination.
According to the Official Code of Georgia, there are seventeen factors that a court may consider in determining what is in the best interest of the child regarding custody. Of these seventeen, there are at least five factors that either directly or indirectly involve a parent’s employment. These factors include:
The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, day-to-day needs, and other necessary basic care, with consideration made for the potential payment of child support by the other parent;
The home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child rather than superficial or material factors;
The stability of the family unit of each of the parents and the presence or absence of each parent’s support systems within the community to benefit the child;
Each parent’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the child’s education, social, and extracurricular activities; [and,]
Each parent’s employment schedule and the related flexibility or limitations, if any, of a parent to care for the child.
O.C.G.A. §§ 19-9-3(a)(3)(E), (F), (H), (J), (K).
Although a court will analyze all of these factors cumulatively, along with other factors relating to the custody of the child or children, if a parent is not able to provide his or her child with basic care or if a parent is not able to ensure that his or her child has a stable home environment as a result of that parent’s employment (or lack thereof), that parent may justifiably be concerned that a court may not grant him or her primary custody.
However, as there are several different custody arrangements that parents may take advantage of, no parent should be deprived of the opportunity to spend quality parenting time with his or her children.