This bill intends to substantially change child custody in Georgia. It rewrites critical provisions in OCGA §19-9-3, including subparts (a)(1) and adds a substantial provision to subpart (a)(3).
The intended change to subpart (a)(1) is to provide for a presumption of “equal parenting time with each parent,” and restrict a trial judge from considering “alternative forms of custody” unless the judge makes a written finding “that clear and convincing evidence exists that either parent is not fit, willing, or able to participate in such an arrangement.” The terms “not fit,” “willing,” or “able” are not defined.
The additional provision proposed to subpart (a)(3) will require a trial judge to enter findings of facts and conclusions of law regarding every factor in OCGA §19-9-3(a)(3) considered by the judge, regardless of whether or not this is requested, and will require this in any order, including a temporary order.
The factors a trial judge may consider in deciding child custody are also addressed. The reference to potential payment of child support in subpart (a)(3)(E) is eliminated. And, importantly, a new factor is added as (R), specifying that the desires of a child should be taken into account by a trial judge “if such child is of appropriate age and discretion.”
Again, these changes will apply to all child custody cases and will also apply to temporary hearings.
Status of Bill
This is the same bill introduced in the 2019-21 General Session as HB 1196, which did not make it past “cross-over day” and therefore died.
HB 96 was put into the House Hopper on Thursday, 14 January 2021. It has been assigned to the Juvenile Justice Committee, formerly the Children and Youth Committee. Two of the bill’s sponsors serve on this Committee.
- Jasmine Clark, Democrat, District 108, Lilburn GA, Email [email protected]
- Micah Gravley, Republican, District 67, Douglasville GA, Email [email protected]
- Rhonda Burrough, Democrat, District 77, Riverdale GA, Email [email protected]
- Chuck Efstration, Republican, District 104, Dacula GA, Email [email protected]
Chuck Efstration sponsored the recently enacted “Equitable Caregivers Act.” Elected in 2013, he’s sponsored over 155 legislative bills and serves on the Judiciary Committee.