Title 19, Chapter 9, Section 3
(a)(1) In all cases in which the custody of any minor child or
children is at issue between the parents, there shall be no
prima-facie right to the custody of the child or children in the
father or mother.
(2) The court hearing the issue of custody, in exercise of its
sound discretion, may take into consideration all the
circumstances of the case, including the improvement of the health
of the party seeking a change in custody provisions, in
determining to whom custody of the child or children should be
awarded. The duty of the court in all such cases shall be to
exercise its discretion to look to and determine solely what is
for the best interest of the child or children and what will best
promote their welfare and happiness and to make its award
(3) In addition to other factors that a court may consider in a
proceeding in which the custody of a child or visitation by a
parent is at issue and in which the court has made a finding of
(A) The court shall consider as primary the safety and
well-being of the child and of the parent who is the victim of
(B) The court shall consider the perpetrator's history of
causing physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or causing
reasonable fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault to
(C) If a parent is absent or relocates because of an act of
domestic violence by the other parent, such absence or
relocation for a reasonable period of time in the circumstances
shall not be deemed an abandonment of the child or children for
the purposes of custody determination; and
(D) The court shall not refuse to consider relevant or otherwise admissible evidence of acts of family violence merely because there has been no previous finding of family violence. The court may, in addition to other appropriate actions, order supervised visitation pursuant to Code Section 19-9-7.
(4) In all custody cases in which the child has reached the age of
14 years, the child shall have the right to select the parent with
whom he or she desires to live. The child's selection shall be
controlling unless the parent so selected is determined not to be
a fit and proper person to have the custody of the child.
(4.1) In all custody cases in which the child has reached the age
of at least 11 but not 14 years, the court shall consider the
desires and educational needs of the child in determining which
parent shall have custody. The child's selection shall not be
controlling. The best interests of the child standard shall
(5) Joint custody, as defined by Code Section 19-9-6, may be considered as an alternative form of custody by the court. This provision allows a court at any temporary or permanent hearing to grant sole custody, joint custody, joint legal custody, or joint physical custody where appropriate.
(6) The court is authorized to order a psychological custody
evaluation of the family or an independent medical evaluation.
(b) In any case in which a judgment awarding the custody of a minor
has been entered, on the motion of any party or on the motion of the
court, that portion of the judgment effecting visitation rights
between the parties and their minor children may be subject to
review and modification or alteration without the necessity of any
showing of a change in any material conditions and circumstances of
either party or the minor, provided that the review and modification
or alteration shall not be had more often than once in each two-year
period following the date of entry of the judgment. However, this
subsection shall not limit or restrict the power of the court to
enter a judgment relating to the custody of a minor in any new
proceeding based upon a showing of a change in any material
conditions or circumstances of a party or the minor.
(c) In the event of any conflict between this Code section and any
provision of Article 3 of this chapter, Article 3 shall apply.
(d) It is the express policy of this state to encourage that a minor
child has continuing contact with parents and grandparents who have
shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child and to
encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of
raising their children after such parents have separated or
dissolved their marriage.
(e) Upon the filing of an action for a change of child custody, the
court may in its discretion change the terms of custody on a
temporary basis pending final judgment on such issue. Any such
award of temporary custody shall not constitute an adjudication of
the rights of the parties.