Making Sense of Child Custody
Understanding child custody in Georgia can be confusing. There are basically two parts to custody under Georgia law — legal custody and physical custody. You should talk with a family attorney to help you understand what combination of legal or physical custody is best for your situation.
But in the meantime . . . here is some basic information to help you understand child custody:
Legal custody has to do with access to information and authority to make decisions about your child. In situations where the parents cannot agree on how best to make decisions about the children, the parent with primary legal custody is typically the parent with the authority to make the final decisions regarding the child’s health, education, extracurricular activities, religion and travel. But that’s not always the case. Hence the need to talk to a good family law attorney.
Joint Legal Custody means that both parents have the right to make decisions for the children and equal access to information about the children. Each parent will have equal decision making input with regards to health, religious education, education, extracurricular activities, and travel. If awarding joint legal custody, the court is likely to require the parents to communicate on significant decisions, but will typically choose one parent as having final decision making authority in the event of a disagreement. Or the court can split up who has final decision making authority in different areas – which is a way of encouraging everyone to “play nice” in using their final decision making trump card.
Physical custody has to do with control over where the child physically lives or spends their time. The parent with primary physical custody is typically the parent that the child lives with the majority of the time.
Joint Physical Custody means the children will spend roughly equal time with each parent. However if one parent has the child the majority of time they are the custodial parent, or may be referred to as the primary custodial parent.
Something to keep in mind:
If the parents can’t agree on custody, the judge will decide who gets custody of the child. The judge will hold a hearing and look at all the facts and evidence surrounding your case and make a decision based on the “best interest of the child.” Once an order regarding custody has been entered, it can only be changed by agreement of both parents or by filing a Petition to Modify Custody in court.