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Types of Child Custody in Georgia

Joint Legal Custody:

Most cases in Georgia will have an outcome of joint legal custody as this is generally the standard practice if there is not another circumstance present to warrant any other form of custody to take place. In joint legal custody one parent will be awarded primary physical custody of the child while the other parent receives secondary or non-custodial rights in relation to the child. Joint legal custody will allow for certain responsibilities to be delegated between the parents and will give the secondary parent the ability to have involvement in the child’s care and permit them to maintain visitation with the minor child(ren). Furthermore, a judge may split the major life decisions; such as, religion, medical, extracurricular, and education. However, the judge will generally select the primary custodian to maintain control over these aspects and may also award the custodial parent the authority for final decision making over any of the decisions in relation to the major life aspects. Although the primary custodial parent will have tie-breaking authority they will still be required to address all issues or changes of current status with the non-custodial parent. Joint legal custody also gives the secondary parent the ability to access all necessary information’s in relation to the child.

Joint Physical Custody:

The Georgia court and legal system does not have an inclination to award any form of joint physical custody. Joint physical custody is equally shared custody between two parents in which both parents may have equal time spent with the child and or may have an equal role in the decision making process. The opinion of the courts is that this type of custody requires more transactions and can become more problematic between the parents during exchanges. It is very rare if ever at all that a judge will order joint physical custody in a child custody case as the general opinion is that this acts against the best interest of the child(ren). Joint physical custody may also make it more difficult for the parents to distinguish between custodial responsibilities and can therefore make it more difficult for the court to distinguish which responsibility belongs to a particular parent during conflict issues or contempt matters.

Sole Custody:

The Georgia court system does not typically award sole custody to one parent and such circumstances only take place in very rare cases. The belief behind the principal against sole custody is that a child’s best interest is to be cared for and supported by both parents. Sole custody means that one of the parents’ rights are terminated while the other parent retains all custody and decision making authority over the child. In sole custody visitation, child support, decision making, and any other custodial responsibility is determined by only the custodial parent. In sole custody the non-custodial parent will have their legal rights to the child terminated which will prevent any form of visitation – which can be at the discretion of the custodial parent. Sole custody is only awarded in a circumstance where one of the parents if found to be unfit by the judge. Substantial evidence must be provided to prove that a parent is unfit for custody and such claims often need to be substantiated by professional third parties, clinical reports, and police reports. Sole custody is awarded in case in which child abuse, child negligence, substance abuse, or any other illegal activity significantly interferes in a parent’s ability to adequately care for their child.

How to Get the Type of Custody You Want:

Ultimately if you go to court the judge will decide the terms for custody and implement a child custody order based on what they believe best fits the parties and child’s interest. If you desire to really work out situations to benefit yourself and your child in unique circumstances then you should try to negotiate a child custody agreement with the other parent. The benefits of an agreement are that both parents can acquire what they want. In all circumstance both parents are required to submit a parenting plan. Following an agreement process both parties may consent to a unified plan which the judge may use in formulating a final order. In order to get exactly what you want in a child custody order you must include everything that you want in a court order outlined in a parenting plan before the case goes to trial. A parenting plan should be as detailed as necessary and can even specify details as to particular times and dates specific exchanges should annually occur, special contact procedures between child and parents, and or protocols to resolve conflicts. The biggest determining factor in obtaining the custody that you specifically want is based off of the amount of time and consideration spent outlining the specific details of your parenting plan. Other factors that may impact the court’s ruling on the matter are based on the background information of the case and the parental relationships with the child. Note parents seeking custody should refrain from illegal behaviors or activities entirely or especially in the presence of the child(ren).

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