When you and your co-parent do not live together, you must establish a custody arrangement for your children. The custody order governs where the children will live, how much time they spend with the non-residential parent, and how the parents make decisions affecting the children.
You must create a parenting plan answering these questions and setting them out in a formal written document. If you and your co-parent agree on the terms, you can submit a joint parenting plan to the judge for approval. If you and your co-parent cannot agree, you much each submit a separate parenting plan, and the judge will either choose between the two or create a new one.
Child custody decisions are often emotionally challenging, and it is vital to understand the types of custody arrangements available in Atlanta, GA before you begin negotiating your parenting plan. Working with an experienced custody attorney will help you develop a workable plan that adheres to legal requirements and considers your family’s best interests.
Parents often think custody means who the child lives with, but there is more to it than that. Georgia family law distinguishes between two types of custody for Atlanta parents: physical and legal.
Physical custody refers to where the child lives. Sometimes parents have joint physical custody, which means the children split their time between both parents’ homes. Sometimes, the children remain in the home, and the parents take turns living with them.
Joint custody does not work for some parents because of demanding work, travel schedules, or lack of an appropriate living environment for children. In those cases, one parent will have primary physical custody, and the other will have reasonable visitation. The parent with visitation is entitled to overnight time with the children if they can provide an appropriate home for them.
Legal custody means the right and obligation to make decisions about the child’s upbringing. The parent with legal custody decides where the child goes to school, what religion they practice, and what activities they participate in. The parent with legal custody also consents to health and dental care.
Many parents share decision-making authority. If parents seek an order for joint legal custody, they must explain to the judge how they plan to resolve disagreements.
Parents must create a parenting plan that describes their intentions for physical custody, visitation, legal custody, and child support. Georgia courts strongly prefer parents write the parenting plan themselves because they are more familiar with their children’s needs, each parent’s capabilities, and what will work best for their family.
Some parents can create a parenting plan without help, but seeking assistance from a legal professional is often beneficial. Our Atlanta, GA attorneys understand what judges look for in different types of custody plans and can guide parents toward workable solutions that will meet with judicial approval. Working with a mediator is often helpful if parents cannot communicate effectively or are stuck in conflict over some aspect of custody.
Deciding to divide time with your children can be one of the most stressful and heart-wrenching aspects of separating. Not every couple can put their differences aside and prioritize the children’s best interests, but doing so makes the process easier on the children.
Our team can advise you about the types of custody in Atlanta, GA. Call the Atlanta Divorce Law Group today to speak with a legal professional who will listen to your goals and help you develop a parenting plan that works for you.