Child custody in Georgia has two components: legal custody and physical custody. The legal custodian is the parent who makes important decisions regarding the child, particularly on the matters of health, education, extracurricular activities, and religion. After a divorce or legitimation case, the vast majority of parents have joint legal custody. This means that they must discuss all important decisions regarding the child and both parents have the right to get information from teachers, medical providers, etc. Even when the court orders joint legal custody between the parents, one parent is typically designated as having final decision making authority. This means that if the parents are unable to agree after a discussion on the issue, then that parent makes the final decision. Sometimes final decision making authority is divided between the parents, with each parent having final authority in two of the above named categories.
Physical custody is where the child resides. Typically, parents will have joint physical custody, with one parent named as the primary physical custodian with the other parent having secondary physical custody. The court issues a parenting plan that outlines the parenting time schedule in great detail. True joint physical custody, where the child spends equal amounts of time with both parents, is rarely awarded by judges in contested cases, but can be done by agreement of the parties. These situations take a great deal of cooperation between the parents, as they must be able to discuss matters such as school assignments with each other and keep some continuity with schedules during the week so the child has consistency between homes.
If you are facing divorce with children or need to establish paternity and parenting time, our team at Atlanta Divorce Law Group can help assess your case to determine the custody situation that is best for you and you children and formulate a plan to achieve that goal.