When dealing with a Marietta divorce involving a child custody dispute, our clients often ask us: “What do I have to do to get full custody of my son or daughter?” We use these opportunities to educate our clients about confusing custody terms and to clarify common misunderstandings about custody rights in Georgia.
First, it is important to understand there are two types of custody in Georgia:
The parent with legal custody gets to make the major decisions in the child’s life as they grow and mature. Georgia courts break down the major decisions into four categories:
Most Georgia divorces involve “joint legal custody,” meaning the parents work together to make decisions that are in the child’s best interests. However, even when parents share joint legal custody, it is helpful to choose a “final decision-maker” for each category. Having a final decision-maker helps avoid any long, drawn-out disagreements.
All final decision-making authority can be with only one parent, or it can be split so that one parent has one or more of the categories while the other parent has the rest. Each case is unique, with its circumstances factoring into who gets final decision-making authority for each category. For example, one parent may be a teacher or a doctor and better-suited to make decisions about education or medical issues.
In rare cases, one parent has “sole legal custody.” In this situation, the parent with sole legal custody doesn’t have to involve the other parent in any decisions about the child. He or she can make all decisions about any of the four categories without notifying, consulting, or involving the other parent. It is unusual that a parent would have sole legal custody unless the other parent has not been involved in the child’s life or has shown severe negligence in decision making.
The second type of custody in Georgia is physical custody. Physical custody has to do with where the child will live. Most divorced parents have a shared physical custodial schedule. With a shared schedule, sometimes the child resides at one parent’s home while the rest of the time is spent at the other parent’s home.
Each parenting plan is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Examples of common parenting plans are:
Schedules that are predictable and consistent tend to give children the best chance for success. However, every situation is unique. Sometimes parenting plans are irregular and have lots of flexibility – sometimes, they can work better. Judges and attorneys consider many factors when dealing with parenting plans. These factors include work schedules, children’s schedules, the distance between the parents’ homes, ages of the children, and the relationship between the children and each parent.
When dealing with legal custody and physical custody issues, you should always consult with a divorce attorney. As experienced Georgia family law attorneys, we can advise you how your situation might fit in with a particular court or judge. This information will help you set realistic expectations. We can also help you better understand how the court awards final decision-making authority in the four categories. Finally, we will help you create a strategy and plan for your case so that you and your child(ren) get the best possible outcome. At Bivek Brubaker & Prescott, you will work with one of our highly qualified partners, not a junior associate. We take the time during your consultation to answer your questions and advise you on your Georgia divorce. Please contact the Marietta family law attorneys or call 404-793-6530 to speak with us.