The basics of child custody in the state of Georgia

When you say that you want custody of your child, do you know what that truly means? The definition is often misunderstood especially to people going through the legal process of seeking custody for the first time. Under the law, there are different types of custody.

Legal Custody

1. Primary legal custody – One parent is given the right to make major decisions for the child. The law usually earmarks four different aspects of a child’s life where major decisions are made: medical, educational, extracurricular, and religious upbringing. The primary legal custodian has the right to make these decisions on their own, without the input of the other parent.

2. Joint Legal Custody – Very common in the State of Georgia, this arrangement refers to both parents having the right to make major decisions regarding the child. What happens when both legal custodians disagree? The custody agreement will designate one parent as the tie-breaker. This doesn’t mean that he or she is all powerful and can force decisions upon the other. It means that after discussion between parents, if a consensus cannot be reached, the conclusion is determined by the designated decision-maker.

Physical Custody

1. Primary physical custody – The child’s primary residence is with the physical custodian. The term primary physical custodian inherently means there is a shared physical custody agreement with another parent, although not necessarily shared evenly.  This is different from the term “sole custody” in which there is only one parent designated as the custodian and there is no other parent with legal rights to the child (see below).

2. Joint physical custody – both the parents have the right to have the child live with him or her. Joint physical custody will often be awarded when the child spends significant amounts of time with both parents.

3. Sole Custody – This means that one parent has full custody and the other parent has no legal rights to the child. Even though the other parent has no rights, they can still be held accountable for child support.

These are the basic definitions of child custody. If you are thinking of pursuing custody of your children, contact us today for a free consultation. Join us on our next blog when we look closely at the issues that arise after a custody agreement. We will answer questions such as, “how often can a visitation agreement be modified? What if I want to move after gaining custody of our minor child?”

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