Going through a divorce is one of the most challenging and stressful times in life. When you are a parent, your stress increases as you worry about the impact of the divorce on your children. Today, both mothers and fathers have rights and responsibilities for their children in a divorce. Therefore, it is helpful to understand the meaning of child custody in Georgia. An experienced Carrollton divorce attorney will answer your questions and guide you through the divorce process.
Differences Between Physical and Legal Child Custody
There are two types of child custody in divorce cases in Georgia: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to the location where the child will reside following the divorce. Legal custody refers to the right to make legal decisions on behalf of the child. In most cases, both parents are allowed to share legal custody of the child. So both parents are allowed to make crucial decisions, such as those that involve religion, education, and medical care.
Joint custody most often means that both parents share legal custody. Parents are expected to make decisions that are in the best interest of the child. One parent may be assigned as the primary legal decision-maker. This is helpful in cases where parents are not able to agree on the upbringing of their child. In some cases, the judge may give one parent legal authority over specific decisions and the other parent legal authority over others. This is another option in situations where the divorce is particularly acrimonious.
Visitation and Parenting Plans
Most often, one parent is the primary custodial parent. This means the children will live with this parent full time, and the other parent has regular visitation. Joint physical custody is difficult to achieve because it requires children to shuttle between parents and could be disruptive to their well-being. Keep in mind that the judge will always make decisions that are in the best interest of the child. Once the judge decides custody, it is final. The only way to make changes is to request a court hearing for a modification, which can only occur when there is a significant change in family circumstances.
At age 14, a child may choose with which parent he or she prefers to live, and a change in custody may be requested. The court allows a custody review every two years after that. Parents should work together to create a parenting plan. The plan should outline the visitation arrangement, including how and when visitation will occur, where the child will spend weekends and holidays, and how vacations are handled. The judge will include it as part of the divorce order.
Contact a Carrollton Family Law Attorney
Make the parenting plan as specific as possible so that it eliminates problems or questions in the future. It should also provide a way to resolve disputes, should they occur. Your attorney will work with you to draft a parenting plan that fits your children’s needs and meets the legal requirements.
Divorce with children is not easy, but it can be less stressful when you choose a family law attorney with experience. Contact our compassionate divorce attorneys at Moffitt Law, LLC to discuss the details of your divorce in a consultation.