Often times in a divorce, the most complex and contested issue between the parents is the issue of child custody. Recognizing the important role that both parents play in the lives of children, Georgia has adopted the public policy of ensuring that children continue to have contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the children’s best interests. Georgia encourages parents to “share in the rights and responsibilities of raising” their children after a divorce or the dissolution of their relationship. O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(d).
Types of Custody
Broadly speaking, child custody is broken up into two major categories, physical custody and legal custody, (in other words: time and say so). Physical custody deals with which parent the child will reside with primarily. Legal custody addresses which parent will have final say so on various matters related to a child’s upbringing such as medical and education decisions.
The determination of physical custody may be made by agreement of the parties (subject to court approval) or directly by the judge presiding over the case. Regardless of how the determination is made, the best interests of the child or children involved must be considered by the court before any physical custody arrangement is ordered or approved by the court. Of course, in many cases, what is in the best interest of the child or children involved is not always obvious. In these types of contested custody cases, we often turn to guardian ad litems (GALs) and obtain custody and psychological evaluations to provide guidance to the court as to the best course of action. In addition, depending upon a child’s age, we may also look heavily towards the desire of the children involved (usually by a child’s election) in making the final determination of custody… (continue reading).
For the non-custodial parent, usually some type of visitation is put into place to ensure that a child has access to both parents. We discuss some of the more common custody plans in more detail and address unique issues, such as supervised visitation and parenting plans, in our visitation section under child custody… (continue reading).
Any case in Georgia involving child custody must have a formal parenting plan incorporated into the final decree. O.C.G.A. §19-9-1. In order for a court to incorporate a parenting plan, the plan must meet several requirements… (continue reading).