Not all marriages end up in happily ever after. The aftermath of divorce can be quite devastating and can take an emotional toll on you. When minor children are involved, the emotions even run deeper. At time of the divorce, if minor children are involved, determining who gets child custody is usually a central issue. Child custody laws are determined on the basis of state law. The article below lays out the basics of child custody, including the types.

Divorce Family Lawyers Johns Creek GeorgiaPrimary Physical Custody

If the court awards primary physical custody, child mainly stays with one spouse for majority of the time. In awarding primary physical custody, court generally assesses how parenting time is allocated between you and your spouse. In Georgia, there is no set time that you or your spouse is required to spend with the child. Determining the exact number of time the child stays with a parent often varies case-by-case basis. However, in legal practice generally, a parent can be granted anywhere from none to all the time with the child. However, in majority of the cases, the time a parent spends with the child is usually somewhere in the middle.

If you are awarded sole physical custody, you will be responsible for taking care of child’s basic needs, including the basic necessities that a child generally requires for healthy upbringing- clothes, shelter, safety, and food.

Splitting and Sharing Physical Custody

Physical custody can be split, and both parents can divide the time the child spends with them. A child may live with one parent for five (5) days a week, while live with the other parent tow (2) days a week. However, if the physical custody is shared, the child can spend time with both parents equally. Generally, many cases, it is common for a child to be scheduled to spend a minimum of one hundred ten (110) overnights with each parent under a joint physical custody arrangement.

Determining Primary Custodian

To determine child’s primary custodian, the court takes into consideration what is the child’s best interest. The Court looks at several factors in determining what is in child’s best interest. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Who was the child’s primary caretaker during the course of the marriage.  Even if you and your spouse can provide the child with a stable home, the state of Georgia prefers to award one parent the primary physical custody. In the Georgia Supreme Court case, Rowden v. Rowden, the Court held that the trial court has the discretion, pursuant to the best interest of child standard, to determine that one parent should be awarded the child custody, even when the other parent is not unfit to have the child custody.
  • Who is in a better position to involve child in extracurricular activities
  • Who is more actively involved in child’s life
  • Who can better provide the child with the necessities that child requires for a healthy upbringing.
  • If you are interested in seeking primary physical custody of your child, it is advised to make a constant effort to be part of your child’s life.

Joint Physical Custody

Under Georgia law, spouses can be eligible for joint physical custody as well. In the state of Georgia, when the court awards joint physical custody, both parents share the physical custody of the child. The child gets to spend time with both parents, providing the child with a more stable environment. However, usually one parent will be awarded more time than the other with the child.  Although Georgia courts do have discretion to award joint physical custody with equal parenting time, this type of shared is generally not awarded. The courts see the joint physical custody with equal parenting time arrangements to be very difficult to award, as it provides the child with an unstable environment due to constant moving from one parent to other parent, especially during the months the child is in school.  However, this type of schedule is much more frequently awarded in uncontested divorce cases where both parents live in the same school district.

Sole Custody

The court can also award sole custody. Under Georgia law, in a sole custody arrangement, one parent is awarded the custody of the child. When the parent is awarded sole custody of a child, he or she not only gets the physical custody, but also the legal custody. As the sole custodian of your child, you will have the responsibility to make major decisions in child’s life. If you are awarded the sole custody of the child, the other parent is referred as non-custodial parent primarily just gets visitation rights with the child. Generally, the sole custody is awarded in rare extreme cases where one parent’s extreme conduct can likely harm the child. Public policy ensures that the bond that parents have with the child should continue even after the divorce is granted. Non-custodial parent can still get visitation rights, even in sole custody cases.

Split Custody

The court also has the discretion to award split custody. Under Georgia law, split custody is awarded in situations where there are two or more minor children involved from the same parent. One parent is custodial parent for one of the children and the other parent has the custody of the other children. Under a split parenting situation, no child shall have more that one custodial or non-custodial parent. Typically in a split parent custody situation, two children get joint visitation every alternate weekend with the parent to keep the significant ties intact.

Generally, the court does not award this type of custodial arrangement because it is important for the children to have a good relationship with one another. However, under certain circumstances, this type of custodial arrangement may benefit both the parties, including the minor child.

In a divorce case, custodial matters are considered to be essential and can be mentally excruciating. However, you do not have to go through this alone. The custody matters in the state of Georgia often focus on minor details; therefore it is important for you to consult your local family law attorney. This article is only written for educational purposes, and as always it is generally advised to consult your local family law attorney when dealing with the complexities surrounding child custody matters. Call us today at 770-609-1247 to discuss your case with one of our experienced divorce and family law attorneys.