Georgia courts determine both legal custody and physical custody of children.
The court may award more rights to one parent than another. The best interest of the child is the most important factor in custody decisions.
Legal custody regards the right to make major decisions about the child. Joint legal custody means both parents have responsibility regarding major decisions about the life of the child. Joint legal custody gives both parents the right to be part of those decisions, though one parent will have final decision-making rights about medical, educational and religious choices.
Physical custody has to do with where a child lives. Joint physical custody means the child will live with each parent for an amount of time determined by the court, usually a roughly equal amount of time. Each parent is responsible for daily decisions and emergency decisions that come up while the child is in that parent’s physical custody.
Custody agreements in Georgia must include a parenting plan. The plan should outline when the child lives with each parent, where the child spends each holiday, when and where the child will transition from the physical custody of one parent to the other and the details of supervision if the court determined supervision necessary. The parenting plan will also detail who will have the final decision-making rights about major life decisions and a plan for resolving disputes when they arise.
Children aged 14 and older can make a custody election where they state which parent they would prefer to live with; however, the judge has the final decision regarding physical custody. The judge will consider the safety and well-being of the child in every decision.