Whether parents are married or not, if it is decided that they will no longer remain together as a couple, the parents will have to make many difficult decisions regarding their children. Family law matters are emotional, as it not only deals with the lives of their children, but it also impacts the relationship each parent has with their children. Therefore, it is important for Georgia parents to understand the custody arrangements they could seek and end up with.
Different types of child custody
When navigating a child custody matter, it is important that parents understand that there are not only different arrangements but that there is also a difference between legal custody and physical custody.
To begin, physical custody refers to the physical placement of the child. This means that if a parent has been awarded physical custody of a child, they have the right to have the child live with them. In a joint custody arrangement, each parent is granted equal access to the child. This type of arrangement is typically only awarded when parents live relatively close. When they live too far away from one another, this can put strain on the child when they constantly travel a distance to see each parent.
In contrast, sole physical custody refers to when a child lives primarily with one parent, providing limited visitation and custody rights to the other parent. Oftentimes, one parent will have the child ever day while the other parent will visit the child a few hours at a time or get the child on the weekends.
Legal custody differs from physical custody. This form of custody refers to the legal authority a parent has to make decisions regarding the child’s education, health, religion and other factors related to their upbringing. A parent that has legal custody has the authority to make these decisions. In some cases, both parents have this authority. In other cases, both parents have legal custody with one parent having final say. Finally, one parent could be awarded sole legal custody.
When parents establish a custody plan, it is important that they understand that it is possible to revisit the order. This is especially true for parents that might move closer or further away from the residence the children call home. Therefore, it is important that parents not only understand their rights and options when initially establishing an order but also what rights they have to modify an order currently in place.