There are two types of custody in Georgia: legal and physical. What are the differences? They sound similar, but there are key distinctions you need to be aware of. These differences apply to your rights as well as the responsibilities you have to your children.

Legal custody gives you the right to make major decisions for your child. Think of things like medical care, education, and religious decisions. Most often, Georgia courts give joint legal custody to parents unless there’s a good reason not to do so. This means that you and your child’s other parent must agree on how to raise your child and the decisions you make about your child. 

For some parents, this can be challenging. Maybe you never really got along, or you had a bitter divorce. You’ll have to work through these challenges, as Georgia law makes it explicitly clear that the best interests of your child are what matters most. You’ll need to put your differences aside and work together to provide your child with a stable and supportive environment. 

Physical Custody

Where a child lives determines their physical custody. Even if you have joint physical custody, your child may still be legally deemed to live with one parent. This is done for ease of mail and records for schooling.

However, this can be an even split. For example, if you and your child’s other parent have joint physical custody, you may have your child three nights a week, and they may have your child four nights, or vice versa. Based on the shared parenting plan developed by you in mediation or by the court, the specific days and nights your child is with each parent will be clearly spelled out.

Physical custody could also reside solely with one parent. Because of the best interests of the child standard in Georgia, however, this often occurs when one parent has abused the child, is in jail, or the court considers some other detrimental factor that could prohibit your child from having a safe and stable environment.

Even if you have joint physical custody, one parent may be deemed the primary custodial parent. This parent often has the final say in decisions regarding your child if you cannot agree.

Best Interests of Your Child

We keep mentioning this standard, so let’s briefly discuss what it is and how it’s applied. Georgia courts must always look to what is in the best interests of children when making legal and physical custody decisions. In most cases, this means having both parents active in the child’s life and starting with an assumption of joint custody, both physical and legal.

A court will consider many factors when making this determination, including:

  • Each parent’s ability to provide the child with a safe and stable environment
  • Each parent’s physical and mental health
  • Each parent’s existing relationship with the child
  • Each parent’s desire to continue a relationship with the child
  • The relationship between the child and any siblings or other relatives
  • Each parent’s familiarity with the child’s medical, educational, and social needs
  • Each parent’s willingness to let the other parent continue to foster their relationship with the child
  • Any criminal history, substance abuse, or other relevant factors
  • If your child is at least 14 years old, Georgia law allows them to state their preference for physical custody

Because this standard is subjective to some extent, these criteria are not exhaustive.

Speak with a Child Custody Lawyer Today

Getting custody of your child could mean a smoother process for you and your relationship with your child. But be aware that the court will look to what is in your child’s best interest, which often means having both parents active in the child’s life. To get skilled and seasoned guidance, contact Crystal Wright Law today.

Contact the Child Custody Lawyers at Crystal Wright Law To Get Legal Assistance Today

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact us page.
You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.