Georgia Child Custody Laws
Child custody laws are put in place to ensure that in the event a child's parents divorce, the child does not suffer any consequences as a result of the separation, especially as far as their education, medical expenses and extra-curricular are concerned. In the United States, different states have different laws that dictate how child custody laws work within that State. In Georgia, child custody laws grant custody based on what the Court perceives to be in the best interest of the child.
What are Georgia's Child Custody Laws?
The State of Georgia's primary concern when granting custody is to properly assess and determine which parent is better suited to being granted custody over the child. Various factors are taken into consideration when deciding upon who gets custodial rights, such as which parent was the primary caregiver, which parent is better suited to meeting the day-to-day requirements the child will need during their developmental phase, etc.
If the child is over the age of 14, they will be asked to participate in a custodial election, where they can choose which parent they would rather stay with. In the event the Court disagrees with the child's decision, it can reject the child's preference and grant custody to the parent it determines to be the better solo guardian.
There Court in Georgia also has the power to grant joint child custody to both parents, where either parent will have a say in how the child is raised. There are two kinds of custody that Georgia recognizes.
The first is legal custody, and the second is physical custody. Legal custody is given to the parent that has the right to make important decisions regarding their child's life until their child reaches their age of maturity. Courts in Georgia can grant either sole legal custody, or joint legal custody. Where the Court grants joint legal custody, one parent will still have the final decision-making capacity when it comes to certain areas of the child's life, such as their education and extra-curricular activities, their medical expenses, as well as their religious upbringing.
Physical custody is given to the parent that the child stays with. The Court can grant either sole or joint physical custody. However, legal custody is not directly related to physical custody. Both parents could be granted joint legal custody, while at the same time only one parent was given physical custody of the child.
What are 'Parenting Plans' in Georgia?
Child custody laws in Georgia require both parents to keep in mind a parenting plan and make their decisions and agreements on child custody based on it. While parenting plans are generally flexible, they must accommodate for certain factors. These include:
- The need for the continuing development and growth of a close bond of the parent/s and the child, especially where that is in the best interests of the child.
- Relevant records pertaining to the child, such as their school record, their medical record, etc, must be accessible to both the parents unless there are limitations on the non-custodial parent.
- Where there are limitations on the non-custodial parent, what those limitations are and how the parent can contact their child, should be clearly decided upon in the plan. If the divorcing couple cannot come to a decision on this by themselves, the Court may intervene.
- The parent that has been granted physical custody over the child will be responsible for making emergency decisions on the part of the child, such as emergency medical decisions among others until the child reaches their age of maturity.
- Where the child will live, how they will spend their birthdays, vacations, as well as other special occasions. This should take into account the time the child will be spending with both parents in the year.
- Transportation arrangements regarding the child, as well as how the two parents will exchange the child and the details surrounding that plan.
- Proper allocation of the decision-making power each parent has, and with regards to what.
Child custody law is different from child support. Child support is calculated using a specific formula in the State of Georgia. The formula utilizes various factors that help to evaluate how many financial resources will be required to ensure that the child can continue to enjoy the standard of life they were used to, or better, as well as have all their needs met. Some of the factors include the income of the parents, premiums on health insurance whether either parent is already paying child support from before, etc.