Getting a divorce is nerve-racking enough, and can be more so when there are children involved. The legalities behind custody can be confusing, so below are a few of the basics.

Sole Physical vs. Joint Physical

Sole Physical Custody is when a child lives with one parent most of the time. This may occur when one parent has been the primary custodial parent during the marriage. This also occurs when one parent is unfit to take care of the child, as when there is abuse, neglect, or addiction. The other parent has visitation rights, and still has to pay child support. Visitation may be supervised or suspended in cases of abuse, neglect, or addiction to alcohol or drugs within the discretion of the Judge.

Joint Physical Custody is when both parents have equal time with their child. Joint physical custody requires parents living in close proximity to each other and getting along in custody exchanges.

Children ages 14 and older can choose a parent that they want to live with primarily, and the Court must agree that the selection is in the child’s best interests. The child’s election is usually affirmed. A child who is between 11 and 14 years of age is entitled to have an opinion and be listened to by the Court, but does not have a controlling right of election of the primary custodial parent.

Sole Legal vs. Joint Legal

Sole Legal Custody is when one parent makes all decisions for the child without the need to consult the other parent. This is rare in Georgia, however.

Joint Legal Custody is when both parents share decision making authority in areas of: medical care, schooling, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing. One parent is appointed the final decision maker in any situation in which both parents do not agree. However, this does not mean that the parent that holds that right can make a major decision without consulting the other parent first.

All of this is defined in a Parenting Plan, which is required by the Courts.

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