Child custody and support are often the most disputed areas in divorce negotiations as they affect both emotions and money. Unfortunately, children are used as a bargaining chip. Parents’ responsibility to manage their children’s growth and development continues even though the marriage ends.
Both parents should help their children understand that although Mother and Father no longer love each other as husband and wife, they do love each other as parents. It is essential that both parents successfully convey love to their children. As husband and wife, ways of working together may be beyond reach.
However, as parents, there are may ways and resources available in child custody disputes to parents who will seek them. The most important purpose of any method chosen by parents is to convey to their children that both parents care about their children’s personal safety and about making their love known to the children.
In Georgia, the Court determines custody based on what it believes to be the best interests of the children. This aspect can be the most complicated and controversial component of a divorce. Sometimes children become a bartering tool and their well being gets lost in the game of tug-of-war.
Child custody matters in affect children under the age of 18. When the parents disagree about issues of child custody, the Court will often appoint a guardian-ad-litem who will make an investigation and issue a recommendation regarding child custody and an appropriate visitation schedule.
Legal Custody and Physical Custody
In Georgia legal custody involves which parent has control over major decisions, education health care, religious upbringing, etc. Many times the court will order joint legal custody where both parties have this right but one parent will have the final say so. Physical custody involves where the child will reside, with the other parent getting visitation.
Joint Legal Custody
In joint legal custody, both parents have legal custody with one parent designated as the primary custodial parent. Joint legal custody means that both parents have the right to make major decisions for their children. These decisions include residence of the child, medical and dental treatment, education, child care, religious education, extra-curricular activities, summer camp and recreation.
Joint Physical Custody
Joint Physical Custody is where both parents share legal and physical custody with each parent having specific periods of responsibility with the children. This arrangement gives both parents the right to make major decisions on an equal basis for their children and the child splits time equally with the two parents. It is rare for the court to order such an arrangement unless the parties agree to it. Both parents have to continue to live in close proximity to each other and have an amicable relationship.
Changing Child Custody or Modification
Once the court make a determination of which parent get physical custody of the child the other parent can petition the court to have this changed if there has been “ a substantial change in the circumstances”. Some situations that would qualify are, the custodial parent is arrested, abusing alcohol or drugs, has moved in with another party, or is moving far away. A petition filed with the court will then reopen the case for the court to consider whether the substantial change in circumstances should alter the court’s previous ruling on custody.
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