During the negotiations of a divorce, one of the most important—and, often, contentious—elements of the proceedings regards custody of children. Because custody will determine the rules of care, support, and important decisions in a child’s life, it is important to understand the types of child custody available in Atlanta.
However, instead of trying to navigate this process alone, a knowledgeable lawyer might be able to help. By explaining your rights and even helping you during the ensuing negotiations, a dedicated attorney could be a valuable ally during this process.
Essentially, legal custody is the access to a child’s documentation and records, as well as the ability to communicate with the child’s medical providers, teachers, extracurricular activity coaches, and religious leaders. A child needs legal custody from one parent until they are 18 years of age.
Under Georgia law, there are a couple of types of child custody that can arise out of a divorce or post-divorce situation. For example, there is sole custody, where one parent has singular rights to the child while the other parent has no custodial claims whatsoever. Here, while both parents must communicate in good faith about serious issues, one parent is vested with final decision-making authority when it comes to four major areas. This includes:
More common, however, is joint custody—this can be done as either joint legal custody, as well as joint physical custody. Furthermore, there is also third-party or grandparent custody allowed in Atlanta. Here, the grandparents might interview in the case to ensure that they also have parenting time and visitation rights with their grandchild. Lastly, there is a custody arrangement used on a temporary basis known as bird’s nest custody, also known as shared custody, where the child continually lives in one house, while the parents take turns living with them.
The most common custody agreement in Atlanta is one where the primary parent has the child or children the majority of the time, while the secondary custodial parent has a schedule where they may see their children. For example, a common arrangement involves a long weekend—from Thursday after school through Monday morning. Then, on an off-week, when the custodial parent has the child for the weekend, the non-custodial parent might have an overnight. Under many circumstances, these exchanges between one parent to the other will occur primarily through school, daycare, or camp, to reduce contact between the two parents following a divorce.
In the past, one parent would routinely keep the regular parenting time schedule in place during the summer. Then, they might have two weeks of vacation to take consecutively or non-consecutively with their children. Currently, in metropolitan areas, the trend is to equalize this summer in favor of a week-on, week-off schedule. Essentially, a “traditional arrangement” is no longer traditional because often, both parents are working. Therefore, there is more accommodation in visitation and custody.
Some of the most common issues that might impact a judge’s decision include any past issues of abuse of a child, concerns about a parent’s interaction with their child’s medical care providers or educational providers, and the parent’s inherent ability to provide care. Aside from these issues, many judges award joint legal custody in order to allow both parents to have access to documentation, as well as the ability to communicate with their child’s school.
There are other circumstances where a judge may limit one parent’s ability, however. For example, a judge will often consider each parent’s role in the decision-making process of their child in the past, we all as what role they might provide in the future.
In certain cases, specialized knowledge plays a role in legal custody. For example, if one parent is an educator, the judge may weigh heavily in favor of giving that person final decision-making on education. Likewise, if one parent is a medical professional and was involved in a child’s healthcare, the court may take this into consideration when awarding that parent with final decision-making and legal custody.
While negotiating care, support, and guardianship over a child during a divorce, it is essential to understand the types of child custody offered in Atlanta, as well as how to pursue one that is right for you and your child. However, because of the often contentious and emotional nature of many divorce proceedings, it may be difficult to assess all of your legal options alone.
A well-versed lawyer might be able to help. By assessing your unique circumstances, explaining important information about the legal process, and advising you on how to best proceed, a steadfast attorney might prove to be a valuable ally during this difficult time. Call a legal professional today to schedule a consultation.