The two types of Child Custody in Georgia are Legal Custody and Physical Custody.
Legal Custody determines which parent will be empowered to make important legal and life decisions for the minor child, in four basic categories including (1) Education, (2) Medical, (3) Religion, and (4) Extracurricular Activities. In contested cases and on relatively rare occasions, one parent may receive Sole Legal Custody, but it is most common that the parents will be Joint Legal Custodians with one parent designated as the Primary Legal Custodian. The Primary Legal Custodian is vested with the “tie-breaking” vote if the parents cannot make a joint decision regarding any legal custody issue. In uncontested cases, the parties may sometimes agree that one parent will be the Primary Legal Custodian for two of the categories and the other parent for the other two categories.
Physical Custody determines with which parent the child lives. It is the Physical Custodian that receives Child Support, while the other parent is granted Visitation. The court may award Physical Custody to either parent, but it is usually based on which parent has been the primary caregiver for the child.
In a contested case, the court will rarely consider Joint Physical Custody, whereby the child lives with one parent for a period of time, and with the other parent for a subsequent period of time, such as week on/week off. The parties may reach an agreement to establish Joint Physical Custody, but this is often a difficult proposition, considering the distance between the parents' homes, the parents' work schedules and the ages and activities of the children.
A typical visitation schedule is every other weekend Friday afternoon/evening through Sunday afternoon/evening and sometimes a mid-week dinnertime visitation during the week off; alternating major holidays; and some amount of time during the summer school break. This is most commonly what the court awards in a contested case, and it is frequently agreed to in settlement.
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