A Georgia father recently asked me if I thought he could get joint physical custody of his children. The father had a stable job, no criminal record, his own residence, and consistent visitation with his children. All of this is a great beginning but, in Georgia, joint physical custody is dependent on a multitude of factors. A parent’s best course of action is to discuss the situation with an experienced family law attorney.
For example, where do each of the parents live? If one parent lives in Atlanta and the other lives in Macon, the parents will not get joint physical custody because the minor child has to attend school during the school year. If the parents live within a mile of each other and neither plan on moving any time in the future, the chances go up.
Another example question: How well do the parents communicate? If the answer is that “we don’t talk that much,” or “she yells at me every time we see each other,” then it will be harder to have joint physical custody because parents have to communicate well and often to make sure they are on the same page when it comes to parenting the child. This includes being on the same page concerning discipline, making sure homework assignments are done, and getting the child to all his or her extra curricular activities and games.
While I know many fathers have a concern that there is an inherent bias in the Court system against fathers and joint physical custody, the problems with joint physical custody often go beyond the legal system and involve practical problems such as distance between the parties and their ability to co-parent. Joint physical custody can be a wonderful thing for the minor children, but it requires serious work on the part of the parents to make it happen.
By Patrick L. Meriwether, Partner, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC