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In Georgia, legal custody of a child is a determination as to which parent will have the authority to make major decisions concerning the child or children involved. Legal custody may either be granted to one parent or may be granted to both parents in a joint legal custody arrangement.
Core Concepts behind Legal Custody
Joint Legal CustodyPhysical and legal custody are two distinct concepts. Accordingly, although a court may award primary physical custody to one parent, it can (and usually does) award joint legal custody.
There MUST be a final decision makerEven in cases with joint legal custody, a final decision maker is required for matters affecting the child's education, health, extracurricular activities, and religion.
Final decision making can be splitA court can (and often does) split final decision making authority between the parents and even places various limitations upon the exercise of final decision making.
Making decisions regarding a child’s medical and health care are important decisions a parent must make. A parent who has final decision making authority regarding health...Decision making for non-emergency medical decisions
- ADHD Treatment
- Elective Surgery
- Treatment Options
Decisions concerning a child’s education are also important decisions parents may make for their children. Decisions concerning whether the child will attend public or...Decision making for Education
- Home Schooled
- Private School
- Course of Study
- Enroll in advanced classes
Although many do not realize it, one often contentious issue regarding child custody involves the child’s extracurricular activities. Questions regarding whether the child...Decision making for Extracurricular Activities
- Activities of the child
- Limits of involvement in activities
- Scheduling of activities
- How many activities at a time
If the parents have religious differences, final decision making authority for religion or religious training may be a very contentious issue. As a result, it is better to...Decision making for Religion
- Religous upbringing
- Religious training
How is legal custody determined?
Similar to physical custody, the determination of which parent will be a child’s legal custodian may be made by agreement of the parents (memorialized in a parenting plan approved by a judge) or directly by the judge presiding over the case. As with all other matters concerning child custody, a court will make a determination regarding final decision making authority according to Georgia’s best interest of the child standard. See O.C.G.A. §19-9-3.