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Joint Custody

What is Joint Custody?

"Joint custody" is a phrase that can refer to two different concepts: joint physical custody and joint legal custody. They are two unrelated concepts, so it is essential to clarify what is being discussed.

Most common, when people talk about joint custody, they are referring to joint physical custody wherein the parents share custody of their minor child in such a way as to assure the child has "substantially equal time and contact with both parents." O.C.G.A. ยง 19-9-6(6). In other words, it is a shared custody type of arrangement that divides time between the parents in roughly a 50/50 manner.

Alternatively, there is the concept of joint legal custody. While important, this concept refers to decision making, not the amount of time each parent gets to spend with their child.

Example Joint Custody Schedules

Weekly Exchange

Sunday
Monday
Tuedays
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

This custody arrangement has also been popular over the years. It is a week on/week off format that requires extended time away from the other parent. As a result, this format is slightly disfavored as of late.

  • Provides for a prolonged time with the minor children between custody exchanges.
  • The minor child has equal time with both parents

2/2/5 (also referred to as 2/2/3)

Sunday
Monday
Tuedays
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

This plan is a relatively new version of the weekly exchange schedule and provides for a similar 50/50 joint custody arrangement. This plan, however, breaks the monotony of the weekly exchange schedule and provides its own level of certainty for the child(ren) involved. Since each parent has two designated nights for visitation during the week, it allows a parent to schedule daycare and extracurricular activities on a consistent basis that was generally prevented under the week on/week off type of schedule. Additionally, this plan provides each parent with alternating full weekends with the child.

  • Children don't have to wait a whole week to see both parents
  • Great for ensuring a child can participate in activities that happen on a consistent day fo the week
  • Easy to remember schedule during the week - if your parenting time is on Tuesday, it is always on Tuesday

Practice Pointer

Georgia does not have a legal presumption that any particular type of custody arrangement is favored.  Instead, judges have a wide range of discretion to award custody as they believe is best for each situation. As such, it is important to work with an attorney that is familiar with whether your judge favors or disfavors the use of joint physical custody.   

Do you have to pay child support if you have joint custody?

A common misconception is that joint custody means that no one will have to pay child support. The basic child support obligation that a parent pays is instead based upon the disparity of income between the parties, not the amount of time each parent has with the child.

That said, a parent paying child support may request a deviation from the basic child support obligation that will more fairly reflect the time each parent has a child. This type of deviation, however, is at the discretion of the court. As such, it may or may not be granted in whole or in part.

To learn more, see our page on how child support is determined.

Is Joint Custody Good for Children?

Pros

  • Allows a child to build a relationship with both parents
  • Encourages parents to learn to co-parent
  • Allows parents to share the challenges of raising kids

Cons

  • The child does not feel like they have a home base
  • Requires a lot of coordination between parents
  • Can leave kids in the middle of a war zone between their parents

Things to think about with Joint Custody

Co-parenting

Moving

Distance between Parents

Co-parenting is Essential

Joint Custody tends to work best with parties that work well together and communicate effectively since this arrangement requires more interaction for the benefit of their children.

The impact of moving on joint custody

Moving any significant distance away from the other parent would likely result in the need to modify the custody arrangement.

Parents need to live close

Once children become school age, the parties need to live close to each other to avoid the child having long rides to school.

Joint Custody Frequently Asked Questions

Q How likely is it to be awarded joint custody?
A
The primary question to determine child custody is: What is in the best interest of a child? This determination is made on a case by case basis. As such, there is no general rule that joint custody is more or less likely than any other form of custody. We key factor that a court will evaluate, however, is how likely it is for the parents to be able to get along well enough to co-parent.
Q What are alternative forms of child custody?
A

Yes! There are multiple other forms of custody including primary custody, split custody, and sole custody.

Q Which parent gets to claim a child for taxes in a true 50/50 division of time with the child?
A

Assuming there isn't a written declaration to the contrary, the parent with the highest adjusted gross income can claim the child as their dependent.

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