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. § 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.
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.
2/2/5 (also referred to as 2/2/3)
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.
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?
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
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
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
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.