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Georgia Child Custody Rights: Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody

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When going through a divorce in Georgia with minor children involved, there are two categories of custody that you must consider: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody has to do with a parent’s rights and responsibilities to make major decisions concerning the child, including the child’s health care, education, extracurricular activities and religious training. Physical custody has to do with where the child is physically living.

It is very common to see joint legal custody in divorce cases because it allows both parents to have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions which, in turn, provides both parents the opportunity to remain involved in their child’s upbringing. With joint legal custody, one parent may have final decision making authority over major decisions in the event the parents are unable to agree. Alternatively, the parents can split final decision making authority with, for example, one parent having final decision making authority over education and extracurricular activities and the other parent having final decision making authority over health care and religious upbringing.

In Georgia, it is not as common to see joint physical custody as it is to see joint legal custody. Joint physical custody means that the child has substantially equal time and contact with each parent. In some situations, due to a parent’s work schedule or a child’s extracurricular commitments, joint physical custody is not practical. Parents should work together to come up with a custody and visitation schedule that works best for their particular situation while at the same time furthers the best interests of their children. Parents who do choose joint physical custody must work well together and have good communication as this arrangement will necessarily require them to see each other more often and cooperate continuously for the benefit of the children.

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