Legal Custody = Decision-making
Legal custody is commonly shared between parents. Legal custody gives parents the authority to make major decisions concerning the child. In Georgia, the most common form of legal custody is joint legal custody. This means both parties have equal access to information for the child (medical records, academic information, ability to attend meetings and contact teachers and doctors, etc.), and have the right to be involved and consulted in major decisions for the child.
However, even with joint legal custody, 'final decision-making authority' is assigned to a parent for situations where the parties cannot come to an agreement. Having final decision-making authority for a category of decisions means that, after attempting to discuss a decision with the other party and not being able to come to an agreement, the party with final decision-making authority has the 'final say' on what decision will be made on that issue.
The 4 Types of Legal Custody
There are four primary areas of legal custody: Education, Non-Emergency Medical Care, Extracurricular Activities, and Religious Upbringing. No matter the arrangement of physical custody, the court has the discretion to grant one parent sole decision-making authority in some areas and grant equal authority in other areas.
For example: John and Jane were married with one child. Jane was a stay-at-home mom and cared for the child every day. Jane attended church sometimes but does not consider herself religious. John was very active in his faith and took the child to church every week. In John and Jane's divorce, the judge awarded joint physical custody to John and Jane with Jane having primary custody. The judge also awarded joint legal custody with John having decision-making authority in the area of religious upbringing.
Because every family and every child is different, it is important to keep in mind what works for your family and what is best for your child. The standard for determining legal custody of your child(ren) is what is in the best interest of the child(ren). Should you have any questions concerning legal custody in your case, contact us to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our attorneys.
Written by: Savannah Lane Orange