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Child Custody and Visitation Attorney in Atlanta

What are the different types of child custody?

One of the most difficult and emotionally-charged issues between couples filing for divorce is often the determination of custody. There are various types of child custody including sole custody, joint custody, joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or some form of combination of them.
The main forms of child custody can be defined as listed:

Sole Custody

Sole custody means a person, including, but not limited to, a parent, has been awarded permanent custody of a child by a court order. Unless otherwise provided by court order, the person awarded sole custody of a child will have the rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, including the child's education, health care, extracurricular activities and religious training, and the noncustodial parent will have the right to visitation or parenting time. A person who has not been awarded custody of a child by court order will not be considered as the sole legal custodian while exercising visitation rights or parenting time.

Joint Custody

Joint custody is a term that is used when joint legal custody, joint physical custody or both have been ordered by the court. A judge may differentiate between joint legal custody versus physical custody depending on the situation.

Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody means both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, including the child's education, health care, extracurricular activities, and religious training; provided, however, that the judge may designate one parent to have sole power to make certain decisions while both parents retain equal rights and responsibilities for other decisions.

Joint Physical Custody

Joint physical custody means that physical custody is shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of substantially equal time and contact with both parents.

How are child custody and visitation rights determined?

Both parents enter a child custody case with equal rights, with there being no favor of the mother or father. If the parents are able to agree to on all issues of custody, the court will generally follow the agreement unless it is not in the best interests of the children. With sound discretion, a judge may look into all relevant facts and circumstances to determine what is in the best interest and welfare of the child or children. The stability of a child's life is one of the most important factors judges consider throughout child custody disputes.

The courts take the following things into consideration:

  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The mental health and physical health of each parent
  • Which parent has spent more time with the child or children
  • Which parent is most involved in the children's activities
  • Any fact relevant to a determination of the best interests of the children.

The Age of Children Can Be a Factor

When a child is 11 to 13 years old, the judge may consider their desires and educational needs to determine which parent has primary custody. When a child reaches the age of 14 years old, the child has the right to select the parent they prefer to live with. The child's selection will be presumptive, unless the selection is determined not to be in the best interests of the child.

If both parties cannot agree on the terms of custody, child visitation rights may also be determined by the court. The courts generally believe that both parents should be substantially involved in the lives of the children, but always look for what is in the child's best interest. All cases involving minor children require a Parenting Plan which details the custodial arrangement, visitation, and other rights relating to the children. The child custody attorneys at Peterson & Harris will guide you successfully through the process of child custody decisions!