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 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 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!