When a couple have children, how custody is awarded often becomes one of the most contentious and emotive areas of a divorce. The courts will award a primary physical custodian and a secondary physical custodian in almost every case.
This is complicated legal terminology but it refers to the location where the children of the marriage live. The courts will designate one parent as the primary physical custodian. The other parent will be the secondary physical custodian.
Custody is one of the first issues to arise in divorce cases but is often misunderstood. If you are involved in a child custody case, here are some things you need to know.
There are many different parenting schedules that the courts will designate. In many cases, the primary physical custodian will have the children during the week. The secondary physical custodian may alternate weekends and holidays.
This is the most common parenting arrangement in Georgia. Sole custody is seldom asked for and only granted rarely. The court recognizes the beneficial effects of the children of a marriage spending time with both parents.
When a sole custody finding is made, one parent has the children of the marriage 100 percent of the time and the other parent is given no time. Sole custody is usually only awarded when a parent has been convicted of a criminal offense such as abuse of the children or done something else that’s considered to be extremely harmful or dangerous to the wellbeing of the children.
Custody decisions are based on the wellbeing of the children. Factors weighed up by the court include:
- Continuity including which parent the children have resided with most in the past;
- Which parent was the primary caregiver during the marriage;
- The stability of each parent;
- Jobs and work schedules;
- The ability of each parent to provide for emotional, physical and healthcare needs of the children.
As well as deciding issues of physical custody, the court will apportion legal custody during a hearing in Georgia. This concerns decision-making over the children in areas such as medical, religious, extra-curricular and educational choices. In most cases, joint legal custody is given to both parents. The court wants both the mother and father to be involved in day-to-day decisions relating to the lives of their child or children.
In Georgia, one parent is given the role of the final decision-maker if the parents disagree on an issue related to their children. The parent with primary physical custody usually has this role.
When children become older they have greater choice over custody decisions. When children reach the age of 14 they can elect which parent to live with by filing an affidavit. The court will, nevertheless, not grant an election it does not consider the child’s decision to be in his or her best interest.
Custody cases are often emotive and difficult for both parents. A Georgia divorce lawyer can help smooth the process. Call us at (404) 913-1529.