We answer lots of questions about “joint custody” versus “sole custody” and what the terms actually mean. Georgia law provides a joint custody definition to guide us.
O.C.G.A. § 19-9-6 includes the following definitions regarding joint custody:
“Joint custody” means joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both joint legal custody and joint physical custody. In making an order for joint custody, the judge may order joint legal custody without ordering joint physical 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” 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.
“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 shall 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 shall have the right to visitation or parenting time. A person who has not been awarded custody of a child by court order shall not be considered as the sole legal custodian while exercising visitation rights or parenting time.”
Frequently, agreements between parents provide for joint legal custody with one party being the primary physical custodian of the children. One parent may have final decision-making authority for all issues concerning the children, or the decision-making can be divided with each parent having final authority over different areas (such as education, health care, extracurricular activities, or religious upbringing).
Who decides custody issues?
The decision of who will have custody can be made in several ways:
- by the parents as a result of their discussions, or
- by the parents with the help of their lawyers, or
- by the parents with the help of a mediator (who has no authority to make a decision), with or without attorneys participating, or
- by the parents agreeing to binding arbitration on child custody and related matters, or
- by the judge after a hearing or trial.
Many law firms, including Hindson & Melton LLC, will work collaboratively to assist parties seeking amicable custody agreements that are in the children’s best interests. For more information, or to discuss your Georgia child custody questions, contact Atlanta area lawyers Hindson and Melton LLC.
© Karen S. Hindson, Hindson & Melton, LLC January 22, 2014