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Child Custody

Under Georgia law, both parents are equal when it comes to child custody arrangements. The court may award joint custody or sole custody. In Georgia, this may take the form of legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody is the right to make major decisions regarding the child. With joint legal custody, both parents equally share decision making rights and responsibilities for the child. One parent has final decision-making rights about medical, educational, extracurricular, and religious decisions.

Physical custody refers to which parent with whom the child lives. With joint physical custody, both parents share substantially equal time and contact with the child. In awarding joint custody, the court may order joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both.

In Georgia, children who are 14 years or older often make a custody election about the parent with whom they prefer to live. However, a judge can overrule the custody election if the judge decides that living with the child's preferred parent is not in the child's best interests.

(Georgia General Assembly, HB 369, 2007 Session)

Unless parents agree or the judge decides otherwise, a parenting plan will also usually outline:

  • Where the child will spend each day of the year.
  • How holidays, birthdays, vacations, school breaks, and other special occasions will be spent.
  • Transportation arrangements, including how and where the child will be exchanged and how transportation costs will be paid.
  • Other considerations include whether supervision is needed, and if so, the particulars of the supervision.
  • How the parents will allocate decision-making authority with regard to the child's education, health,extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing are also part of the plan. If the parties agree the matters should be jointly decided, the parenting plan will outline how to resolve a situation in which the parents disagree.
  • Finally, any limitations that may exist while one parent has physical custody in terms of the other parent contacting the child and the parent’s right to have access to information regarding the child may also be part of the parenting plan.

In Georgia, child support payments are generally calculated based on a formula. Those calculations are based on a number of factors, including the gross income of both parents, self-employment taxes, any pre-existing child support orders, whether either parent is supporting another child, and health insurance premiums, among other things.

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