At first glance, some aspects of Georgia’s child custody laws might seem a bit complex to a reader trying to grapple with central terms and concepts set out in the state’s relevant statutory enactments. That is immediately understandable, given the specialized vernacular associated with many family law considerations.
Take child custodial rights, for example, where Georgia law — along with that of many other states — makes reference to various forms of custody. A layperson seeking an immediate and comprehensive understanding of Georgia law on custody might be a bit stymied by references to physical custody, legal custody, sole custody and joint custody.
An overview of child custody laws
An online overview of Georgia child custody laws provides some clarity regarding those terms. It notes this:
- Physical custody: refers to the parent/guardian who resides with the child
- Legal custody: centers on the caregiver having authority to make important decisions concerning the child (think school, medical, religion and other material matters)
- Sole custody: depicting a situation where one parent/caregiver has physical or legal custody, or both
- Joint custody: contrasting to sole custody, where both parents/caregivers share physical and/or decision-making responsibilities regarding the child’s welfare
Courts today are generally quite flexible concerning custody-related matters, although they will not hesitate to weigh in with their discretionary powers when conflict or hard choices surface.
Factors that can contribute to custody decisions: Your child’s education
While it is helpful to understand key terms in child custody laws, it can also be helpful to understand some of the factors that the courts consider in awarding custody. For example, judges take note of virtually every activity that involves children, whether at home or school. A judge will be interested in testimony from teachers and others who see your children daily. It is not uncommon for teachers to be called upon to testify in custody cases. The information they lend helps judges better understand which parent is more involved in a child’s life. Parents should remain as active as possible in a child’s education and daily routine, since it is a weighted factor in a custody decision.
Know your child’s teacher and visit with them to stay informed about your child’s progress at school. Make sure your child brings along schoolwork or homework during your scheduled visitation for your review. Sign or initial paperwork for teachers to see. Volunteer for academic and sports activities in an effort to stay involved.
Understand your options and next steps
Involvement with your child’s education is just one example of what may be considered in a child custody case. Custody generally entails myriad considerations, including visitation rights, parenting plans, support concerns and additional matters. An experienced Georgia family law attorney can provide focused and knowledgeable assistance in all these areas.