When a divorce includes a child, a custody battle almost always ensues. The hope of everyone is that the divorcing parents can reach a reasonable resolution, but in most cases we can assume that won’t be the case.
The test that the court will apply when determining custody is “the best interest of the child.” The best interest of the child is based on several different factors, and it’s up to the judge to weigh each and every one of them. The factors include, but aren’t limited to:
- Who can provide physical safety welfare?
- Is there a stronger bond between the child and a particular parent?
- What is the home environment like?
- Will the child have a stable family unit with one parent over the other?
- Is the child already settled in a certain community? (ie school district, religious group, or sports affiliation)?
- And what is the child’s wishes?
As for the last one, the child’s wishes don’t always hold weight in the actual decision. In Georgia, once the child is 14 their decision rules as long as the judge does not find that parent unfit.
At any age before that, the judge simply can take their wants into consideration.
Child Custody: Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody
There are two main types of custody: legal and physical.
is having the fundamental legal rights to the child. This includes the right to obtain medical records, school records, rights of inheritance, etc. In most cases, both parents will have joint legal custody.
However, joint legal custody has its downfalls. Deciding who will have the final decision-making authority for the children can be very difficult. Usually the court divides the decision areas into education, medical, extracurricular, and religion.
While the parents are encouraged to confer on each of these decisions, the court will determine who will have the final call in each of those areas. If being the final decision maker in one particular area is important to you, custody lawyers can help.
is what most people think of when talking about child custody in general. This determines the parenting time. The options of how this is split is basically limitless and will vary from family to family.
It may take many meetings with each spouse’s custody lawyers to get a fully functioning, reasonable schedule for both sides. Typically, most people opt for an alternating weekend arrangement. However, some parents don’t always live in close proximity of one another.
Having custody lawyers on your side during this difficult planning period can help, especially when your time with your children is at stake.