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The Basics of Child Custody Laws in Georgia



Like all child custody laws, Georgia has its own unique set of regulations that judges follow when awarding custody. If you and the other parent of your children are divorcing or breaking up, you need to understand the basics of Georgia child custody law.

Courts in Georgia, like other states, considers the best interests of the child when making custody determinations.

However, Georgia has its own set of laws regulating child custody and support, so it is important to work with an attorney who is familiar with the laws in the Peach State to help you, your children, and your ex arrive at the best possible custody arrangement.

Georgia Child Custody Laws

Under Georgia law, both parents are equal when it comes to child custody arrangements. The court may award joint custody or sole custody. When it comes to child custody laws, Georgia awards two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody.

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

Physical custody refers to which parent the child lives with. 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 which parent they would prefer to live with. However, a judge can overrule the custody election if the judge decides that living with the childs preferred parent is not in the childs best interests.

According to the child custody laws in Georgia, a parenting plan is required for any custody agreement. The parenting plan generally must recognize that:

  • A close and continuing parent-child relationship and continuity in the childs life is in the childs best interest.
  • A childs needs change and grow as the child matures, and parents should consider this in order to minimize future modifications.
  • The parent with physical custody will make day-to-day decisions and emergency decisions while the child is residing with that parent.
  • Both parents will have access to all of the childs records and information, including matters concerning education, health, extracurricular, and religious instruction.
  • 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.
  • Whether supervision is needed, and if so, the particulars of the supervision.
  • How the parents will allocate decision-making authority with regard to the childs education, health, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing. 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.
  • What, if any, limitations exist while one parent has physical custody in terms of the other parents contacting the child and the other parents right to have access to information regarding the child.
  • 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.

    To determine how much child support your children may be eligible for, the Georgia Child Support Commission has created an online child support calculator.

    Generally, child support in Georgia must be paid until the child reaches 18, dies, marries, or becomes emancipated. If a child is in secondary school, payments may last until the child turns 20.

    If you are seeking child custody in Georgia, you need to understand all the state laws that could impact your claim. A lawyer with experience in Georgia child custody laws can help answer all your questions.