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Joint Legal Custody
Georgia laws define "joint legal custody" as an arrangement that allows both parents to have equal rights and responsibilities in making decisions in major areas of the child’s life, but one parent will have the final authority for each of the areas. These areas include medical, educational, extracurricular and religion.
In a shared-custody arrangement, parties can decide how they will make these decisions--jointly, with each party’s opinion holding equal weight in deciding all four areas, or split, with each party being responsible for a final decision in one or more of the separate areas.
Joint Physical Custody
Under Georgia law, "joint physical custody" means the child generally spends the same amount of physical time with each parent. The parent the child is with makes decisions about issues that arise when the child is under her care. This arrangement is most common when the parents live close to each other.
If joint custody is not viable, the parent with whom the child lives most days of the year is usually called the primary custodial parent and the other parent is called the secondary custodial parent.
When child custody is an issue in any case, Georgia law requires the parties to file a joint parenting plan that outlines exactly how physical time with the child will be split as well as who is in charge of making which legal decisions. If legal and/or physical custody is shared under a joint-custody arrangement, the parties are required to detail how they will handle disagreements that may arise.
Parties may agree to mediate any disagreements without approaching the court for a decision or they may decide to alternate the role of final decision-maker as conflicts arise.
Child support is not usually affected by a joint-custodial arrangement, but it can be affected when physical custody is shared. In Georgia, child support is based on a shared-income model and, in most cases, support is given to the parent who has primary physical custody of the child. Under certain circumstances, when physical custody is shared, neither party is required to pay child support to the other.
The Louisiana court will often decide in favor of joint custody of the children after a divorce. Before deciding in favor of joint custody parents must submit a plan for implementation of the custody order. This plan should outline in detail the time frame each parent will have custody of the children.
According to Louisiana law, joint custody should ensure that children have continuous and frequent contact with both parents and the parents should work together in making decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the children. Joint custody orders stay in effect until the order is modified by the Louisiana family court or children reach the age of majority (typically 18 years of age).
When deciding custody of children after a divorce, the court must consider the best interest of the children. If the court has been shown good cause that one parent is not a good candidate for joint custody, the court must then decide which parent is more likely to care for the children and will allow visits with the non-custodial parent.
Parents seeking sole custody of minor children must show proof that joint custody is not in their child's best interest. Louisiana courts will then decide if the parent is awarded sole custody of the children or if joint custody is in the best solution.
In cases where joint custody of the children is awarded, the court may designate a domiciliary parent. The domiciliary parent is the parent with whom the children will primarily reside. The domiciliary parent is given the authority to make decisions on behalf of the children in regard to education, health, and overall welfare.
If the Louisiana court does not designate a domiciliary parent, then both parents share the responsibility of making decisions for the children equally.