What is the Difference Between Legal Custody and Physical Custody in Georgia?

Going through a divorce is always a bit of a tricky process, and things can get even more complex if there is a child in the picture. Georgia has its own set of child custody laws, and it is important to wrap your head around these laws if you are approaching a potential child custody battle with a serious mindset. You may have heard of terms such as “legal custody” and “physical custody,” which are both central components to the state’s child custody system. 

Learn the difference between physical and legal custody in Georgia, and you can approach your divorce with a confident and efficient mindset. Of course, your first priority should always be to team up with a qualified attorney. A legal expert can explain these matters in detail and help you play a central role in your child’s life after you have separated from your spouse. 

Legal Custody Explained

When parents are awarded legal custody of their children, they have the power (and the responsibility) to make important decisions about their child’s life. With legal custody, you can have a say in a range of potential issues that involve your child. These include:

  • Medical: You can have a degree of control over what kind of medical care your child receives. For example, a parent with legal custody may have the power to decide whether their child will undergo a risky form of surgery that could save their life.
  • Religious: Parents with legal custody can also decide the role of religion in their child’s life. For example, you may feel that it is important to have your child baptized. 
  • Educational: With legal custody, you can also have a say in what kind of education your child receives. For example, you may be uncomfortable with the fact that your child is learning about extreme political ideals from certain teachers and institutions. 
  • Extra-Curricular: As a parent with legal custody, you may also have a degree of control over your child’s extracurricular pursuits. For example, you may be concerned about your child playing football because of the risk of concussions. 

In almost all cases, parents are awarded joint legal custody. There are only a few notable scenarios that might result in a parent being stripped of legal custody. If a judge feels that one parent represents a source of danger or a bad influence, they might determine that it is in the child’s best interests for that parent to be almost entirely excluded from their lives. This includes legal custody. 

Physical Custody

Physical custody is different compared to legal custody because it determines where the child will actually live. There are three types of physical custody:

  • Sole Physical Custody: In this situation, one parent has custody over the child, while the other has no physical custody whatsoever. This scenario is exceedingly rare in Georgia, as the state recognizes the importance of having two parents in a child’s life. 
  • Primary Physical Custody: In this situation, a child lives with one parent for the majority of the time. The other parent is given a varying degree of visitation rights. A common scenario is for the non-custodial parent to take care of the child during the weekends. 
  • Joint Physical Custody: When you are awarded joint physical custody, it means that you will have just as much time with your child as the other parent. For example, the child might stay with a different parent each week. Because of the stress this causes for a child and the logistics involved, this situation is quite rare in Georgia. 

Getting Legal Help

If you need legal assistance with your upcoming custody battle, it is best to enlist the help of a qualified family law attorney. Reach out to Lankford & Moore Law today, and we will help you play an active role in your child’s life.

I realized the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder. The lesson was so indelibly burnt into me that a large part of my time during the twenty years of my practice as a lawyer was occupied in bringing about private compromises of hundreds of cases. I lost nothing thereby — not even money, certainly not my soul.

Mahatma Gandhi

Lankford & Moore Law in Downtown Lawrenceville

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