One of the most significant decisions that divorcing couples need to make is child custody. Parents need to think about who the children will live with and who will make major decisions regarding their well-being.
Patients can come up with a custody agreement on their own. However, if they cannot agree, there is a hearing, and the court decides based on what is best for the children.
Basic custody information
According to FindLaw, there is physical custody and legal custody. Physical refers to the parent the child lives with, and legal refers to which parent makes major decisions for the child. There is also sole and joint custody for each type of custody.
Even when parents can come to an agreement for child custody, they must still submit a parenting plan, which outlines a schedule for visitation and custody, to the court. The custody agreement remains in effect until a child turns 18 unless there is a change in circumstances and one parent files a petition for modification.
Best interest considerations
If a judge makes the decision regarding custody, he or she takes into consideration what is best for the child. The Child Welfare Information Gateway discusses the various factors considered. These include:
- The safety and health of the child
- The child’s relationships and ties with parents, relatives and other caregivers
- The physical and mental needs of the child
- The physical and mental health of each parent
- The importance of maintaining family bonds
In Georgia, a judge also considers the wishes of a child that is 14 years of age or older.