Types of Child Custody: What’s the Difference?

Divorce is never easy, but Family Matters Law Group knows that when you share child(ren) with your spouse, the process of divorce becomes more difficult due to child custody matters. We know you may be feeling very overwhelmed right now trying to work out what is best for your child(ren.) We’re here to offer guidance and support throughout the child custody process in Georgia.

To offer you tailored, personalized assistance, please schedule an individual consultation with our experienced, caring attorneys. In the meantime, read on for some information on the different types of child custody agreements.

Georgia State Law Custody Types

First, let’s delve into how Georgia defines child custody. The state only recognizes two main types of custody: legal custody and physical custody.

Legal Custody

In legal custody, there are four main areas of parent decision-making that Georgia law recognizes: medical decisions, religious upbringing decisions, educational decisions, and extracurricular activity decisions. Legal custody allows the parent to access things like school and health records. In most cases, this is awarded to both parents as joint legal custody to weigh in on major decisions affecting their child.

Physical Custody

There are several different types of physical custody, including joint, sole, split, and primary. This type of custody determines the placement of your child(ren).

  • Joint Custody- Physical custody is generally awarded as primary and secondary or joint physical custody. We will discuss primary custody further below. Typically, in joint physical custody the minor child resides with both parents equally. The award of joint physical custody has to have certain facts that make it possible to equally share access, for instance the parents live within close proximity to each other, or the parents have already established a pattern of equally sharing parenting time with their child(ren). However, this isn’t the case if visitation isn’t in the child’s best interest. Although very rare, in cases where visitation is not in the child’s best interest, sole custody will be awarded to one parent.
  • Sole Custody- In some cases, one parent retains complete custody and doesn’t share control or any visitation privileges with an ex-spouse, former partner, or any other legal guardians. Sole custody is usually only awarded when the non-custodial parent has compelling negative issues that make them a detriment to their child. Problems that may lead to sole custody are if one parent has a severe mental health impairment that is not being properly treated or cannot be adequately treated, a substance abuse condition, or any other behavioral issues that would make them an unhealthy or unsafe parent.
  • Split Parenting Custody- Split Parenting Custody refers to one parent having primary custody of at least one child and the other parent having primary custody of the other child(ren). In this case, for example, a father may have custody of his son, and a mother may have custody of her daughter. Each child would then spend the majority (51% or more) of their time with their primary custodial parent. For the children not to become distant from one another, every weekend, they may opt to swap households allowing both children to have contact with one another to make sure they stay connected.
  • Primary Custody- This custody designation is when one parent assumes the larger share of the responsibility for physical custody and child-rearing. Typically, in such cases, child(ren) will spend fifty one percent or more of their time with a primary physical custodial parent. The other parent is considered a secondary custodial parent and will spend less than fifty percent of their time with their child(ren.)

Take Control of Your Custody Case with Family Matters Law Group

No matter how chaotic things may feel for your family right now, you can ensure that your kids will get through this challenging time and have a bright future with you. Our mission is to make sure you get the best possible outcome for your child custody case.
For specific help with your case and individualized solutions to these complex matters that affect your child(ren)’s well-being, please reach out to Family Matters Law Group, your Atlanta and Henry County, Georgia family law attorneys.

Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody