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Understanding Types of Child Custody Agreements

When a family court judge establishes a child custody arrangement, there are many factors he or she will consider. The overriding issue under family law is which arrangement would be in the child’s best interests. To determine this, the family law judge may consider whether one or both parents would be considered fit parents, and whether one or both parents has a documented history of substance abuse, domestic violence, or other criminal activity. When you consult a divorce attorney in Cumming, be sure to disclose any information that might influence the judge’s decision.

Physical Custody
Physical custody refers to with whom the child will be living. This parent is known as the custodial parent, whereas the other is known as the noncustodial parent. In most circumstances, the noncustodial parent will have visitation rights with the child. These visitation rights are detailed in a parenting time plan. For a historical

example, the noncustodial parent may be responsible for picking the child up after school every other Friday and caring for the child until Sunday. The parenting time plan will also state which parent will have the child on special occasions, such as holidays and school vacations. As the child grows and circumstances change, one of the parents may choose to go back to family court to request a modification in the custody arrangement or visitation schedule.

Legal Custody
Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make the major decisions that concern a child’s upbringing. The four general categories of legal custody are decisions that pertain to medical care, religion, extra-curricular activities, and education. Typically a court will grant joint legal custody over these areas so that the parent have to consult about decisions, but then award one parent final decision making if the parents cannot otherwise agree. Like physical custody, legal custody arrangements may be changed by a court order.

Joint and Sole Custody
In most cases, the judge will consider it to be in the child’s best interests to have access to both parents and for the parents to have access to information about the child. This is known as joint custody. In less common instances, perhaps in cases involving child abuse, substance abuse, or similar issues, the judge may award sole physical and legal custody to just one parent. Absent a compelling reason, a judge is likely to award joint physical and legal custody.


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