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Georgia child custody still based on best interest of the child

Throughout the country, including in Georgia, there are groups that are lobbying state legislatures for passage of laws that will make it mandatory for shared custody or joint custody arrangements to be ordered by the courts. In the present system of child custody, joint or shared custody arrangements are possible. The court also has wide discretion in fashioning more traditional arrangements, with one parent as the primary physical and legal guardian, and the other parent as a secondary guardian who more or less is restricted to visitation privileges and to sharing in decision-making responsibilities.

Each final order in the child custody arena will depend on the particular circumstances of the parties and their parenting histories and behaviors. Thus, each case is fact-intensive. Many cases are settled by the negotiation of a shared custody arrangement or a more traditional custody and visitation arrangement.

Georgia generally prefers a shared custody arrangement in the sense of both parents sharing in the legal responsibilities and decision-making regarding the children. That is not always the case, however, as there may be several different fact situations in which a strict shared custody situation is inappropriate. It should also be noted that shared legal custody with respect to decision-making does not mean shared physical custody with respect to parenting time with the children.

Due to school schedules, for example, many children spend most of the school week with one parent, except for specified periods of visitation with the other. Lobbying for more mandatory awards of shared custody is taking place in Georgia. The success of such efforts cannot be predicted at this time. It is clear that one thing will remain constant: these decisions, where there is no mutual agreement, will continue to be made on the basis of what is in the best interest of the child.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Illinois joins debate over custody disputes", Bonnie Miller Rubin, June 1, 2014

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