Georgia Custody and Visitation Schedules
Your child custody and visitation schedule is important to you and to your child. Here's how to set up a Georgia visitation schedule.
You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents.
Becoming familiar with these laws will help you create a child visitation schedule that complies with the law while serving the best interests of the child.
Georgia has many laws specific to child custody, which can be found in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, Title 19, Domestic Relations, Chapter 9, Child Custody Proceedings (O.C.G.A. § 19-9).
The State of Georgia requires a parenting plan to be submitted in all cases involving the custody of a child, and a child visitation schedule is an important and mandated component of the plan.
The statutes define the different kinds of child custody and detail the factors the courts use to determine child custody. When you keep these factors in mind, you can create a better schedule.
The child visitation schedule should coincide with the various types of custody in the State of Georgia. The Code of Georgia defines four basic types of custody (O.C.G.A. § 19-9-6):
Sole custody means one person has been awarded permanent custody of the child. The person with sole custody is responsible for all of the rights and responsibilities concerning the child, including major decisions regarding the child's medical, educational, religious and other activities.
The other parent may have the right to visitation or parenting time with the child, but the parent with sole custody will still remain the sole legal custodian during that time. An example of a child visitation schedule for sole custody:
- The child resides with the sole custodian the majority of the time, spending every other weekend and an additional night each week with the other parent.
- Holidays are alternated with the other parent.
- The non-custodial parent is given a certain amount of time with the child during school vacations, such as a week during winter break, half of spring break, and two to four weeks during the summer.
Joint legal custody means both parents share equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child.
However, the judge may designate one parent to have sole power to make certain decisions while the rights and responsibilities over other decisions are shared by both parents.
An example of this is the judge designating one parent to be responsible for educational decisions, while allowing both parents to be involved in medical decisions.
Joint physical custody means the physical custody of the child is shared by the parents in a manner that ensures the child has substantially equal time and contact with both parents.
The parents would typically rotate holidays and allow the child time for extended vacations with each parent, with a regular schedule such as:
- Splitting the year in half, with one parent having the child the majority of the time and the other having two (or three) days of visitation per week, then alternating the schedule after a six month period so that the other parent has the child the majority of the time.
- Rotating weeks so that one parent will have the child for an entire week, with visitation time with the other parent mid-week, with the parents taking turns alternating weeks.
- Breaking up the week so that the child would spend Monday and Tuesday with Parent A, then Wednesday and Thursday with Parent B, then Friday, Saturday and Sunday with Parent A. The following week, Parent B would have the child on Monday and Tuesday, rotating accordingly.
Joint custody means joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both joint legal and joint physical custody. A judge may order joint legal custody without awarding joint physical custody.
This means both parents would share parental rights and responsibilities, but one parent would be the primary physical custodian of the child.
A child visitation schedule for a parent with joint legal, (but not joint physical), custody could be a little more liberal with the visitation, without necessarily sharing "equal" time with the child.
The State of Georgia does not presume to favor any form of custody, nor rule in favor of either parent based on gender (O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3-a-1). The facts of the case are examined and a decision is made accordingly.
The State of Georgia considers the health, happiness, well-being, and best interests of the child to be the ultimate determining factors when ruling on child custody cases (O.C.G.A . § 19-9-3-a-2).
The law defines the factors the court considers relevant when determining the best interests of the child in O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3-a-3, which includes:
- The existing relationships the child has with each parent and any siblings
- The capacity of each parent to provide the child with a loving, affectionate home
- The ability of each parent to provide basic care, safety, nurturing and guidance to the child
- The parents' schedules and availability
- How involved each parent has been with the child and the child's activities in the past
- The length of time the child has been in a stable, continuing environment
- What impact removing the child from the community and school the child has grown accustomed to may have on the child
- Any evidence of abuse or neglect
- Any drug or alcohol problems which may interfere with the best interests of the child
- The willingness and ability of each parent to foster a continuing and meaningful relationship with the child and the other parent
- Any malicious attempt to impede the relationship between the child and the other parent
Creating your child's visitation schedule, (whether you follow a traditional schedule or create one entirely unique), with the child's best interest in mind is the best way to ensure your schedule is accepted by the court.
In the State of Georgia, when a child is 14 years old, the child can choose which parent to live with.
When a child is 11 years old, the court will consider the child's preference of a residential parent.
So, if you are making a custody schedule for a child who is 14 years or older, the child gets to choose which parent to live with. If your child is 11 years old, you should find out if your child has any reasonable preferences about living with either parent and you may want to take that into account.
You have some freedom in creating the right kind of schedule for your child. The main thing is to make the schedule so that it helps the child.
The top twenty cities in Georgia (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Savannah, Athens, Macon, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Albany, Marietta, Warner Robins, Johns Creek, Alpharetta, Smyrna, Valdosta, East Point, North Atlanta, Redan, Dunwoody, Rome.