Georgia Parenting Plan and Agreement Guidelines

The laws about Georgia child custody and parenting plans are found in Title 19, Chapter 9 of the Official Georgia Code Annotated.

Here are the guidelines from the law to help you make your parenting plan.

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Custody definitions

Joint legal custody means both parents have equal responsibility to make major decisions about the child's education, health care, extracurricular activities, and religious training. One parent can have authority to make certain decisions while parents share the right to make other decisions.

Joint physical custody means that the parents share time with the child so the child has substantially equal time and contact with both parents.

Joint custody means joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both joint legal and physical custody. You can have joint legal custody without joint physical custody.

Sole custody means one parent has the right to make major decisions about the child and the child lives with that parent. The noncustodial parent has visitation rights or parenting time.

Required parenting plan

A parenting plan is required in all cases of child custody.

If you and the other parent work together and agree on a plan, you can jointly submit your plan to the court. The court will approve the parenting plan and make it a court order.

If you and the other parent can't agree on a plan, each parent must submit a proposed plan to the court. The judge will decide the parenting plan to make into a court order. Either parent's plan may be accepted or the judge can make a new plan.

If one parent doesn't provide the court with a plan, the judge may adopt the parenting plan submitted by the other parent if the judge finds that plan to be in the best interests of the child.

What to include in your plan

Your parenting plan must include:

  • A parenting time schedule that shows where the child spends every day of the year
  • Transportation arrangements for exchanges
  • All allocation of decision-making authority to one or both parents
  • How the parents will resolve disputes
  • If there are limitations to when a parent can contact the child when the other parent has physical custody
  • If there are limitations to a parent's right to access education, health, extracurricular activity, and religious information about the child
  • If supervised parenting time is needed and the details of the supervision

Your parenting plan should recognize that:

  • A close and continuing parent-child relationship and continuity in your child's life is in your child's best interest
  • Your child's needs will change and grow as your child matures
  • The parent with physical custody makes day-to-day decisions and emergency decisions for your child
  • Both parents have access to your child's records and information, including, but not limited to, education, health, health insurance, extracurricular activities, and religious communications
Factors that affect the best interest of the child

The judge makes all parenting plan decisions based on what is best for the child.

Here are the factors the judge considers when deciding what is best for the child:

  • The love and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child
  • The love and emotional ties existing between the child and any siblings
  • Each parent's capacity to give the child love, affection, and guidance
  • Each parent's capacity to continue the education and rearing of the child
  • Each parent's knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child's needs
  • Each parent's ability to meet the child's needs for food, clothing, medical care, etc
  • The home environment of each parent
  • How long the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment
  • Each parent's support systems and community
  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • Each parent's involvement in the child's educational, social, and extracurricular activities
  • Each parent's employment schedule
  • Any health or educational special needs of the child
  • The home, school, and community record and history of the child
  • Each parent's past parental responsibilities
  • The willingness of each parent to encourage the child to have a close relationship with the other parent
  • Any evidence of family violence, child abuse, criminal history, or substance abuse by either parent

If you and the other parent can't come to an agreement about your plan, you can choose to participate in arbitration.

In arbitration, you meet with a neutral third party who listens to both parents and makes decisions about the parenting plan. The decisions from arbitration are incorporated into the judge's orders, as long as the judge finds them to be in the best interest of the child.

You can choose your arbiter and decide which issues will be resolved in binding arbitration. When parents cannot reach an agreement, arbitration is often beneficial, as the arbiter has more time to spend with the parents than a judge does.

When a parent is in the military

When a parent is in the military, the parenting plan must also include:

  • How the parents will manage the child's transition into the change in physical custody if a military parent is deployed
  • The manner in which the child will maintain continuing contact with a deployed parent
  • How a deployed parent's parenting time may be delegated to extended family
  • How the parenting plan will be resumed when the deployed parent returns

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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.

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