Custody, Parenting Time and Child Support
Custody in Georgia is split into two categories: legal and physical custody. Legal custody deals with decision-making on the child(ren)’s behalf while physical custody deals with who has parenting time with the minor child(ren) and when. Georgia courts now require a document called a Parenting Plan. A Parenting Plan sets forth detailed provisions regarding legal and physical custody of the minor child(ren). Encouraging the minor child(ren) to love and respect the other parent, access to school and medical records, and methods of communication with the minor child(ren) with the parent who does not have parenting time are all issues addressed in each Parenting Plan.
The parameters of legal and physical custody are negotiable. Regarding legal custody, even if the parents have joint legal custody of the minor child(ren), meaning the parents must discuss any major decisions concerning the minor child(ren), the law requires that there is a tie-breaking method in the event the parents, after a good faith effort, cannot agree. This usually results in one parent have “final decision-making authority.” The four areas in which most parents designate this final decision-making authority are education, religion, health, and extracurricular activities. Traditionally, the parent who has primary physical custody of the child(ren) has final decision-making authority in all areas, but this determination is negotiable. Some parents choose to split up the four areas and therefore essentially split final decision-making authority.
Regarding physical custody, or how parenting time is divided, the Parenting Plan requires that parenting time be determined for weekends, weekdays, holidays, and summer. There is language, however, that the parties may deviate from the schedule if they mutually agree. Parenting time can take many forms. The cases of a father having parenting time only every other weekend are quickly becoming the exception rather than the rule. Equal parenting time between the parties is becoming more and more common. There are many different factors to take into account when it comes negotiating and determining what kind of parenting time schedule makes sense for the minor child(ren) and the parents, including the age of the child(ren), the child(ren)’s activities, the proximity of the parties’ residences, etc. The experienced family law attorneys at Gibbs & Mabe are here to guide you through the complexities and legal requirements for custody issues for minor child(ren).
Any time a minor child or minor children are involved in a divorce, modification, or legitimation, child support must also be addressed. The law in Georgia for determining child support is now based on both parent’s gross monthly income along with certain expenses of the child(ren). No longer is child support calculated by only using the non-custodial parent’s income. Courts now require that a Child Support Worksheet be completed and filed with the court, which includes such incomes and expenses. There are a variety of numbers that must be entered into the Child Support Worksheet in addition to each parent’s gross monthly income such as: monthly health insurance premiums, child care expenses, and other expenses such as tuition and extraordinary medical expenses. While the amount of child support that the non-custodial parent pays to the custodial parent in support of the minor child(ren) is based on a statutory formula, there are times when the amount can be deviated from such as when the non-custodial parent must travel to exercise his/her parenting time. The Child Support Worksheet can be quite confusing. The attorneys at Gibbs & Mabe can take the confusion out of the Child Support Worksheet, explain the associated requirements, and ensure that resulting child support award is fair.