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What is a Custodial Parent?

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What is a Custodial Parent?

During a child custody case, you hear numerous legal phrases and terms. If you do not understand a concept, it can make a challenging situation even more confusing and overwhelming.

Therefore, our Douglasville child custody lawyers can help you understand these legal terms, beginning with the definition of a custodial parent. 

What Do We Mean by “Custodial Parent” in a Child Custody Case?

What Do We Mean by “Custodial Parent” in a Child Custody Case?

The definition of a custodial parent is the parent who lives with the child most of the time. Their home is the child’s legal residence. 

The custodial parent has primary physical custody of the child. They are the primary caregiver for the child. As such, the custodial parent generally receives child support from the non-custodial parent. 

A non-custodial parent may spend time with the child through visitation and time-sharing schedules. However, the non-custodial parent does not take care of the child’s daily needs on a consistent basis. Instead, they provide care only on the days the child visits with them.

In Georgia, parents can share custody of their children. Joint physical and legal custody gives both parents an equal say in their child’s life. However, one parent is generally the custodial parent because having a primary residence provides stability for a child. 

Custodial Parents and Physical Custody in Georgia 

Physical custody authorizes a parent to make decisions about where their child lives. They can make rules at home and enforce those rules. The parent with physical custody is responsible for providing a safe home for the child.

Some parents with joint physical custody create time-sharing arrangements where a child spends a few nights each week with one parent. The child might move back and forth between homes every week. 

However, these situations are less common than having a primary custodial parent. When a child moves between homes that much, they might lose their sense of constancy. It could make it more difficult for a child to make friends and build relationships when they move between their parents’ homes that often. 

Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions for your children. A parent with legal custody can decide where a child lives and goes to school. They make decisions regarding medical care and extra-curricular activities. 

Many parents share legal custody. Joint legal custody encourages parents to maintain relationships with their children and remain active in their lives. 

However, the court could grant the custodial parent sole legal custody of a child. This situation might occur if a parent is unfit or demonstrates an inability to make sound decisions. Taking away the parent’s right to make decisions for their child protects the child in those situations. 

How Do Georgia Judges Decide Who Is the Custodial Parent?

Judges begin child custody cases without any preconceived opinions regarding custody. It is presumed that having both parents remain in their lives is in a child’s best interest. 

Therefore, the courts begin from a position of joint custody. If the parents cannot agree on who should be the custodial parent, the judge must make that determination based on what is in the best interest of the child. Georgia child custody laws require judges to base all custody decisions on what would be best for the child.

Section 15-11-26 of the Official Code of Georgia lists the factors the court considers and evaluates to determine what is in a child’s best interest. 

The code lists 20 factors for judges to consider, including:

  • A child’s need for stability, continuity, and permanence of relationships with their parents, siblings, and other family members
  • Each parent’s home environment, considering the safety and nurturance of the child instead of material factors
  • The physical welfare and safety of the child, including their basic needs
  • A child’s sense of attachment, including continuity of affection, security, and familiarity for the child
  • The affection, emotional ties, love, and bonding that exists between the child and each parent, and the child and their siblings
  • A child’s ties to the community and their background, including religious, family, and cultural ties as well as ties to church, friends, and school
  • The child’s wishes and long-term goals
  • The child’s home, community, and school records 
  • Any special needs the child has for education or health 
  • The ability and inclination of each parent to care for the child and give them the love, guidance, and affection they need
  • The physical and mental health of the parents 
  • The presence or absence of support systems that could benefit the child
  • The stability of the family unit
  • The plan that would cause the least disruption for the child
  • The preferences of the parents 
  • Recommendations by custody evaluators and guardian ad litems
  • Any evidence of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence 
  • Evidence of a criminal history or substance abuse

Family court judges can consider any factors they deem relevant to determining the child’s best interest in a custody dispute. If a judge does not grant joint custody, they may order liberal visitation. On the other hand, the judge could also deny visitation or order supervised visitation if the evidence supports this decision to protect the child.

What Should I Do if I Want to Be the Custodial Parent for My Child in Douglasville, GA?

If your child’s other parent agrees, you can present a settlement agreement naming you as the custodial parent to the court for consideration. The court must consider the above factors to determine if the proposed custody agreement is in the child’s best interest. If so, the judge can adopt the agreement into the custody order.

However, if your child’s other parent disputes custody, you need to prepare to fight for custody by hiring an experienced Douglasville family lawyer. Your attorney will work with you to resolve the custody dispute through negotiations and mediation. If they cannot achieve your goals through a settlement, they will prepare to argue the case in court.

There are many reasons why a court might name a parent as the custodial parent. We have vast resources we can use to investigate and gather evidence supporting your request to be the custodial parent. 

Contact Our Douglasville Child Custody Lawyers to Discuss Your Parental Rights

Custody matters are emotionally charged issues in a divorce. Our legal team at Bardley McKnight Law Divorce Lawyers LLC, will fiercely fight to protect your child’s best interests. We’ll work with you to find solutions to custody matters that benefit you and your family.

Contact our law firm at (470) 308-5409 to request a case evaluation with an experienced Douglasville custody lawyer. We are here for you and your children during all aspects of your divorce case and other child custody matters.

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