If you live in Georgia and have a child custody situation, you must submit a parenting plan (also called a custody agreement) to the court. Your parenting plan must include information about where the child will spend each day, exchange information, allocation of decision making authority, and anything else that will benefit the child. Here are some suggestions for making a plan that the Georgia court will accept.
The easiest way to include information about where the child will spend each day is to create a child custody and visitation schedule. First, you need to decide which parent the child will live with, or if the child will live with both parents. When the child lives with one parent and visits the other, it is called sole physical custody. When the child lives with both parents it is called joint physical custody. The next step is to create the residential schedule that divides up the days of custody between the parents. This is for the normal, everyday schedule. You then create a holiday schedule, put in vacation time, and add special events. You end up with a calendar that shows where the child is every day of the year.
The allocation of decision making authority is referred to as legal custody. When one parent is given complete control over decision making it is called sole legal custody. When both parents share the authority it is called joint legal custody. In Georgia, if you opt for joint custody, you need to make sure you include provisions that outline exactly how various decisions are made–if the parents must discuss every decision, what happens if the parents disagree on the decision, etc.
You can also add any other provisions or stipulations that enhance the parenting plan. Georgia law requires provisions about how you and the other parent will handle the exchanges of the children. This includes information about transportation to and from exchanges, where exchanges will take place, the cost of transportation, if any visits need to be supervised, etc. You can also add in provisions about how the parents will handle disputes, how they will make changes to the plan, who has access to the child’s records, how often the parents can contact the child when the child is with the other parent, etc.
Parents in Georgia who are not able to reach an agreement about the plan should each file a proposed plan with the court. Each parent will have the opportunity to defend and explain their plan, and the judge will determine what goes into the final plan. The judge will base the decision on what is best for the child. Once a plan is accepted by the court, it is legally binding and the parents must follow it.