Custody of minor children is one of the most contested issues during a divorce or the end of a long term relationship. Both parents often wish to retain physical custody of their children in order to preserve their parent-child bond or to reduce the financial obligation of child support. During child custody hearings in Georgia, a judge will usually award primary physical custody of the children to one parent while allowing the former couple to share legal custody. Understanding joint legal custody ensures that you remain aware of your parental rights.
When parents share legal custody, both parties have a right to know about the child’s education. The custodial parent must keep the non-custodial parent up-to-date regarding any school enrollment changes. Each parent may contact the school to inquire about the child’s grades, disciplinary actions, and attendance records. Some school systems in Georgia require parents who are divorced or who do not live together to provide the school a copy of their court-ordered custody agreement. Enrollment may be delayed until that information is provided or the school’s staff and teachers may decline to provide information regarding a child until they have confirmed the parent making inquiries has a legal right to do so.
Georgia child custody and visitation orders usually include instructions regarding which parent must maintain insurance coverage for the children along with how the parents will divide uninsured medical expenses. If the parents have joint legal custody each parent has a right to know about any medical procedures that are performed. The noncustodial parent is able to contact the child’s pediatrician, dentist, orthodontist, and other healthcare providers to inquire about test results or treatments. They are also able to ask billing questions or make direct payments to the medical provider for completed or scheduled procedures.
One of the most important, and controversial, aspects of joint legal custody is that both parents have an equal say in what should be done during any type of emergency. This ensures that the non-custodial parent does not have serious issues hidden from them by the custodial parent. Unfortunately, this can prove problematic if either parent is unavailable or unreachable during an emergency situation. If a parent is forced by necessity and time constraints to make a decision that the other parent later disapproves of, it could lead to more litigation.
Decide What is Best for You
Not every relationship or situation is appropriate for shared legal rights. A person whose spouse has a history of being indifferent to the children and is generally unreliable is not always someone you would want to share custody with in any form. Forcing yourself to interact with the other parent when he or she is not communicative could lead to problems or place you at risk of being accused of violating a court order when you stop. Before you agree to joint legal custody, talk to a skilled child custody and visitation attorney. The attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum are always prepared to provide you with advice that is best for your unique legal situation. Contact one of our four Atlanta area offices today to schedule your consultation.