Parenting decisions regarding academic matters are complicated enough for divorced couples in Georgia, but this year there is an added issue; what will schooling like for families in fall? Parents may be forced to decide whether to send their children back to the building, pull them out and home school or learn online. These decisions are difficult enough as they are, but can be especially complicated for families living in separate households. Who gets to make the call about what schooling will look like?

Physical vs. Legal Custody

In family law, child custody can take a few forms. Physical custody refers to sharing a home with a child and handling his or her day-to-day care. Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions on your child’s behalf, including those related to health care, religion, and education. One parent may have primary physical custody of the children, but both parents may have the joint right to make major decisions for their children. However, if one parent is awarded legal custody by the court, that parent is the final decision maker for all important decisions, including education.

Joint legal custody scenario

When parents have joint legal custody, things are not as clear cut. This prevents one parent from making unilateral decisions regarding the children’s welfare. Both parents share responsibility, and if one parent wants one thing while the other wants something, who gets to make the final call? There is no final call, according to some experts. Parents must participate equally in the decision. This requires open and honest communication, with each parent considering their child’s best interests while also their own schedules. However, in most cases, a court will include a “tiebreaker” which often leaves the decision up to the primary physical custodian if an agreement cannot be reached.

To understand one’s options in such unprecedented times, it might be beneficial to consult an experienced attorney. Cook & Tolley can help families make the best decisions for their family and ensure they are legally enforceable.