Child Custody & Support Modifications in Georgia Divorce
It can feel intimidating to try to negotiate a change to your divorce decree after it has been decided. However, life never stays the same; modifications become necessary over time simply because things change for all involved. If you have experienced some life changes that necessitate seeking modification to your divorce decree, it can be done, but it is a good idea to have a dedicated attorney on your side to smooth out the process.
Only Certain Times & Reasons Acceptable
A divorce decree is entered into the court record at the time of your divorce, and at least for right then, it establishes amounts and frequencies, such as child support amounts and visitation rights for each parent. It is possible to seek to change those decisions – for example, seeking to pay less child support or have more visitation with your children – but contrary to popular belief, one cannot randomly seek a modification of your divorce decree simply because you think you should receive one.
In order to successfully modify your child support amount or visitation time, you must show that a “substantial or material change” has occurred in your life, and thus, enforcing the old limits would be unfair or impossible. Substantial change most often can be shown in the form of a reduction of income or a material increase in the income of the other party, but other major life events (either positive or negative) can also be sufficient – for example, remarriage, relocation, special needs of a child, or substance abuse issues.
The Court Gets Final Say
One important thing to keep in mind is that any official or binding change to your decree, at any point after it has been entered into the court record, must be in writing and approved by the court. Too many people try to execute informal agreements with their ex-spouse, only to find they have no recourse if their ex refuses to follow it later down the road. It is possible to negotiate the changes you wish with your ex-spouse one on one, as opposed to having a court mandate them, but if you do this, you must then have your informal agreement entered into the court record for it to be enforceable.
This holds true both in financial matters and in custody issues. For example, in Georgia, if a child has reached the age of 14, their preference as to which parent they would prefer to live with must be taken into account by the court. If the child changes their mind at some point, custody must be amended by the court, rather than simply changed between the spouses. Without the court’s approval on a divorce modification, there is no way to seek redress if either spouse breaches the informal agreement.
Contact An Atlanta Family Lawyer Today
A divorce decree cannot be a static document; it and the court that issues it must be able to adapt with the changes in your family’s lives. If you have questions about seeking modification of your own divorce decree, contacting an Atlanta family lawyer can be a great first step to understanding the process. Buckhead Family Law has years of experience with these types of cases and is happy to assist you with yours. Contact our office today for personalized attention.