Issues Surrounding Custody Modifications
While child custody agreements are created during divorce proceedings in order to ensure any children of the marriage are taken care of, the agreement can be altered if circumstances warrant a modification. If something in your life has changed to a point where you may want to seek modification of your custody decree, it can be done, though a court may decline to make a change if the circumstances are not sufficiently compelling.
Visitation vs Custody
One important thing to keep in mind is that changing visitation or parenting time is not the same as seeking a modification of the custody agreement itself. Georgia law states that either spouse can seek a review of their visitation and parenting time once every two years, even if no significant change in circumstances has occurred, but generally, a modification to a custody agreement itself must be predicated on a showing of substantial change. An example might be the custodial parent gaining or losing a job where their schedule would change.
The issue at stake in any custody modification is always going to be the best interests of the child. Georgia state public policy explicitly holds that the state will assist in children having continuing contact with a parent or parents that are able to act in their best interest, and as such, most courts are going to listen to requests for modification, though they may not grant them if the parent cannot prove it would be best for the child to do so.
There are some situations in Georgia that can be a bit unusual in terms of custody determinations. Relocation of the custodial parent will generally always be enough to merit a modification, but not necessarily for the court to sign off on the proposed move. The court will evaluate the request in light of all applicable circumstances, meaning that it will consider both the factors for the parents’ well being and the best interests of the child – however, generally if the move is held to be in the child’s best interests, it will be permissible.
The other somewhat unusual circumstance is that a child between the ages of 14 and 18 is permitted under Georgia law to choose the parent they wish to live with. This choice will be considered “presumptive” unless it is decided that the parent they choose does not have the ability to act in their best interests – for example, if the parent is a drug addict or has a history of violence. If this does turn out to be the case, the court will generally award custody to the other parent, but this issue can be revisited, usually on the once-every-two-years schedule.
Contact A Dedicated Family Lawyer
Child custody can be a highly convoluted and emotional issue, so to ensure that everything remains on track, it is generally a good idea to have an experienced attorney on your side. The zealous Atlanta child custody attorneys at Buckhead Family Law understand how important your children’s welfare is to you, and will work with you to ensure that the parenting plan you arrive at is the best one possible for all involved. Contact our offices today by phone or on our website to schedule a consultation.