How a Judge Makes a Decision in Child Custody Relocation Petitions in Georgia

A custodial parent’s decision to move away with the children can affect everyone involved. It can complicate visitation as well as significantly change the children’s relationship with the non-custodial parent. Because a judge must make all decisions regarding custody and visitation in the child’s best interests, child custody relocation laws in Georgia are clear about the steps a parent must take before moving, if the judge allows it.

In Georgia, custodial parents who wish to move with their children must submit written notice to the non-custodial parent at least 30 days before the moving date. If that parent consents, the parents file the agreement with the court, which should approve the modification quickly.

However, when the non-custodial parent does not consent, he has the option of petitioning the court for a custody modification hearing so the judge can evaluate the new situation and rule on the issue. The court could — but might not necessarily — rule in favor of the petitioning parent if it feels that changing custody is best for minor children.

Custodial parents have the burden of convincing a judge that the move is legitimate and will benefit the child(ren). If this parent demonstrates — with specific evidence — that the move is good for the child(ren), the judge could grant the petition.

In this event, the court may consider modifying the amount of child support the non-custodial parent pays to help cover higher transportation costs such as airline flights if, for example, the children are traveling from another state or the non-custodial parent travels to see the children.

Child Relocation Factors the Court Considers

Judges must weigh many issues when hearing relocation petitions. A few of the most prominent include:

  • The true motivation of both petitioners
  • Whether the current relationship between the parents is amicable
  • How both parents addressed the issue in their existing parenting plans
  • The impact on the children’s relationship with friends and their education/the child’s community ties
  • The potential for harming the children’s relationship with the non-custodial parent
  • Whether the move truly raises the children’s standard of living and offers other opportunities for them

Depending on the children’s ages, they may be able to sign an affidavit that declares they do not want to move away and prefer to live with the parent who remains “at home.” Under Georgia law, a child who is 14 years of age or older can decide who he wants to live with, but the courts may also consider the desires of a child as young as 11.

Child custody relocation cases can become extremely emotional and many end up in litigation. If you are a custodial parent who is considering relocation or a non-custodial parent concerned that your ex’s relocation will negatively impact your children and your relationship with them, then you need to know what your rights are.

Contact our family law attorneys at 770-383-1973 or fill out our contact form to set up your REAL Case Analysis.