Georgia child custody modification can occur for a variety of reasons. A parent can request a child custody modification anytime there is a significant change in circumstances. If there is not a significant change in circumstances, a parent can request a modification every two years. In either case, the judge will consider which living arrangement would be best for the child(ren) involved before making any decisions.
Does Moving Away Require a Custody Modification?
If the parent with primary custody intends to move, the court will consider custody modifications. If the non-custodial or jointly custodial parent can prove that moving would harm the child and remaining with the non-custodial parent would be in the child’s best interests, the judge may grant a custody change.
In any case, custodial parents must inform the noncustodial parent (as well as anyone with visitation rights or court-ordered parenting time) of any planned relocation (and the full new address) within 30 days of the moving date.
What If My Child Wants to Live With Me?
Minors over 14 may choose with whom they wish to live. Judges generally respect those requests if they are in the child’s best interests but will still weigh other circumstances of the change in reaching their final decision.
Children over 11 may request to live with a certain parent; judges will review these requests but often will appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to investigate and represent the best interests of the child.
The judge may ask the GAL look into the child’s home and school environment and speak with those who know the child, such as teachers, ministers, doctors, therapists, etc. The GAL will then submit recommendations to the judge, who will rule on the child’s request.
Children should be careful in requesting Georgia child custody modification, however. Unless there is a circumstantial reason to request modification, they must wait two years before requesting another change. This is to keep children from making decisions on a whim or out of anger with the custodial parent
Are There Any Other Reasons a Parent May Seek Custody Modification?
When a non-custodial parent is able to prove to the court that the custodial parent is incapable of properly caring for a child, the parent can submit an emergency modification petition to the court. Serious examples can be if the custodial parent has an unmaintained mental illness, has become dependent on drugs or alcohol, or has committed a serious crime, as any of these pose serious harm to the child.
Temporary modifications can occur in many cases. For example, a “trial modification” could result in the child living with the non-custodial parent for a brief period (a few months) in order for the custodial parent’s situation to improve. If neither parent is able to provide adequate custody, the court may allow grandparents and step-parents temporary custody, but only if it is in the best interests of the child.
Temporary modifications also occur with military families if a joint custodial parent is awaiting overseas deployment. If the court deems it necessary (and, as always, in the best interests of the child), it may make a temporary arrangement permanent. The court must wait a minimum of three months before considering this measure.
Parents should never take custody modification lightly and should shield the child from as much unnecessary change as possible. However, sometimes a change is what is best for the child, and often, the parent. The Gwinnett County child custody attorneys with the Ward Law Firm in Lawrenceville will counsel you on the best ways to protect your children and their interests throughout the Georgia child custody modification process.
Call us at 770-383-1973 or contact us online to schedule your REAL Case Analysis.