Child Custody and Relocation in Georgia
After a divorce, the primary caregiver may decide to relocate. Therefore, a modification of the child custody agreement is required. In the state of Georgia, each case is handled on an individual basis. Although there are several factors under consideration, the exact direction in which the case will go varies depending on which factors are evaluated and how greatly they are weighed in the court’s eyes. The greatest interest taken is that of the child(ren). The following is a brief outline of what is to be expected when initiating this process:
If the custodial parent wishes to relocate with a child, they must present a written notice to the non-custodial parent and family members with visitation rights within 30 days (sometimes more) of the proposed moving date.
Petition for Modification of Child Custody
If the non-custodial parent consents, the parents will file an agreed-upon modified parenting plan addressing how custody and visitation issues will change. The court reviews it to determine if the relocation is in the child’s best interests.
If the non-custodial parent objects, either parent may file requesting a modification of custody. The parent desiring to relocate must prove that moving is for the child’s benefit. The court can flip custody to the non-relocating parent or modify the plan based on the child’s new location.
Amongst other possibilities, modifications can address changes in drop-off/pick-up location as well as a set reduction in child support based on travel cost. Whether these are terms the parties agree upon or the court orders depends on the facts and circumstances of each case.
Factors Used by the Court
Factors the court may use to determine if relocation is best for the child include the:
- child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent;
- child’s age;
- impact of the move on the child’s relationship to friends, the child’s education, and community ties;
- reason for the move;
- motivation of both parents;
- benefits of consistency and stability of remaining in the current location versus the instability and stress of relocation;
- relocating parent’s new family unit, if applicable;
- interests of the binuclear family;
- findings of a court-appointed guardian ad litem.
The court may consider any other factors it deems relevant. The relocation itself constitutes a material change in circumstances justifying the filing of a modification action and is relevant potentially for purposes of the issue of attorney fees.
Can a Child Choose Not to Relocate?
The court must consider the wishes of a child 14 or older. However, the final decision ultimately rests with the court.