Issues may arise when a Georgia parent attempts to move with a child

In Georgia, one of the most important things to get resolved during any child custody dispute is the establishment of a workable parenting plan. Indeed, it is these plans that dictate when, and where, a child will be in each parent's care. However, while parenting plans can often give parents the security of knowing what to expect in regards to most child custody issues, these plans may not be able to help when quarrels ignite following one parent's attempt to move to another city or state with the child.

Child relocation and the modification of Georgia child custody orders

Unlike several other states, Georgia does not have any statutes dedicated solely to the matter of child relocation, except for a single provision that requires a custodial parent to given a non-custodial parent 30 days written notice of any anticipated change in residence. However, if the parents agreed upon a parenting plan during previous litigation that requires more than 30 days written notice, they must adhere to that requirement.

Given that Georgia child-custody laws do not delineate an exclusive process for dealing with child relocation cases, if a custodial parent wishes to move with a child, and the noncustodial parent objects, the noncustodial parent can simply ask the court to modify the original child custody order. In these circumstances, a Georgia court is permitted to modify a custody order upon proof of material changes in circumstances that may substantially impact the welfare of the child.

When making its determination in child relocation cases, a Georgia court cannot apply a bright-line rule, but instead must consider what is in the best interests of the child - making sure to evaluate the unique circumstances of each individual case. Some of the factors a court may examine when determining what is in the best interests of the child include:

  • The relationship between the each parent and child
  • The relationship between the child and his or her siblings, including half siblings and stepsiblings
  • The ability of each parent to given the child love and guidance, and to continue the education and raising of the child
  • Each parent's knowledge of the child's needs
  • The ability of each parent to provide for the child's material needs, such as food, clothing, medical care and other day-to-day necessities
  • Each parent's involvement, or lack thereof, in the child's educational or extracurricular activities
  • Any evidence of child abuse or criminal history of either parent

Ultimately, though, these are only a few of the many factors that a court may look to when deciding child relocation cases. However, it is also important to note that if the child in question is at least 14-years-old, his or her preference will often control the court's decision.

If you are currently considering a relocation with a child who is subject to a Georgia child custody order, or are attempting to stop a child relocation, it is often best to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable child custody attorney. An experienced attorney can help explain your rights and options as well as protect your child's welfare.