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Georgia Custody Laws on Moving Out of State

by Sharon Jackson  on August 3, 2021 under 

It is common for ex-spouses to decide to relocate out of state upon divorce. However, when child custody is involved, specific rules apply to help ensure the child’s best interests while also balancing the rights of each parent. Here is an overview of relocation rules in relation to child custody and visitation in Georgia.

Can a Custodial Parent Move with the Child Anytime?

Before 2003, Georgia courts presumed that it was best for a child to be with the parent who has primary custody, even if that parent moved out of state. The custodial parent could take the child with them at any time without permission from the court. 

However, this is no longer the case today after a landmark ruling in 2003, stating that a judge must determine on a case-to-case basis whether it’s best for the child to move with the relocating parent.

Georgia Requirements for Relocating with Child Custody

Today, when a custodial parent intends to move out of Georgia with their child, they are required by law to notify the other parent 30 days prior to the move. The notification must provide the full address of the new residence. The same information should also be given to other persons with visitation rights, such as grandparents.

If the non-custodial parent fully agrees to the relocation, both parents must put this agreement in writing and have it notarized. This is to prevent potential accusations of parental kidnapping or violating a court order. A family law attorney can help in drawing up the written agreement.

On the other hand, if the non-custodial parent objects to the relocation or wants to make adjustments to the child custody order, they may request the court to modify the custody order.

Child custody modification cannot prevent the relocating parent from moving, but it may potentially alter the existing custody order so that the relocating parent cannot take the child with them.

Once the modification petition is filed, it is up to the court to decide whether the child custody order is changed in relation to the move. Their main standard to answer is: Would relocation be in the child’s best interests?

Factors in Custody Modification Based on Relocation

How does the court decide whether moving is in the child’s best interests? These are some important factors that the judge will look at in determining child custody modification:

  • The custodial parent’s motivation for moving
  • The child’s age and emotional health
  • Any potential change to the child’s quality of life
  • How the child’s relationship with each parent would be maintained or affected (the court may find that diminished contact with one parent could be detrimental to the child)
  • How the child might adapt to the new environment (including school, friends, neighborhood)
  • The custodial parent’s employment prospects in each location
  • New household dynamics that may impact the child (for example, living with the parent’s new partner)
  • Ease and safety of travel between parents
  • The child’s preference, if they are over 14 years of age.

What If a Parent Wants to Move Before Divorce is Final?

The above rules apply if the spouses are already divorced and a child custody order is in place. If a parent wishes to relocate with the child while the divorce is still in process, they must get the other parent’s consent in writing. Without a child custody order in place yet, both parents still have equal rights over the child.

Another option is to get a temporary custody order from the court, asking permission to move with the child. If the court grants this temporary order, it will only last until a final child custody order is granted to either spouse.

Contact a Georgia Child Custody Lawyer

Whether you are the parent hoping to relocate, or the parent trying to keep your child within the state, you don’t want to make legal mistakes that would cost you your parental rights. It is wise to consult with a Family Law attorney on any significant change to your circumstances.

In Gwinnett County and surrounding areas, Attorney Sharon Jackson has effectively handled child custody issues like yours. Her 16+ years of legal experience, combined with her sensitivity to family dynamics, has helped numerous Georgia parents secure favorable outcomes for themselves and their children.

Call us today at (678) 909-4100 or use our online contact form.

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