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Can I Move Out Of Georgia If I Have Custody Of Our Child?

by Sharon Jackson  on December 1, 2023 under 

Deciding to move is always a big one, involving numerous steps and considerations. Yet, as a parent who shares custody with another parent, it is important to understand the legal ramifications of moving. A question we often hear is, "Can I move out of Georgia if I have custody of our child?" The answers can sometimes be a bit more complicated than just yes or no. Gwinnett County Attorney Sharon Jackson, LLC, can help you with all aspects of child custody in Georgia.

What You Need to Know About Child Custody in Georgia

As an experienced child custody lawyer in Georgia, Attorney Sharon Jackson, LLC is consistently working closely with clients to ensure their needs are met – and that they understand the laws they face. Moving happens for many reasons, including through no fault of one parent or the next. Often, a job or a better financial situation exists elsewhere. However, before you just move, it is critical to understand what your rights are.

Moving Before the Courts Are Involved

Whether or not you are married or single, you can move out of state with your minor child before the courts are involved.  If there is no pending divorce, legitimation, or child custody modification case, you may be free to move out of state. Some states have laws that require one parent to seek the other parent’s permission before moving out of state.  Georgia does not have this requirement.  This does not mean you should bolt to another state with the child without considering the impact on the child and the other parent.  

The courts will not look kindly on you if you are married, your spouse is an active co-parent and you move abruptly. This is particularly true if the move results in the child’s relationship with the other parent being unreasonably disrupted.   There are exceptions for domestic violence cases and other special situations. Every case is unique and fact-specific.  The internet can’t provide you with a universal answer that applies to all situations.  Reach out to an experienced child custody lawyer like Attorney Sharon Jackson, LLC, and schedule an appointment to discuss your specific case.

There Are Two Types of Custody in Georgia

Georgia recognizes two types of custody: physical and legal.

  • Physical custody is the term used to describe the parent where the child lives.
  • Legal custody relates to who can make major decisions for the child and the parents’ basic right to be involved with child-rearing. 

In some situations, one parent has both legal and physical custody, but this is very rare for married or divorced couples.

A parent who only has joint legal custody, but is not the primary physical custodian can never move out of state with the minor child without a court order changing physical custody.  This would potentially be considered parental kidnapping.

If A Custodial Parent Wants to Move Out Of Georgia After A Divorce

In almost all child custody orders imposed by a Georgia judge during a divorce, the parties are required to give the other party at least 30 days' notice in writing prior to moving.  This applies to the custodial parent as well as to the non-custodial parent.  There is a difference between giving notice and seeking permission.  You are required to give notice, not seek permission.

  1. If the custodial parent notifies the other parent that he or she intends to relocate with the minor child, the other parent can file a modification and ask for a change in custody, reduction in child support, or changes to visitation.
  2. If the custodial parent moves with the child and it results in a court-ordered parenting schedule not being followed, the other parent can file a contempt of court action against the parent who caused the parties not to be able to adhere to the parenting schedule.

It is not uncommon for a parent to move after a divorce. Sometimes a parent only moved to Georgia because of the spouse’s employment. The divorced parent may no longer desire to live in Georgia after the divorce. As a single parent, you may desire to move closer to your family and support system. In other cases, a divorced parent may desire to move due to employment opportunities. Georgia laws do not prohibit moving, it just needs to be done in the right way. If possible, the parents should discuss the changes and hire a lawyer to draft the agreement and file it with the courts.  If there is no agreement, then the courts will decide what is in the best interest of the minor child.

Your former spouse cannot stop you from moving to another state or to another country.  The courts, however, can and will determine where the child lives.  

Obtaining a Court Order

If the courts have to decide where a minor child should live due to relocation after a divorce, they consider a number of factors. The most important factor is how the move will impact the minor child. Other questions the court will ask include the following:

  • How will relocating impact the non-custodial parent’s ability to see the child?
  • What connections does the child have to the new location?
  • What resources are available to the parents in both locations?
  • What is the quality of the schools and education system in both locations?
  • Why is the relocating parent moving? (better job, better support system, etc.)
  • What ties does the child have to the two competing locations?

When Is It Required to Notify Grandparents of a Move?

In some child custody agreements, grandparents are given rights to visitation. When this is the case, the grandparent must also be given a 30-day notice of any move that would alter their ability to see the child as the current custody agreement allows. It is possible for the grandparents to object to such a move, which would also mean that the court would have to weigh in on this decision.

What If the Other Parent Files to Prevent Us from Moving Out of Georgia?

There are some situations where the other parent will take action to prevent the other from moving out of state with the child. Obtaining a court order to prevent such a move is not uncommon if the parent feels that their right and ability to see the child will be limited as a result or if they feel, for any reason, that the move is not in the best interest of the child.

Whenever possible, negotiations are best, but that is rarely a simple step when parents cannot come to an agreement. As a result, it helps to have an attorney by your side who can guide and support you through this process. Unfortunately, this type of inability to work together is common in any high-conflict divorce, and it is critical that you know your rights to get the support you need.

There Are Many Things at Risk Here – Let An Experienced Lawrenceville Child Custody Attorney Help You

You are facing significant challenges when it comes to moving out of state with a child custody agreement in place. However, there is help available to you to navigate this option and achieve the best possible outcome. Contact Attorney Sharon Jackson LLC now to discuss your case and learn more about your rights.

Contact Gwinnett County Family Law and Child Custody Attorney Sharon Jackson today at (678) 436-3636 to set up a confidential, no-risk consultation.


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