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Modifying Child Custody

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Child custody can be one of the most contentious aspects of divorce, as neither parent is often willing to give up parenting time with his or her children.  However, a child custody plan is not always set in stone.  It can be changed under various circumstances.  Consider some of the details regarding changing child custody orders below.

Modifying Visitation or the Custody Order?

In Georgia, there is a difference between making a change in visitation or parenting time and when a parent may request a change in the child custody order.  Each path has its own procedure and required elements.  Parenting time is the plan that outlines which parent will spend time with the child or children and when.  The custody order delineates which parent has primary custody of the children.  This difference is important in making changes to child custody and parenting time plans.

Modifying Visitation

A parent may make a motion before the court (that just means, make a formal request) to modify the parenting plan once every two years after the initial child custody order is signed.  There is no need for there to be a significant change in circumstances in order for a parent to petition the court to modify visitation or parenting time.  This is one of the easier modifications to make because there is no required showing on the part of the parent to convince the court to make the change.

Modifying the Custody Order

Modifying the custody order, on the other hand, is a bit more involved.  A parent may only request a change in the child custody order when a significant change in family circumstances has occurred since the original order was signed.  This change could be positive or negative; consider a parent relocating for a new job, or drug or alcohol abuse on the part of one of the parents.  When making a decision about whether to modify the custody order, the court considers the best interests of the child, a flexible standard that allows the court to bring in a great deal of information to decide what is best for the child in question.

What If It’s the Child Who Wants a Modification?

Under old Georgia law, a child 14 years of age or older could elect to live with either parent and the court would honor that choice.  That is no longer the case.  Now, although the election of a child of 14 years of age or older will carry great weight, the final decision will still be made based on what the court believes is in the best interests of the child.  An election by a child 14 or older cannot be considered as a “material change of circumstances” more than once every two years. A child 11 years of age or older can also inform the court of which parent he or she wishes to live with.  The court will consider that choice, but may not honor it and will give it even less deference than the opinion of a child in the older age bracket.

How Do I Make These Modifications?

It is difficult to navigate the confusing world of family law on your own.  Get in touch with an experienced Atlanta child custody attorney to assist you.  Contact The Solomon Firm at 404-565-0641 today.

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