Atlanta Child Custody Modification Lawyers
One of the biggest misconceptions that people have regarding divorce and the matters that follow is that all orders are permanent and cannot be changed. Yes, the court will order an official divorce decree upon the completion of the divorce or an order of custody at the conclusion of a legitimation or paternity action. However, that does not mean that orders cannot be modified down the road.
In many situations, there are circumstances that change, and it's necessary for one of the parties involved to request a modification of the child custody order. Below, we'll talk about how to go about modifying a child custody order and what grounds constitute a need for modification. Having this knowledge can position parents in a way that allows them to protect their parental rights moving forward.
How Does Child Custody Modification Work?
In any situation involving child custody, one or both parents may request a modification of the current custody order. However, in order for the court to modify the existing order, there must be evidence of a material change in circumstances that warrant the change. However, if the order was issued more than two years ago, no material change in circumstances is necessary. The parent requesting modification must show that the interests and well-being of the child will benefit if the modification is granted.
In Georgia, the courts must look at these requests fairly. This means that they must still apply the rules that consider the best interests of the child first and foremost. However, they must not also assume that the custodial parent has an automatic right to retain custody simply because he or she was awarded custody in the initial order.
Once the parent requesting modification shows the required material change in circumstances, the court will make a determination of whether to grant the requested change in custody or visitation based on the best interests of the minor child. For instance, the court may retain the current order if it believes there is not enough evidence showing that a change is in the child's best interests. In other situations, the court may see enough evidence to change primary custody to joint custody or to change the primary custodian for the minor child.
Some cases may involve a change in visitation schedule which is more suitable based on the parties' and children's current situations.
Reasons to Modify a Child Custody Order
A number of changes in circumstances may be the basis for a Petition to Modify Custody.
Here are a few reasons to request a modification in child custody:
- Improved living conditions:If you didn't receive primary physical custody or only were awarded limited parenting time because of your previous living conditions, you may request a modification by showing that your living situation has improved. For instance, if you went from a studio apartment to a three-bedroom townhome, you may be able to show that you now have room for your children to live with you full or part time.
- Relocation:If your ex is the custodial parent and is trying to relocate, you may request a custody modification by showing that the move would cause more harm to your child than good. You may show that moving can damage the child's social life, education, healthcare, and his or her bond with you and other family members. A judge can stop the relocation, and they can also modify the order to determine if you can have more parenting time than the initial order awarded.
- Ignored visitation rights:You may request a modification of child custody orders if you can show that your ex is denying or ignoring your rights to a visitation schedule. This is an act that can hurt the child, thus changing the court's initial decision regarding the child's best interests. A failure by either party to foster the relationship with the other parent will be paramount in a judge's decision making in a child custody case.
- Child's Request to Change Custodial Parent:In Georgia, a child who is 14 years old or older may elect which parent they will to live with. This election will be honored as long as it is in the child's best interest and the parent that the child has elected to live with has not been shown to be unfit.
- Unfitness of the custodial parent:If a non-custodial parent shows that the custodial parent no longer has the ability to care for the minor children, this will also justify a modification of custody. A number of circumstances may lead to the determination of unfitness included, but not limited to, mental instability, drug and alcohol abuse, or other behaviors affecting the safety of the minor children. If you feel that your child is in danger, it is imperative that a modification be requested immediately. In some circumstances, the Court can grant a modification quickly on a temporary or emergency basis.
At Atlanta Family Law Group LLC, our Atlanta child custody attorneys are ready to help you. We are tenacious in building a convincing case to help you show that a modification to the child custody order is in your child's best interests. If significant changes have occurred that you believe warrant a modification of your custody order or if you want to preserve the rights established in your custody agreement, contact the experienced child custody lawyers at Atlanta Family Law Group today at (404) 963-9452 to discuss how we can help you with your custody goals.