Sometimes, it becomes necessary or desirable to modify an existing child custody arrangement. Because child custody is controlled by a court order, to have a new enforceable child custody arrangement you will need to modify the existing order. Modification of a child custody order can be sought under the following circumstances:

One Party Decides to Move Out of State or to Another City: Because the moving parent must notify the other parent and the court prior to any relocation – any relocation will warrant a modification of the existing child custody arrangement. If you are considering moving with your child or if your former spouse is planning to move and take your child(ren) with them, the attorneys at Coleman Legal Group, LLC are ready to help you. In a consultation, we will evaluate your specific situation and explain your options under Georgia law. We will then begin working with you to resolve the custody issues efficiently and as quickly as possible. If your spouse has already moved and taken your child(ren) with them, you must not hesitate to discuss with a lawyer. Although the law generally favors the spouse that did not take the child(ren), ignoring the problem for an extended period of time will make resolving the case more difficult.

Changes in the Fitness of A Parent: If one parent is no longer fit to have primary physical custody – or any extended time with your child(ren), we can arrange for an emergency hearing to petition for a change in custody or visitation. Common reasons a parent may be found unfit to have custody include mental health issues, physical health issues, alcohol / drug / substance abuse issues, abusive to the child(ren) or the presence of unsafe conditions for the child(ren). The court has the option of ordering reduced custody time, supervised custody or in extreme circumstances – eliminating custody completely.

Best Interest of the Child Standard: A parent can petition for a custody modification if they believe it is not in the child’s best interests to continue to spend the same amount of time with the other parent. Reasons may include, but are not limited to:

– the custodial parent’s working hours have changed or their travel demands have increased problems in school performance or attendance
– the development of emotional or behavioral problems by the child
– the other parent’s new partner, husband or wife severely disrupting the child’s life

Custody Elections: If the child is between the ages of eleven (11) and fourteen (14), the child may choose to speak with the judge and express their choice regarding the parent with whom they wish to reside with. The court may take this choice under advisement, but is under no obligation to follow it. If the child is older than fourteen (14), the child has the right to make an election. The court will give this custody election preference strong consideration in deciding the case. However, the guiding principal of the judge when considering child custody modification is always what is in the best interests of the child.

Guardian Ad Litem: When necessary, the court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to represent the child and their best interests. The job of the GAL is to provide the court with documented information to help the Judge make the best final decision regarding a modification of child custody. The GAL is a neutral third party who has the right to visit the home of the child and school, interview and speak with teachers, therapists, physicians, psychologists and other parties. After the GAL completes their investigation – they may make a report and submit it to the judge about their findings in regard to what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest.