Georgia’s Best Interests Standard in Relocation Cases
If you’re a parent with a custody agreement in Georgia, you may want to think carefully before relocating out of state.
With its 2003 decision in Bodne v. Bodne, Georgia’s Supreme Court dramatically changed how state judges handle modifications to custody arrangements when one parent wishes to move out of state with a child in custody. Previous cases had established a presumption in favor of allowing a custodial parent to relocate. This meant that the parent who had custody could move out of state unless the other parent could show that the move would endanger the child. Under current law, courts will determine, on a case to case basis, whether the relocation is in the child’s best interests.
Relocation and Substantial Change in Circumstances
When parents go to court in Georgia to decide custody disputes, a judge helps parents reach an agreement about all child-related issues such as holiday and vacation schedules, visitation, and child care arrangements. The parents’ decisions, and each one’s roles and responsibilities, are drafted into a custody agreement.
Once parents have created a custody agreement, the agreement cannot be modified unless a parent shows that there has been a change in circumstances warranting modification. As a result of Bodne, a custodial parent’s decision to move out of state now counts as a substantial change in circumstances that warrants modifying the agreement. If one parent seeks to move out of state and the other parent objects, the objecting parent can petition the court for a modification of the custody agreement and request a hearing on the matter.
In deciding whether to allow the move, a judge will consider whether, in light of all relevant circumstances, the move is in the best interests of the child. The parent opposing the move is no longer required to show that the move would endanger the child, only that it would not be in the child’s best interests.
Do you have questions or concerns to discuss with a Georgia divorce lawyer in North Fulton County? If you want to learn more about child custody issues in Georgia, please contact my office today at (678) 613-5732.