Relocation and Child Custody in Georgia

This is a discussion on Relocation and Child Custody in Georgia within the Child Custody & Support forum, part of the FAMILY LAW, DIVORCE, CUSTODY category; I am an Active Duty custodial parent pending a Permanent Change of Station, or move, this summer. The non-custodial parent ...

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Old May 31st, 2011, 10:24 PM   #1
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Default Relocation and Child Custody in Georgia

I am an Active Duty custodial parent pending a Permanent Change of Station, or move, this summer. The non-custodial parent is not consenting to the move. The parenting plan does not address the issue of relocating and I am uncertain if I can legally relocate in order to comply with my assignment instructions. I was advised to wait and see if the non-custodial parent files a modification of the order then respond accordingly, but if I do not relocate I could possibly face charges under military law. Any advice you can provide is greatly appreciated
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Old Jun 1st, 2011, 12:43 AM   #2
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Default Re: Relocation and Child Custody in Georgia

I wish to inform you that if in relocation you cannot take child with you then you may give custody to other parent and if other parent does not agree then to grand parents. If you can take child along with you then you my take after informing other parent whereabouts of child provided there is no restriction on moving child to another place. Alternatively, you may also file for modification of child custody allowing you to take child along with you.

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Old Jun 1st, 2011, 12:47 AM   #3
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Default Re: Relocation and Child Custody in Georgia

First of all let me remind you that both parents have equal rights on their children. Generally if the custodial parent moves out of state, then that fact must be made known to the non custodial parent. As the parenting plan is silent about the issue of relocating, it seems that you can relocate. As you’re in military service you are bound to relocate according to the military rules. If the non custodial parent initiate any modification of the order, then you have to appear before the court and convince the court that your forced to relocate due to your employment. It is better advised that you may consult with a Family law attorney, so that you can get prepared
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Old Jun 1st, 2011, 05:47 AM   #4
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Default Re: Relocation and Child Custody in Georgia

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Originally Posted by momandsoldier View Post
I am an Active Duty custodial parent pending a Permanent Change of Station, or move, this summer. The non-custodial parent is not consenting to the move. The parenting plan does not address the issue of relocating and I am uncertain if I can legally relocate in order to comply with my assignment instructions. I was advised to wait and see if the non-custodial parent files a modification of the order then respond accordingly, but if I do not relocate I could possibly face charges under military law. Any advice you can provide is greatly appreciated
You will need to go back to court to have the custody decree modified to reflect the move. Your custody decree undoubtedly includes visitation arrangements and since the non custodial parent is objecting to your removing the child, you can expect a formal objection to be filed. Time is the issue you need to deal with since motions usually take 30 days to note up to be heard and summer is upon us. As it will be contested, it would seem that your filing as soon as possible will give you more time to deal with a matter you know will be challenged.

Courts are aware of the need for military personnel to move at the behest of their commanders and the consequences if they do not comply, so I would recommend that you think and plan for altering the visitation schedule so the other parent will have more generous extended times at intervals to compensate for the lack of regular access due to the distance the move will necessitate.
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Old Jun 1st, 2011, 12:57 PM   #5
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I wish to inform you that if in relocation you cannot take child with you then you may give custody to other parent and if other parent does not agree then to grand parents. If you can take child along with you then you my take after informing other parent whereabouts of child provided there is no restriction on moving child to another place. Alternatively, you may also file for modification of child custody allowing you to take child along with you.

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The only restriction is that non custodial parent does not consent. Without consent can legally relocate
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Old Jun 15th, 2011, 01:45 AM   #6
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EEK! Re: Relocation and Child Custody in Georgia

Quote:
Originally Posted by momandsoldier View Post
I am an Active Duty custodial parent pending a Permanent Change of Station, or move, this summer. The non-custodial parent is not consenting to the move. The parenting plan does not address the issue of relocating and I am uncertain if I can legally relocate in order to comply with my assignment instructions. I was advised to wait and see if the non-custodial parent files a modification of the order then respond accordingly, but if I do not relocate I could possibly face charges under military law. Any advice you can provide is greatly appreciated
Since you are in the military, I am uncertain whether it was a Georgia Order since you might have obtained an order from the Courts of the state of your legal residence while physically residing in Georgia. The rest of this note assumes that the current order was issued by a Georgia Court:

The order would ordinarily state that you are required to notify the other parent 30 days prior to the anticipated change of residence and provide the full address of the proposed new residence pursuant to O.C.G.A. Section 19-9-3. If your move is close enough to the residence of the child's father to permit you to comply with the current visitation order, then you simply have to give the advance notice to the non-custodial parent and wait to see if he files a petition to try to prevent the move.

However, if the move is going to make it financially prohibitive or require so much travel that the current order regarding visitation will need to be modified, you need to go ahead and file a petition to modify the current order.

Whether the petition is filed by you or your ex, the Court is required by law to determine what is in the best interests of the child. In determing what is in your child's best interests, Georgia law reqiures that the Court consider any relevant factor including, but not limited to:

(A) The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child;

(B) The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and his or her siblings, half siblings, and stepsiblings and the residence of such other children;

(C) The capacity and disposition of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child;

(D) Each parent's knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child's needs;

(E) The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, day-to-day needs, and other necessary basic care, with consideration made for the potential payment of child support by the other parent;

(F) The home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child rather than superficial or material factors;

(G) The importance of continuity in the child's life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;

(H) The stability of the family unit of each of the parents and the presence or absence of each parent's support systems within the community to benefit the child;

(I) The mental and physical health of each parent;

(J) Each parent's involvement, or lack thereof, in the child's educational, social, and extracurricular activities;

(K) Each parent's employment schedule and the related flexibility or limitations, if any, of a parent to care for the child;

(L) The home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of the child;

(M) Each parent's past performance and relative abilities for future performance of parenting responsibilities;

(N) The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child;

(O) Any recommendation by a court appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem;

(P) Any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse or criminal history of either parent; and

(Q) Any evidence of substance abuse by either parent.

Furthermore, the child's age may be significant. In Georgia, a child who has reached 14 years old has the right to select his custodial parent and that selection is presumptive unless the parent the child selects is determiend by the Court not to be in the child's best interests. The desires and educational needs of a child who is between 11 and 14 must be considered but are not controlling.


SPECIFICALLY in the relocation context, some of the factors the court might consider include:

(1) the reason you want to relocate (in your case because of the military order requiring you to move as opposed to a desire to frustrate your ex's efforts to see his child):

(2) the fitness of the parents (In practical terms, the Court cannot issue an order restrining YOU from relocating; it can only issue an order restraining the child from relocating - in other words, if one parent is unfit and cannot take custody of the child, the unfit parent has no practical means to stop the fit parent who wants to relocate since he or she cannot take custody of the child when the fit parent leaves);

(3) the type of relationship has your ex established with the child (maintaining a close relationship with a loving parent is more important than worrying about someone who only bothers to see his or her child once a year);

(4) the effect of the relocation on the child: For example:
(a) Are you moving further away from or closer to extended family members?
(b) Are you moving further away from or closer to educational opportunities for the child? For example, can it be proven that the public school where you are moving is superior to his/her current school?
(c) Does the relocation improve or decrease the child's access to important health care (for example, if your child has allergies that would be improved by living in a different climate or if the child requires medical treatment that can be more readily obtained by moving closer to a doctor or medical facility that can provide that treatment, these would be important considerations for the Court. (I once represented a family where the child could obtain a needed eye operation by a change of custody to the child's sister who lived in Germany.)
(d) Are there extra-curricular opportunities that would be lost or gained by the relocation? For example, I have a cousin whose daughter is being recruited by Olympic coaches because her daughter is a really super diver. In that type of case, a relocation so that the child might receive such coaching or a relocation away from the coach once a coaching relationship was established might be significant to the court.
(e) Are there significant psychological issues in this case? For example, a child who suffers from autism or severe ADHD might be more severely impacted by a relocation than a child who does not suffer from these conditions.
(f) Is the relocation likely to be an improvement or a deterioration of the child's living envronment? Factors such as the housing pre- and post-relocation, the violance, gang or drug activity in the area pre- and post-relocation, etc.

(5) Conversly, the Court would also have to consider whether changing custody of the child to the other parent because your military orders require you to relocate would be detrimental to the child. Would the arrangements for visitation be sufficient for the child to maintain the close parent-child relationship you have established? Do you have other children that would not live with your ex (step/half siblings can be a significant consideration and courts typically prefer to avoid disturbing an established sibling bond for children being raised together). What about step-parents or others in the home of your ex? If your ex lives with someone that is dangerous to children, the Court is practically unable to stop a relocation because it cannot award custody to your ex unless he removes himself from the dangerous environment (I actually had a case where the mother of the children married a man who had been convicted of molesting a child before their marriage.)


As you can see the myriad of factors is practically endless. I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney experienced in family law to help you navigate the murky waters of these child custody and relocation issues. An experience family lawyer can consider your answers to these and other questions and give you the guidance you need. It does not have to be expensive. Several family law practitioners offer a free initial consultation which would allow you to see what you need to do at this juncture. There are also legal projects that offer free or reduced fee help to members of the military such as the State Bar of Georgia Military Legal Assistance program.


Very best of luck to you!

Nancy A. Burnett, Attorney
Post Office Box 2571
Dalton, Georgia 30722-2571
(706) 537-2991

Licensed in Georgia, Tennessee and New York
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Old Jun 16th, 2011, 02:02 PM   #7
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Default Re: Relocation and Child Custody in Georgia

You need to discuss this with an attorney. You could start with your local legal office on base. Depending on your branch of service, you could even be provided with an attorney.

Were you active duty when custody was established? If so, it would increase the probability of you being allowed to move. Hindsight is 20/20, but you should have mentioned in court the first time, the probability of a PCS move. Many courts (especially those around military bases) deal with these situation a lot. If you can prove that the move is not detrimental to the relationship with the other parent and can arrange (even provide) transportation for visitation, it would greatly increase your chances. I would not recommend just moving and saying nothing. If the other parent decides to file after you move, the court could order the child be returned to the local area of the other parent. Try to get something in writing from the court before your PCS.
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