In general, divorce decrees are considered final once they are issued by the court. However, child custody and visitation orders can be modified at any time following the divorce. If you are seeking to modify child custody or visitation in Georgia, here are some basic facts that will help you make the best decision for your situation.
Parents can modify custody and visitation arrangements with or without court approval at any time.
- Without court approval, it is considered voluntary by both parties and is not enforceable by law. If one parent later fails to abide by the “new terms,” the other parent will not be able to take legal action.
- With court approval, new arrangements will be made official and enforceable in the future.
Making child custody or visitation modifications through the courts
A parent or both parents can request to modify the terms of their parenting plan and/or custodial arrangement with the court in both contested (both parties agree) or uncontested (where one parent believes a change is necessary, but the other disagrees) circumstances.
However, if it is a contested modification, the party filing the request will need to demonstrate to the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that requires the modification. This is to help discourage unfounded or frequent modification requests.
The most common reasons for modifications are:
- Changes in Residence – A geographical move can significantly impact the child by disrupting the child’s routine and the visitation schedule of the noncustodial parent. Most courts ask the parents to work out a plan that allows both to maintain significant involvement in their child’s life. Other times, a court will evaluate what is in the best interests of the child and switch custody from one parent to the other, when necessary.
- Changes in Lifestyle – The court may modify custody or visitation arrangements if a parent begins engaging in behavior that threatens the child’s safety and well-being. For example, if one parent’s employment schedule changes and causes the child to be left unattended for long periods of time. Another example would be if a parent begins abusing alcohol or drugs.
If you have questions about modifying your child custody or visitation agreement, Sauls Law Group is here for you. We are experts in family law and are here to protect you and your family. Contact us today at (770) 212-9168 for a consultation.