Once a judge makes a custody and visitation order final, both parents must uphold their end of the agreement, which means consistently fulfilling pick-up-and-drop-off obligations, meeting the terms of the time-sharing schedule and maintaining open communication with the other parent when plans need to change.
Unfortunately, when one parent decides to move away - whether because they need a new start in another state or have to move because of a work obligation - a relocation can interfere with that parent's ability to uphold their end of the custody agreement. In these types of parental relocation cases, Georgia law fails to offer proper guidance, forcing parents instead to follow these five guidelines:
- Consider the distance you're moving. Before you move, consider the impact travel time will have on your children and the time you spend with them. Long distances could severely eat into your parenting time as well as your budget if you don't plan ahead.
- Consider your child's wishes. If judges in Georgia take a child's wishes into consideration during custody negotiations, so too should you. Consider their desire to spend certain holidays with you or a longer weekend because you will be further away.
- Talk to your ex prior to your move. Keeping the lines of communications open can help immensely in custody situations. Under Georgia law, parents are required to give at least 30-days notice of a move, which may be enough time to come to an agreement about how a custody order should be modified.
- Know how custody laws work when changing jurisdictions. If you move anywhere in the U.S., the state you move to will honor the custody arrangements made in another state thanks to the Uniform Child Custody Act. If you move to another country, things could be different unless that country has signed the Hague Convention.
- Seek a court order modification. It's always a good idea to request modification of a custody arrangement before moving. In situations where parents agree to a new arrangement and as long as the new arrangement is still in the child's best interests, a judge may grant a modification without issue. Unfortunately, if one parent objects to the move, the relocating parent will need to show evidence of a significant change in circumstances in order to have hope of getting a custody order modified.