If your legal custody and parenting agreement no longer fits your family’s needs, either parent can seek a modification in Georgia. After the court approves your initial parenting plan, you can request a change in visitation or parenting time once every two years. Children older than age 14 can also make this request once every two years.
To change a custody order, however, the parent requesting the change must prove that a significant change in the circumstances of the family impacts the child’s best interest. This impact can be positive or negative.
File a legal petition
To request a custody change, you must submit the state’s Petition for Change of Custody and Child Support in the county where your child resides. You must sign the verification form before a notary public for the petition to be valid.
Serve the other parent
You must notify the other parent that you have filed this request. Options include the following:
- Providing his or her address and having the sheriff serve papers
- Giving him or her the paperwork and attaching a signed Acknowledgement of Service form
- Filing an Affidavit of Diligent Search with your petition if you do not know the other parent’s whereabouts
Prove a substantial change in circumstance
If the other parent contests your requested change, you must prove a material change in lifestyle or situation. The judge will schedule a court hearing to make a determination on this issue. Typically, a change in custody requires a geographic move or substance use, child abuse or neglect by the custodial parent or a change in the child’s health or academic needs. However, whether a custody change is in the child’s best interest is completely at the judge’s discretion.
The wishes of the child or parent do not constitute a material change that warrants a custody change, unless both parents agree. You can file an emergency motion for custody if you believe your child experiences abuse in the custodial parent’s household.