Child custody can be one of the most challenging aspects of a separation. Whenever two parents live apart, a judge will need to assign custody. Generally, one parent will have primary physical custody and the other parent will be granted visitation. However, most of our lives are in flux, and a custody arrangement that was once ideal might no longer work for one or both parents. How do you go about changing a child custody order? Fortunately, you can file a petition with the right court, but you’ll need to make a compelling argument that any modification is necessary.
Prove a Material Change in Circumstances
Only a judge can modify a child custody order, and judges won’t modify them on a whim. Instead, you must show that there has been a material change in circumstances that substantially affects your children. The change shouldn’t be temporary, and it shouldn’t be a minor inconvenience for one or both parents. Judges want children to have stable home lives, so they will only modify an order if the change is truly substantial.
For example, you might show the following:
- The custodial parent intends to move to another state.
- Your child is at least 14 years of age and wants to change which parent he or she lives with.
- The custodial parent has moved in with someone who has a criminal record or is otherwise dangerous.
- The custodial parent is so busy that they are neglecting your child.
Every situation is different, and there’s no clear definition of what qualifies as a material change. Only a qualified family law attorney can analyze whether the change is sufficiently serious to warrant modifying custody. Contact a Georgia family law attorney today to discuss whether a modification is appropriate.
Legally, it doesn’t matter if the other parent agrees to change custody or not. A judge still bases his decision solely on what is in the best interests of your child. Practically speaking, however, you’ll have a much harder time modifying a custody order if the other parent fights you.
In that situation, you’ll need quality evidence that shows the changed circumstances are substantially affecting your children. For example, you might collect the following:
- School records that show your child’s academic performance has suffered.
- Medical records showing injuries to your child if you believe the child’s home environment is unsafe.
- Evidence that your child is now engaging in dangerous behavior, such as criminal activity. You might need criminal records or eyewitness testimony.
Your lawyer can help you identify what evidence a Georgia judge will find persuasive, so the sooner you meet with a lawyer the faster you can build a good case for modifying custody.
Speak with a Family Law Attorney in Georgia Today
If you have questions about whether you can modify a child custody order, you should meet with an attorney as soon as possible. At Mitnick & Associates, we help parents maintain bonds with their children even after divorce, including modifying child custody orders where appropriate. Call us today at 770-408-7000 or complete our online contact form.