You survived the divorce. Congratulations! Now, you are surviving co-parenting. Congratulations! But, you may wonder whether you can modify your Georgia child custody order, if circumstances have changed, or if you are not satisfied with the current arrangement. Well, it is possible, but it is not easy.
What justifies a change?
First, a child custody order is not a permanent order in our state. State law does allow for a child custody order to be modified, but there must be some significant change in circumstances that affect the child’s wellbeing. The key to this is the child’s wellbeing, not that you are unhappy with the current child custody arrangements. The change must be beneficial and necessary for the child.
What are the steps?
The petition for modification is filed with the same court that issued the child custody order. After you file the petition, you will need to serve the other parent of the petition as well because they will need the opportunity to respond to your petition. Of course, there will be a court filing fee associated with the petition for modification and, eventually, there will be a hearing.
At the hearing, both sides can present evidence, but since you are filing the petition, the burden of proof is on you to prove that the modification is justified. You have to prove that there has been a material change in circumstances that occurred after the original order.
Examples of material changes include a change in the child’s developmental needs or the child’s needs or preferences. Perhaps, there was a change in the parent’s income, employment, residence or health that could justify it as well.
There could also be a change in one of the parent’s cohabitation or relationship, like a remarriage, that necessitates a modification to child custody. One parent could also begin exhibit negative behaviors, like substance abuse, neglect, domestic violence, etc.
Finally, you must show the court that the modification is also in the best interests of the child. And, that the modification will improve the welfare and happiness of the child. The judge will only modify the original child custody order if you present clear and convincing evidence that it is necessary and beneficial for your child.