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Can I Move Out of State if I Have Custody of My Child?

If you or your spouse has filed for divorce, and there is no current custody order concerning your child, neither of you can remove the child from the state of Georgia without the consent of the other parent. This law remains in effect so long as your divorce is going on. Once you have a court order giving you custody of your child, Georgia law does not restrict you from moving anywhere, including out of state. However, a move out of state can lead to a custody modification filing by your child’s other parent.

Particularly if you are moving relatively far away from your current location, and if your child enjoys a close relationship with his or her other parent, a modification may be warranted. Moving out of state can constitute a substantial change in circumstances that leads the court to make a change in the custody and visitation order. At the very least, the visitation order will have to change substantially if the two parents are now living several hours apart from one another.

Of course, a proposed move out of state does not result in an automatic change in custody. However, if requested by a noncustodial parent, it may cause the court to take a closer look at the child’s current situation and consider whether any sort of modification would be in the child’s best interest. Especially if the move would create a substantial distance, the court will have to make a determination, or the parties will have to reach an agreement, about various issues related to the move, including:

  • How must the visitation schedule change to accommodate the distance
  • Who will bear the costs of travel for visitation purposes
  • What kind of travel will be appropriate during visitation periods

The court also may look at the custodial parent’s reason for the proposed move. Generally, a child’s best interests may be served by a custodial parent who has a valid reason for the move. Examples of valid reasons for relocation might include a lucrative job offer, the transfer of a parent’s spouse due to a job opportunity or military assignment, a better cost of living or job market, or the desire to be closer to family members.

On the other hand, if the custodial parent appears to be moving in bad faith, such as for the purposes of preventing access to the child by the noncustodial parent, to retaliate against the noncustodial parent in some way, or to live with a new boyfriend whom the parent met online, the court may not look so favorably upon the move. Although the court cannot prevent the custodial parent from moving away, it can find that the move would not be in the best interest of the child. As a result, it can order a modification of the existing custody and/or visitation orders.  Relocation cases like this are one of the most common reasons for modifying child custody.  So whether you are the moving party, or the party not moving, these circumstances require legal advice to plan.

An Atlanta divorce lawyer at Shaw Law Firm LLC can help advise you about the potential consequences of a proposed move, whether you are a custodial or a non-custodial parent. Contact us or call today to learn how Shaw Law can work with you to achieve the best outcome possible for you and your children.

Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm LLC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309.