Sometimes ex-spouses want to move out of state after a divorce for reasons such as better job opportunities, being close to family, or to live with a new spouse. Issues often arise when the ex-spouse who seeks to move out of state is the primary physical custodian of the child and wishes to move the child out of state with him/her. Ex-spouses desiring to move out of state wonder if they are allowed to move their children with them since they have primary physical custody. On the other hand, ex-spouses who have visitation rights wonder what actions can be taken if they oppose their ex-spouse’s out-of-state move with their child.
Under Georgia law, the parent who is awarded physical custody of a child has the right to move the child out of state. This is the case even if the divorce decree says otherwise. Provisions in a divorce decree limiting the custodial parent’s right to move out of state with the child are void. However, although custodial parents have the right to move their children out of state, they must still provide notice of relocation to any party with visitation rights 30 days prior to the anticipated move and include the complete address of the new residence according to Georgia law. The 30-day notice provides the non-custodial parent the opportunity to petition the court to modify visitation/custody before the custodial parent moves out of state with the child.
In deciding custody in relocation cases, the court’s primary consideration is the best interests of the child and any determinations must be made on a case-by-case basis. In these cases, there is no presumption in favor of relocation with the custodial parent just as there is no presumption against relocation. In deciding what is in the best interests of the child, courts consider several factors, including but not limited to: (1) the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent; (2) the child’s ties to local schools and friends; (3) the child’s age; (4) the stress and instability of relocation and the benefits of consistency and stability for the child; (5) the custodial parent’s reason for relocating; and (6) the dynamics of the custodial parent’s new family unit.
If you are a custodial parent considering relocating out of state with your child or if you’re a non-custodial parent who opposes a future out-of-state move by your ex-spouse with your child, contact FLFattorneys at (770) 485-6633 to discuss your legal rights.