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Can a Custodial Parent Move Out of the State with the Child?

The ability of a parent to make decisions as it relates to a child’s life depends on the type of custody the parent has. The two types of child custody in the state of Georgia are physical and legal custody. Physical custody simply refers to having physical possession of the child. Although physical custody is typically accompanied by legal custody, physical custody can be on a permanent or temporary basis. It can also be jointly shared between both parents, although the court will designate a primary custodian. For instance, a non-custodial parent may have a visitation with their child for a certain amount of time during the year. That non-custodial parent would have physical custody of the child during that period but may not have legal custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions regarding the child’s life, including education, healthcare, religious upbringing and in certain instances, what state the child will reside in. Any decision pertaining to the child’s life and upbringing will judged based on the determination as to what is in the child’s best interest. This is the legal standard in the State of Georgia for all child custody cases.

The scenario where a custodial parent is considering moving out of state is very common and can arise for a number of reasons such as employment opportunities or reuniting with family members. Assuming the non-custodial parent has been issued a decree by the court outlining the terms of child custody and visitation, there will generally be a requirement that the custodial parent provide notice to the non-custodial parent of an anticipated move out of state. This notice gives the non-custodial parent an opportunity to object to the child being relocated. The court will weigh the motive for the custodial parent’s relocation along with the desire for the child to maintain a meaningful relationship with the non-custodial parent. Other considerations before the court consists of the effect that the move will have on the child, such as:

  • The age of the child
  • Friendships and other personal bonds formed by the child with members of the community
  • The child’s educational progress
  • Whether any special needs exist for the child that may best be served in a particular region

Ultimately, the list of considerations before the court are too many to list in detail and will vary based on each individual case. Regardless, the determination will always come down to what is in the best interest of the child. Under certain circumstances, this could mean that the child is allowed to move out of state with the custodial parent or is required to remain in the state where they were initially raised.

A scenario where a custodial parent is moving out of state is one that could qualify as a substantial change in circumstances. In other words, if the non-custodial parent objected, it is recommended that they seek the advice of legal counsel to explore all of their options. Attorneys at the Faucette Law Firm, LLC represent clients in all areas of family and divorce law, including contested and uncontested divorces, child custody, child support, spousal support, legitimation and modifications. We serve Atlanta, Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, Paulding, Douglas, Carroll, Coweta, Fayette, Henry and Gwinnett. Contact our law firm today for a consultation.