The law in Georgia on the issue of what happens to child custody if the custodial parent moves out of the State of Georgia has been turned upside down by a recent decision of the Georgia Supreme Court, Bodne v. Bodne.
Prior to the Bodne decision, it was extremely difficult to prevent a custodial parent from leaving the state with the children. In fact it was so well understood that the custodial parent could almost move at will, that moves by custodial parents were rarely even challenged. After Bodne, this is no longer the case, and it is a revolution in child custody law in Georgia.
The issue really resolves around the best interest of the children. What sometimes happens in cases like this (at least from the non-custodial parent’s perspective) is that the custodial parent, thinking only of the best interest of the custodial parent, and not necessarily the best interest of the children, decides to start over, put their divorce behind them, or start over with a new family, and promptly picks up and moves out-of-state to some foreign destination. The move will make them “happier”. But do they ever consider the effect this has on the non-custodial parent and the children? After the Bodne decision, it is now critical that custodial parents need to keep these issues in mind before they relocate.
In Georgia, after the Bodne decision, the non-custodial parent now has the legal ammunition necessary to challenge any long-distance move that the custodial parent may want to make with the children and contest the proposed out-of-state or long distance in-state move. The custodial parent, as a free American, can move wherever he or she wants to move, but the non-custodial parent now can go to court and say but that does not mean he or she can also take my children! Such a move by the custodial parent essentially creates a brand new custody case, a custody case that will be decided on the best interest of the children. There is no presumption that the children should stay with the custodial parent, and there is no presumption that the children should stay in Georgia either. It will be based solely on the best interest of the children.
No matter how you look at this new ruling, it dramatically changes the power structure between custodial and non-custodial parents in Georgia, and makes clear that there is no rule of thumb that custodial parents necessarily know best as to where the children should live, or that custodial parents always keep foremost in their mind the best interest of their children when that parent plans on relocating out-of-state with the children.
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.