There are three questions to ask regarding a relocation or move out-of-state when you are relocating or moving with a child and you are worried about child custody and visitation issues: First, for the primary parent: what are your risks of losing custody of your child if you move your child out-of-state? And for the secondary or non-custodial parent, what can you do to keep your children from moving long-distance from you? And can I actually win custody of my kids? The answers are yes, yes, and yes.
A parent’s move from Georgia or even from the Atlanta metro area (if it is long-distant) is, by itself, a material change of circumstances sufficient to modify your children’s custody and get you into court.
The law in Georgia on the issue of what happens to child custody if a parent moves out of the State of Georgia was turned upside down by the Georgia Supreme Court’s Bodne v. Bodne decision. Prior to the Bodne decision it was extremely difficult to prevent a custodial parent from leaving the State of Georgia, or even from leaving the Atlanta metro area with the children. In fact it was so difficult, that as a matter of law, the custodial parent could almost move at will, as long as they gave their 30 day notice of the move. After Bodne, this is no longer the case, and it is a revolution in child custody law in Georgia.
The issue really resolves around a change in the legal “perception” of what the best interest of the children is. The prior law assumed that if the primary parent is “happy” the children will be happy, no matter where he or she lives, so the long-distance move out-of-state was not relevant to modifying child custody. And this legal fiction persisted in the State of Georgia until the Bodne decision. What the Georgia Supreme Court recognized in its decision, is that the happiness of one parent does not necessarily relate to the best interest of the children. The move may make the primary parent “happier”, but does this parent 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, and plan out carefully any long distance move with the children they want to make.
The Bodne decision also gives the non-custodial parent the legal ground 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 move. It is undeniable, that a parent, as a free American, can move wherever he or she wants to move, but it does not mean the children move with them. The non-custodial parent now can go to court and say but that does not mean he or she can also take my children!
No matter how you look at the Bodne decision, 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 moving or relocating from the State of Georgia with the children. If you wish to move out-of-state with your children, you need to carefully plan and consider your move, and if you wish to stop your children from moving from Georgia, or even just the Atlanta metro area, you may have a legal remedy, in that the move is now a legal ground to ask the court for a modification of the child custody of your 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.