In child custody cases, the “Best Interest of the Child” is the underlying standard that the court uses to make its final decisions. See O.C.G.A. 19-9-3. Child custody is generally modified when parents’ needs change over time. Either parent may request the judge to modify child custody if it will be in the child’s “Best Interest” and circumstances have altered to justify child custody modification. This blog will provide an insight as to the factors giving rise to child custody modification. The blog is written for educational purposes, therefore before choosing the path to modify child custody, it is generally advised to consult your local family law attorney.

When it comes to minor children, stability in child’s life should be of the utmost importance. Often times, the change in circumstances can give rise to child custody modification. Most legislatures recognize that change is inevitable part of child’s life, and as the child grows, child’s needs change. Therefore, when the needs change, custody modification is an available avenue.

Key Factors in Modifying Child Custody

A Parent’s Emotional and Physical Stability

A minor child demands stability. Children thrive in an environment where constant change is not likely to be in the child’s best interest. If the parent’s life gets chaotic, where it may seem like a child is being neglected or will be neglected, child custody may be modified. In order to determine what constitutes stability, several factors are considered. For example, child custody is likely to be modified if the parent moves too frequently, changes jobs too frequently, jumps into relationships.

It is important to keep in mind that just because one parent can provide a more stable environment than then other, court won’t modify custody. Custody will generally be modified if some circumstances have been materially altered since the original custody order was issued.

Child’s Academic, Emotional, Physical Needs Are Not Being Met

Major changes to child’s school performance or physical health can justify a custody change. If a child is not doing well at school, or stays frequently ill, it may give rise to award noncustodial parent sole custody. For example, it may be possible for one parent to have the resources to adequately provide medical care to the child. If the child’s overall well-being deteriorates, a custody modification may be awarded.

Parent’s Relocation

If a custodial parent’s relocation may be a detrimental to the child, then a noncustodial parent may request the court to modify custody. If the custodial parent’s move will reduce the parents time with the child, the child’s relationship with siblings or half-siblings, or the child’s relationship with a non-custodial parent or extended family. When deciding the child custody modification, a judge will likely consider the effects the relocation would have on a child’s physical and emotional health.

Child’s Preferences

Often times, a child may have a say in custody case when the child reaches a sufficient age, or maturity. The age, however varies depending on the state. If the child is under age fourteen (14), then majority of the states are likely to be hesitant in giving the child a choice of parental preference. Many times court is likely to consider the totality of circumstances when deciding how much discretion to give a child in deciding parental preference. For example, if a child is emotionally mature, the court is likely to put age factor to the side, and take the child’s parental preference into consideration. While determining child’s parental preference, child will never be required to testify. Child will be represented by a court appointed Guardian Ad Litem who will speak on behalf of the child, in determining child custody.

Abusive or Violent Situation

If a child is residing in an abusive environment, he or she will be removed immediately. Courts do not mess around when it comes to child’s overall well-being. Parent(s) are likely to be at risk of losing their child even if they are not committing abuse. If the parent(s) put the child in an abusive situation or in the danger of abuse, then they are likely to lose their child’s custody. For example, if the parent is living with the abusive significant other, then a child may be taken away from the parent.

All the factors described above will likely result in child custody modification. Matters involving child(ren) can be very sensitive in nature. Therefore, it is advised to consult your local attorney before taking a step in a direction towards child custody modification. Call your local family attorney today in you think you believe child’s best interest is not being met.

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