Modifying an existing order

How often can a visitation agreement be modified?
As a parent, if you wish to change an existing court order without the consent of the other parent, you must file a motion for modification. Typically there has to be a substantial change in circumstances for the court to modify an existing order. Consider the reasoning behind this: If parents were able to easily change the visitation agreements the court would be exhausted with the sheer amount of cases brought before it. For this reason, the burden is on you to show a substantial change of circumstances that would warrant the change.

What will the court consider a significant change in circumstance?
There are two main categories of changes that the court will possibly consider for changing an existing custody order:

  1. Location changes: When one custodial parent makes a move out of state, or the move will impede the current schedule, the court may consider that significant enough to modify the existing custody or visitation order. In the event one parent plans to move out of state, Georgia law permits a trial judge to consider the move itself to be a change of circumstance that may be sufficient to change custody. Keep this in mind when planning a move out of state. Prior to that legislation being passed, it was far more common for the custody to continue with the primary custodian, regardless of where the decided to move. Now, a move out of state can put your custody at risk.
  2. Lifestyle changes: If the employment schedule or availability of one parent changes significantly or if behavioral changes have taken place such as substance abuse or criminal activity, the court will consider changing an existing order.  Overall, if there are significant changes that impact the child in a negative way, the court will consider changing the visitation schedule or custody arrangement. Courts tend to pay close attention when the well-being of the child is at risk and will make changes necessary for the safety of the child.

These are the mitigating factors that courts tend to look at when modifying an existing custody or visitation order. If you need help with modifying your child custody order or visitation schedule, call our offices at (770) 253-7256 for a free consultation.

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