Parents who get divorced or separated in Alpharetta are subject to a child custody order and a parenting plan. As children grow and change, though, you may need to modify such an agreement with the help of an experienced child custody attorney. If a change in circumstances means that your parenting plan or custody order no longer meets your needs, call today to learn more about your options for an Alpharetta child custody modification.
At the end of a separation, a judge would issue an order determining how the parents will share custody of their children. A parent could receive legal custody, physical custody, or both, and they may share these types of custody with each other.
Legal custody grants a parent the authority to make major decisions about their children’s welfare, such as the type of medical treatment they get, where they attend school, and what religion they practice. Parents frequently share legal custody and make these decisions jointly. Additionally, a parent with physical custody is often referred to as their children’s “custodial parent” and usually has most of the parenting time with them.
Previously established legal and physical custody arrangements cannot be changed without a court order. For an Alpharetta court to grant a child custody modification, a parent must show that there has been a material change in circumstances that significantly altered their child or children’s needs.
There is a long history of case law deciding what qualifies as a material change and what does not. In general, a non-custodial parent must show that the custodial parent is no longer able to care for their children or that conditions in their children’s lives have changed enough to warrant a modification.
Proving a material change in circumstances can be difficult. For example, a material change could involve a parent that has to move to a new location for work, a parent that is unable to care for a child due to alcohol or drug abuse, or a parent’s remarriage. A judge would examine both parents’ circumstances and decide whether to make a change to the custody order based on the children’s best interest.
A judge may also consider the opinions of the child or children in question when determining whether a child custody modification is appropriate in Alpharetta. A child who is at least 11 years old may submit an affidavit of election stating which parent they prefer to live with, but a Judge is not required to consider this affidavit. At 14 years old, a child can again submit an affidavit of election and the Judge is now required to consider their affidavit and preferences.
Parents may also decide to modify their visitation schedule and parenting time. Unlike child custody, parents can agree to modify their time-sharing agreement without having to prove a material change in circumstances. Changing a parenting plan does not affect a parent’s physical or legal custody status, so the requirements are less strict.
Informal changes to a visitation schedule themselves may not be legally binding and would not affect matters like child support. However, there is no rule against parents independently agreeing to different terms.
Parties who cannot agree to change their parenting time may petition the court to make these changes for them once every two years after the initial custody order unless certain exceptions apply. A judge must approve any formal changes to a visitation schedule.
Modifying child custody or visitation does not have to be a contemptuous affair. Many parents can work out an arrangement with help from skilled legal counsel.
Creating a mutually agreeable plan and presenting it to a judge is typically the best way to modify your child-sharing agreement. If your ex-spouse will not agree to changes, though, you may need to advocate for your children’s needs in court. Contact our firm today for more information about Alpharetta child custody modifications.