Once the judge makes a custody decision, can I find out why s/he made that decision?
Yes. Before the end of the custody hearing, either parent can request that the custody order outline the specific reasons why the judge came to the final custody decision and which factors (listed in How will a judge make a decision about custody?) were the determining factors. If joint legal custody is awarded, the judge will also address issues affecting the child’s education, health, extracurricular activities, religion, and any other important matters. The order will be filed within 30 days of the final hearing, unless that timeframe is extended by the judge upon the agreement of the parties.1
1 O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(8)
If a custody/visitation order is already in place, can I get it changed?
Whether or not you will be able to change the custody/visitation order may depend on what part of the order you want to change.
Changing the visitation / parenting time portion:
Either parent can go back to court to request to change to the visitation/parenting time portion of the custody order at any time as long as a request is not made more often than once within a two-year period from the last custody decision. You do not need to show a change in circumstance to change the visitation/parenting time portion of the custody order.1
Changing the custody portion of the order:
To modify (change) the custody portion of the order, you will need to show that there has been a change in any material conditions or circumstances of either parent or the child. One possible change in circumstances could be a child’s preference to live with the non-custodial parent once the child turns 14.2 See At what age can my child decide which parent s/he wants to live with? for more information on children’s custody preferences. In addition, a military parent’s absence because of his or her deployment (or possible future deployments) cannot be the only factor used to claim that there has been a change in material conditions or circumstances of either parent of the child. However, the judge may consider evidence of the effect of the deployment in determining if there has been a change in material conditions or circumstances of either parent or the child.1
After a change of custody has been requested, the judge may temporarily change the terms of the custody order until a final custody decision is made by the judge.3
1 O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(b)
2 O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(5)
3 O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3(e)
Where can I find more information about custody in Georgia?
Georgia Legal Aid has information about custody, including grandparents’ rights, children born out of wedlock, and more. Please note that WomensLaw.org has no relationship with this organization. We provide the link for your information only.