There are plenty of reasons you may want to move after a divorce. You might want to pursue a new job or live closer to your family. You might meet someone new, or you might just want to head someplace where you can shake the ghosts of your past.
However, if you have children, you can't just pack up and go. There are a host of things you need to consider, and you might even find yourself back in court, facing another custody battle.
Moves must consider the best interest of the child
Prior to 2003, Georgia's courts generally supported custodial parents when they decided to move. It was the non-custodial parent's job to prove that the move would harm the children. But in 2003, the Georgia Supreme Court heard the case of Bodne v. Bodne and ruled that parents' decisions to move with their children must always consider the children's best interests.
Effectively, the decision shifted the burden of proof from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent, who must show that the move will be good for the children. The ruling also made it possible for non-custodial parents to challenge existing custody orders solely because of a potential relocation.
What can you do?
If you want to move and take your children with you, Georgia law says, in most cases, you must send written notice to the other parent 30 days in advance. If the other parent agrees to your move, you can file with the court and go. But if your ex wants to block the move, you may have to prove the move will be good for the kids-not just for you.
This means speaking the court's language, and offering solid evidence about such things as:
- The quality of your relationship with the children
- Your ability to keep the children safe, healthy, educated and happy
- The safety of your new neighborhood
- The quality of the children's new school
- Proximity to friends and family
- Changes to your job and income
- Your demonstrated pattern of good parenting
- Your children's ability to spend time with the other parent
Your former spouse may also challenge you on any of these matters. Since the move can lead to a wholesale custody review, you won't likely want to wing it. You'll want to be well-prepared, fully armed with facts, figures and solid arguments.
Some things are worth the struggle
Arguments and court battles are never fun, but some things are worth the fight. Your children are worth it, and if the move is worth it-and you can show it's also in your children's best interest-you don't want to give up. It may be hard, but some of the best things in life are among the hardest to get.