Being constantly on the move has long been a normal part of American life. Opportunities and obligations to relocate don’t take a break when a parent shares custody with a former spouse.

Like virtually every other problem faced by divorced couples, Georgia has met this issue before. It has well-established procedures for deciding what happens when a parent wants or needs to move out of easy reach of the other. Those procedures reflect the state’s best assessment of the best interests of the child.

Where and when a parent can relocate

Some states specify what distance and/or change in jurisdiction triggers a court’s involvement in deciding about a parent moving. But in Georgia, any divorced parent hoping to make any change of address must notify the other parent at least 30 days in advance.

Factors affecting the best interests of the child

Ordinarily, the court needs to decide whether and how to modify the existing parenting plan. To do this, a judge consults a long catalog of factors they must balance in deciding the best way to make changes, if any.

For children 14 years or older, the child’s preference will be the only factor, except where the judge finds a parent to be unfit. Between 11 and 14, the child’s preference will be in the mix alongside other factors.

Essentially, none of the factors the judge considers focus anywhere other than the best interests of the child. They include the following partial list.

  • The relationships between the child, each parent and any siblings.
  • Each parent’s understanding of the child’s needs and their ability to live up to their duty to care for those needs.
  • Each parent’s support network of family and community and the dynamics within each side of the family.
  • The child’s educational history and needs.
  • The value each parent places on continuity, and especially on an ongoing close relationship between the child and other parent.
  • Any histories of neglect or emotional, physical or sexual abuse and any criminal histories of either parent.