MODIFICATION OF CUSTODY

If your current custodial arrangement is no longer working, let Dan Palumbo show the Court how it is in the best interests of your minor child to modify that agreement.

Once an award of custody has been made, to change the arrangement, the Court must determine whether there has been a material change in circumstances affecting the welfare of the child since the last custody award. See Vishup v. Vishup 291 Ga. 103, 105 (2012). If so, the trial Court then determines whether the child’s best interest will be served by a change in custody. Todd v Casciano, 256 Ga. App. 631 (2002).

It is common for custody to need to be modified. Whether the initial custody determination was Court Ordered or agreed to by the Parties things change that cause former arraignments to be not practical or no longer in the child’s best interest. New Jobs, moving long distance, a Parties’ remarriage, health problems, substance abuse issues or the child’s own wishes may be a basis for modifying custody in DeKalb, Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett Counties; as well as other Counties in the State of Georgia.

Absent an agreement by the Parties a Court will need to determine if there has been a material change in circumstance AND if that change has affected the welfare of the child. To do so A Court will frequently Order a Guardian ad Litem to be assigned to the case.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM (GAL)

Unfortunately, Judges have hundreds of cases to manage and cannot spend the necessary time to investigate each one themselves individually. When a Judge is presented with two dramatically different version of events regarding what is happening in each parent’s life, within each parent’s home, and what is in the best interest for the child or children’s future, the Judge or the Parties will seek the aid of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to conduct an investigation. The GAL is a court-appointed attorney for the children in a divorce or a custody action. A GAL may be requested by either party, both parties jointly, or appointed by the Court. While the Parties must pay for a GAL in Superior Court, GALs in Juvenile Courts are appointed without charge. After the GAL conducts an investigation the GAL will make recommendations to the Court about custody and parenting time.

While a Judge is not bound by a GAL’s opinions, they are often times given great weight by the Judge as the GAL is the eyes and ears of the Court. It is critical that you are represented by an attorney such as My Cousin Danny to make sure the GAL selected is well matched to your case. Unfortunately, not all GALs are not created equal, and an attorney lacking experience working with a range of GALs in Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett and or Cobb County will be unfamiliar with a particular Guardian’s track record or qualifications. The wrong GAL in Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, or Cobb Counties can jeopardize your chance of winning your case. Don’t set yourself up for failure, Dan Palumbo today.

AFFIDAVIT OF ELECTION

Can my child choose to live with me? Maybe.

O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3 (5) provides that in all custody cases in which the child has reached the age of 14 years, the child shall have the right to select the parent with whom he or she desires to live. The child’s selection for purposes of custody shall be presumptive unless the parent so selected is determined not to be in the best interests of the child. The parental selection by a child who has reached the age of 14 may, in and of itself, constitute a material change of condition or circumstance in any action seeking a modification or change in the custody of that child; provided, however, that such selection may only be made once within a period of two years from the date of the previous selection and the best interests of the child standard shall apply.

O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3 (6) states, in all custody cases in which the child has reached the age of 11 but not 14 years, the judge shall consider the desires and educational needs of the child in determining which parent shall have custody. The judge shall have complete discretion in making this determination, and the child’s desires shall not be controlling. The judge shall further have broad discretion as to how the child’s desires are to be considered, including through the report of a guardian ad litem. The best interests of the child standard shall be controlling. The parental selection of a child who has reached the age of 11 but not 14 years shall not, in and of itself, constitute a material change of condition or circumstance in any action seeking a modification or change in the custody of that child. The judge may issue an order granting temporary custody to the selected parent for a trial period not to exceed six months regarding the custody of a child who has reached the age of 11 but not 14 years where the judge hearing the case determines such a temporary order is appropriate.

Let Dan Palumbo assist you and your child in drafting and executing an Affidavit of Election that will be acceptable and convincing to the Court so that you will have physical custody of your child.