What constitutes a Modification?
A parenting plan can be modified two years after it is put in place. However, a modification of custody can take place any time after the parenting plan after proof of a significant change that affects the children’s best interest. There is no set definition by Georgia law that defines the criteria for what meets a significant/substantial change in circumstances. This is why it is important to consult with an experience Child Custody attorney before pursuing a modification case. Some of the circumstances that could allow modification are:
Steps to obtaining a Modification of Custody
The case will be initiated with a Petition for Modification of Child Custody. The Petition will include allegations against the Defendant, the reasons custody should change and why it is in the best interest of the children. Then the Petition and summons will need to be served upon the Defendant. After the Defendant is served, the Defendant has 30 days to file their answer and counterclaim. Then discovery may be served to both parties requesting documents and answers from the Defendant. Mediation will be used to help the parties settle without going to final trial. If the parties cannot settle after mediation, then the case will go to final trial. The end result of a modification of child custody will be a new parenting plan that will be put into place. The new parenting plan will be agreed upon by both parties after coming to an agreement.
Cost of Modifications
Modifications of Custody tend to be a higher retainer than divorce cases. If the case is highly contested, then a Guardian Ad Litem will most likely be appointed by the Court. This will increase your cost as well because the GAL will have their own retainer. If you are also considering modifying child support you can combine the two modifications. This will help to save money by paying for one retainer and not two.