Custody Orders in GA: Types, Modification, Enforcement

A court can issue several types of custody orders, all of which legally mandate how children are cared for.

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Emergency orders

Emergency orders (also called "ex parte" orders) set a temporary custodial arrangement due to emergency circumstances, such as child abuse or threat of parental kidnapping. These orders may also include protective measures, require a parent to participate in drug testing or counseling, and more.

To petition for emergency custody, draft a Motion for an Emergency Hearing explaining the urgent issue, and file it with the court. You should hire an attorney to write this, as it influences how soon the court hears your case.

Typically, you'll have a hearing within 24 hours of filing the motion. The other parent will not attend. After listening to your testimony, the judge will decide whether to issue the order.

If the judge issues the emergency order, you'll have another hearing within three weeks, where both you and the other parent can present arguments as to why it should be extended or terminated. If the judge extends the order, it will remain in effect until the case has a final order.

Temporary orders

A temporary order dictates legal and physical custody and child support throughout the litigation process or settlement process.

Parents may agree on a temporary order. Otherwise, they can ask the judge to decide the details of a temporary order after listening to both sides in a hearing.

A temporary order remains in effect until replaced by a final order, unless it's first modified by the judge or by the parents together.

Although temporary orders focus on short-term solutions, lawyers caution that they can affect final orders.

Final orders

A final order is a court ruling that lasts until one of the following happens:

  • The child turns 18.
  • The child is emancipated.
  • The parents reach an alternate agreement approved by the court.
  • A parent proves a significant change in circumstances that requires a new order.
  • The court grants a child's custody election. (See Modifying a final order.)

A final order replaces any temporary orders in a case.

It specifies legal and physical custody arrangements, which can be different for each child in a family. It sets child support and includes a parenting plan, along with a visitation schedule that details when the children will spend time with each parent.

If your case has special circumstances, your order might mandate conditions such as therapy, substance abuse treatment, parenting coordination or limited visitation.

Parents can get final orders through settlement or trial.

Following trial, the judge may ask you or your attorney to prepare the court order if they ruled in your favor.

A parent with reason to challenge the judge's decision may file an appeal or begin the custody legal process again.

Modifying a final order

Parents can request to change an order after it's been active for two years. To modify it earlier, the family must have had a change in circumstances, such as:

  • Evidence emerging that proves a parent unfit
  • A parent moving out of state
  • A parent or child's schedule changing long term
  • A child turning 14 and wanting to live with the other parent

To request a change, complete either Georgia's contested change of custody packet or, if you reach an agreement, the uncontested change of custody packet.

To modify the visitation schedule only, file Georgia's modification of visitation packet.

Children 14 or older can file an Affidavit of Custody Election explaining which parent they want to live with. The court will grant the arrangement if it's in the child's best interest, possibly requiring a six-month test period before the order permanently changes.

Enforcing a final order

Disobeying the final order could jeopardize your custodial rights. Common violations include failing to pick the children up from the other parent and refusing to let them visit or contact the other parent.

It's important to keep detailed records of violations. You can use your Custody X Change journal or actual parenting time tracker. If you return to court, the other parent will have the right to review these notes as part of discovery.

For serious or repeat violations, you can contact the police or file for contempt of court. If you think your situation calls for a contempt case, speak with an attorney as these are typically criminal proceedings. Penalties for contempt include fines and jail time.

Following court orders correctly

When a court issues orders, you must follow them. If you don't, you can be brought back to court, fined and more.

But orders are complicated, especially for visitation time. When exactly does "Week 2" begin this month? Which day marks the middle of summer break?

Use Custody X Change to plug your order into a calendar you can edit, share and print so you'll never have to wonder whether you're following the order correctly.

With the Custody X Change online app, you can combine schedules for the school year, summer break and holidays into one calendar.

You can even track how well court orders are being followed with our parenting time tracker and parenting journal.

Custody X Change has all the tools you need to set your new parenting arrangement up for success.

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