What aspects of a divorce settlement can be modified in Georgia?

Georgia law gives divorced spouses the right to seek modifications of child custody and visitation, spousal support and child support.

Divorce settlements are often based largely on the present circumstances and needs of separating spouses and their children. Unfortunately, most families experience changes after divorce that render these settlements inequitable or disadvantageous to one spouse. Many people in Lawrenceville may believe they have no choice but to live with these arrangements. However, the following aspects of a settlement may all be eligible for post-decree modifications if spouses meet necessary criteria.

Spousal support

Spouses who pay or receive alimony have a right to seek modifications based on changes in financial circumstances. Either spouse may request changes after suffering a loss of income or another adverse change in financial standing. A dependent spouse may also request more spousal support if the other spouse has recently gained income or assets.

Even if no financial changes have occurred, paying spouses can seek modifications when the spouse who receives alimony starts cohabiting with a romantic partner. A family law court may even find that this living arrangement provides grounds for the termination of alimony.

Child support

Child support obligations are based on the income of each parent and the combined family income. The combined income decides the total monthly obligation, and the income of each parent determines what proportion of that obligation the parent pays. Consequently, changes in either parent's income may provide grounds for the modification of child support. Changes in a child's financial needs, such as rising education or healthcare costs, may also justify modifications.

Custody and visitation

Parents have the right to seek modifications of legal custody, physical custody and parenting time arrangements after a divorce. State law allows parents to request changes to visitation or parenting time every two years. Parents may also petition for changes to custody orders if they can show that their family circumstances have changed significantly. The relocation of one parent is a typical example of a change that may merit modifications.

Child custody and visitation arrangements may also be modified at the request of a child. In Georgia, children who are over the age of 14 have the right to decide which parent to live with. Family law judges must honor this decision unless it apparently contradicts the child's best interests. After age 14, children gain the right to request modifications to existing custody arrangements once every two years.

Seeking professional input

For many Georgia residents, understanding whether family circumstances provide grounds for a request for legal modifications can be challenging. For clarification, parents or ex-spouses may benefit from consulting with a family law attorney about the relevant criteria and the modification process.