Decree Modification and Enforcement

Modifying Child Custody

After a child custody order has been entered, it may be modified upon a showing of changed circumstances which substantially affect the interests and welfare of the child. The court will again utilize the "best interests of the child" standard to determine the custody of the child. The court will consider the changed circumstances in addition to the factors determining the initial custody order. Thus, the initial custody order may not necessarily control and the parent possessing custody will not automatically retain custody. To change custody, the court must find that the original custodian is no longer able or suited to retain custody or that the child's welfare is negatively affected by the conditions of the order and thus requires modification. The judge may order sole or joint custody for legal and or physical custody of the child. The court may also modify visitation rights.

Modifying Child Support

A parent's financial situation may change from the date of the final child support order. Either parent may seek a modification of child support based on changes to the income or financial status of either spouse or the needs of the child or children. A petition for modification is a law suit and must comply with the procedures set forth in the Georgia Civil Practice Act.

Modifying Alimony

After divorce an action for modification of alimony may be filed by either of the former spouses in order to seek a reduction or increase in the amount of alimony paid by one former spouse to the other. Georgia law permits alimony to be modified for two reasons:

  1. if the income or financial status of either former spouse have changed
  2. if the former spouse receiving alimony is voluntarily cohabiting- open and continuously- with a third part in a sexual or romantic relationship

In cases seeking modification of alimony, the court may award attorney's fees to the party who ultimately prevails in the matter. In addition, a spouse who is obligated to pay alimony and seeks a modification, may be forced to pay the attorney's fees incurred by the recipient spouse who is forced to defend against the modification action.

Enforcement Action

If your former spouse has failed to adhere to the court's order pertaining to child custody, child support, or alimony he or she may be found in contempt of court. You may bring a contempt action against the non-cooperating or non-paying spouse to have the court enforce the obligation. The court may utilize many tools in order to enforce its order. The court may garnish or enter an income deduction order to take money from the non-paying spouse to satisfy the support obligation. In custody cases, the court may change the visitation order.