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Georgia Child Custody Interstate Jurisdiction
The Georgia Child Custody Interstate Jurisdiction Act concerns the ability of Georgia courts to enter orders establishing, modifying or changing child custody. In essence, the GCCIJA is designed to resolve conflicts that may occur concerning child custody orders between the various courts within the state of Georgia.
The purposes of the Georgia Child Custody Interstate Jurisdiction Act are to:
- Avoid jurisdictional competition and conflict by courts within this state in matters of child custody, which have in the past resulted in the shifting of children from county to county with harmful effects on their well-being;
- Promote cooperation by the courts of this state, to the end that a custody decree is rendered by the court which can best decide the case in the interest of the child;
- Assure that litigation concerning the custody of a child ordinarily takes place in the court with which the child and his family have the closest connection and where significant evidence concerning the care, protection, training, and personal relationships of the child is most readily available and that courts of this state decline the exercise of jurisdiction when the child and his family have a closer connection with another court of this state;
- Discourage continuing controversies over child custody, in the interest of greatest stability of home environment and of secure family relationships for the child;
- Deter abductions and other unilateral removals of children undertaken to obtain custody awards;
- Avoid re-litigation of custody decisions of other courts in this state insofar as is feasible;
- Facilitate the enforcement of custody decrees; and,
- Make uniform the practice and procedure of the courts of this state in child custody matters.
O.C.G.A. § 19-9-21(a).
According to the GCCIJA, “after a court has determined who is to be the legal custodian of a child, any complaint seeking to obtain a change of legal custody of the child shall be brought as a separate action in the county of residence of the legal custodian of the child.” If a legal custodian seeks a change of legal custody or visitation right, the custodian must bring such an action in the county were the defendant resides. O.C.G.A. § 19-9-23; Ga. Const. 1983, Art. VI, § II, ¶VI.