in Georgia if the mom has full custody of a 17 year old legally and then the child decides on her own to live with her dad, how can I force my child back home? I know shes at the age where she can decide but doesn't it legally have to be changed first and if so how do I get her home?
3 Answers from Attorneys
You can sue the father for contempt, and potentially have him incarcerated.
And no she cannot "decide" until age 18. IF the father filed a modification, she can express a preference, which the judge will follow absent good cause to the contrary.
But right now, if you want to pursue it, dad can land in jail. See a lawyer. (Bear in mind, in a few months, your child will be able to decide, at 18, so that may affect what you want to do).
You are the custodial parent, and have the right to make her stay with you. Although a court would have to abide by her wishes in a custody dispute once she is 14 (absent a showing of unfitness of the parent she chooses), and has to consider the wishes of a child over 12, there is no custody case pending. Absent your husband filing to change custody, you have all of the power, and if he interferes he is in contempt of the custody order in place now. However, I find that pushing things like this with a 17 year old can cause more harm to your relationship with her, which may be the most important thing. That is more of a parental choice than a legal one, but at the same time you may have to make hard choices if her well being is at stake.
I agree with Robert Gardner. It is quite easy for the father to file a petition to modify custody based upon your 17 year old's preference. Unless the father is unfit, he will get custody for the short period of time until your child turns 18. Is it really worth the fight?
You should ask yourself why your 17 year old would rather live with the father. Is it because he is more permissive and lets the child break the rules. If so, it might be worth the fight. If it's because they are just closer because of personalities, you may want to let her go and try to mend your relationship with her by agreeing to the change in custody and liberal visitation for yourself.