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Georgia’s New Caregivers' Act

by sjackson  on August 10, 2020 under 

Georgia family law has evolved to accommodate our many non-traditional families. Many times a child's primary caregiver is not their biological parents. More and more, grandparents, stepparents, same-sex partners aunt or uncles and unrelated adults assume the role of primary caregiver. On July 1, 2019, a law went into effect in Georgia called The Equitable Caregivers' Act. The law grants legal status as an “equitable caregiver” to an adult who is not a biological parent or grandparent but plays a fundamental role as caregiver and provider in a child's life. Previously, these adult caregivers did not have a legally recognized parental role.

Georgia's Equitable Caregivers' Act allows state judges more flexibility to make decisions in a child’s best interest when custody issues arise. As a result of the new law, stepparents and other adults who have an existing relationship with a child can petition for custody or visitation rights. In addition, the law provides that judges cannot remove a child from a nonparental custody situation strictly because they are not the biological parent.

The new caregivers' act does not eliminate a biological parent's rights. Instead, it recognizes the rights of an adult who has taken care of a child and has acted in a parental role, but is not the legal parent. It provides long-term caregivers who have established a loving bond with the child to the ability to petition the family law courts for custody or recognition as a legal parent of the child or an ongoing relationship with the child.

Best Interest Of The Child

Family law in Georgia requires a judge to consider the best interest of the child when making decisions about a child's future, including granting status as an equitable caregiver. The court will consider many factors including:

  • the bond between the child and parent
  • the child's age
  • a parent's knowledge about the child and the child's needs
  • the ability of a parent to provide for the basic care for the child
  • the safety and stability of the parent's home
  • how involved a parent is in the child's daily life 
  • past performance of their parental responsibilities
  • a parent's mental and physical stability
  • substance abuse
  • criminal history
  • recommendations by a court-appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem

For example, if a stepparent and a child's legal parent decide to divorce, the stepparent could petition the court to allow them to continue to have a relationship with the child. Georgia's new caregivers' act will allow the family law judges to use these same factors when considering the parental rights of an equitable caregiver.

Family Law Experience You Can Trust 

It is best to consult an experienced Gwinnett county family law attorney to understand your rights in a child custody case. The reality is that most people will face at least one difficult family law legal situation such as the end of a marriage or a custody dispute. For more information about equitable caregivers' rights, you may benefit from the advice of a family law attorney. Contact us today by completing the Case Review form or call Attorney Sharon Jackson LLC at (678)436-3636. 

 

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