Does a grandparent have child custody or visitation rights in Georgia? They do under the right circumstances. Let’s look at grandparents’ rights under Georgia law.
Talk today to skilled Family Law Attorney Ms. Sharon Jackson at (678) 921-3480
Grandparents in Georgia may request visitation rights with their grandchildren through the courts. To do this, they can either file a petition on their own when they see fit, or “intervene” with a petition when the question of child custody arises in court (such as during the parents’ divorce, or when either parent’s parental rights are terminated).
Either way, there are limitations to a grandparent’s filing for visitation:
Additionally, grandparents must meet a higher standard for visitation than if a parent were to seek it. In any legal issue involving a child, the family court always aims for the child’s best interests. It is generally presumed that staying with parents is aligned with this “best interests” standard, unless unique circumstances dictate otherwise. Thus, a third-party adult such as a grandparent would need to be more persuasive in court if they seek visitation rights.
Specifically, Georgia law requires visitation-seeking grandparents to establish that “the health or welfare of the child would be harmed unless such visitation is granted.” In other words, not only does the grandparent need to establish that their visitation is in the child’s best interests, they also have to show that denying grandparent visitation would be harmful to the child.
The court may decide that denial of grandparent visitation would indeed be detrimental to the child if any of these factors exist:
Similarly, Georgia grandparents have the right to seek custody of their grandchild. However, this can be extremely difficult to win. Again, there is a general presumption that the child’s best interests involve staying with their own parent or parents. A grandparent seeking child custody must successfully rebut this presumption.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) simply states that “this presumption may be overcome by a showing that an award of custody to such third party is in the best interest of the child or children.”
In practice, the family court judge will look at many factors surrounding the custody petition, including:
It is crucial for the grandparent to show strong evidence and convincingly argue their case in court. Having an experienced lawyer may be indispensable in this regard.
Guardianship is a temporary, revocable authority to make decisions for a minor child and act as their legal representative. A legal guardian can, for instance, decide on the minor’s education and healthcare, their IDs and licenses, and their insurance.
Some parents specifically appoint a guardian for their child in the event that they become incapacitated. But there are also many cases where a third party such as a grandparent voluntary steps in, petitioning to be a legal guardian in order to protect the child. Common situations include abuse or neglect of the child, or a difficult family situation that is damaging to the child’s development.
After a grandparent has filed their petition for guardianship, the parents of the child can either consent to it voluntarily or attend a hearing in which a judge decides on the petition. It is also possible that other relatives such as aunts or uncles request to become the child’s legal guardian. In this contested guardianship case, it is vital for the petitioning grandparent to be represented by an attorney.
Legal guardianship automatically ends when the child turns 18, gets adopted, gets married, joins the military, is legally emancipated, or dies before turning 18. In a case where the parents voluntarily consented to the guardianship, they can also request the court to revoke the arrangement if their situation has improved.
Navigating the laws on grandparents’ rights can be challenging, not in the least because of the delicate family dynamics around grandparents. As a grandmother or grandfather, your lawyer has to be both experienced with the law and skilled in handling family relationships. Attorney Sharon Jackson is exceptional in dealing with the nuances of family situations, making her an effective ally of Gwinnett County residents in family court.
Talk to Ms. Jackson if you are a grandparent hoping to establish your legal rights with your grandchild. Call today at (678) 921-3480.