Grandparents’ Rights in Georgia
Many grandparents have close relationships with their grandchildren, and play a very meaningful role in the life of the child. Sometimes grandparents even raise their grandchildren when the parents are unable or unwilling. Some grandparents wish to have their rights to visit or raise their grandchildren preserved legally. Georgia law outlines when grandparents may seek visitation with and custody of grandchildren.
Georgia statutes expressly state that the state’s policy is to encourage contact between grandchildren and grandparents who have shown they can act in the best interests of the children. Grandparents have the right to intervene and petition for visitation when any question of child custody is before the court, such as when the parents divorce, when the court is terminating parental rights or when the child is adopted by a blood relative or step-parent.
In order for the court to award grandparents visitation with grandchildren grandparents must show both that:
- Visitation is in the children’s best interests
- The children will suffer some harm if the grandparents are not allowed visitation
The court does not have a presumption in favor of grandparent visitation.
A grandparent may not petition for visitation more than once in a two year period and cannot do so in any year when another custody action concerning the child is before the court in which the grandparent did not intervene. If the court does grant visitation to a grandparent, the child’s parent or guardian may petition for review of the decision if circumstances warrant a change.
If grandparents wish to have custody of grandchildren in Georgia, they must do so under the provisions of the third-party custody statute; there is no preferential status for grandparents above any other person looking for custody of a child that is not the child’s parent.
The legal standard for those looking to take a child from the child’s natural parents is high. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the U.S. Constitution recognizes that each person has the right to raise his or her own child. Georgia law states that the court must presume that it is in the best interest of the child to remain with the natural parents, unless the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the parent is unfit.
Grandparents looking for visitation or custody have heavy burdens before the court. If you are seeking visitation with or custody of a grandchild, contact an experienced family law attorney who can help present your case to the court most persuasively.