Grandparents often play a special role in their grandchildren’s lives. They offer both grandchildren and parents guidance and support. However, there are situations where parents may not want their child’s grandparents involved in their lives, especially when one parent may no longer be in the child’s life.
Do grandparents have any rights when it comes to their grandchildren in Georgia? The short answer is: It depends.
Grandparent Visitation: When and Why
Georgia’s legislature explicitly states that Georgia wants to encourage the relationship between grandchildren and grandparents wherever possible—as long as the relationship is in the best interests of the children. Because of that policy goal, grandparents in Georgia can petition the court to ask for visitation rights to see their grandchildren.
If the grandchildren’s parents are divorced or separated, Grandparents can file their own original action in court for visitation, or they can “intervene” or “join” in as a party in an existing case, such as a custody or visitation dispute between the parents or in an action to terminate a parent’s rights.
Limitations to Grandparent Visitation in Georgia
There are some significant limitations to grandparent visitation rights. For example, grandparents cannot seek visitation if the grandchild lives with both parents and the parents have not separated. In those situations, the parents may have decided that it is in their child’s best interest not to see the grandparent for one reason or another. Visitation is really designed for situations where the grandchild is with one parent, presumably the non-blood-related parent, and that parent is refusing to allow the grandparents to see the children, especially when such visits had been frequent prior to the separation of the parents.
Grandparents are only permitted to file an original action for visitation every two years. They also cannot file an original action when a current action involving the child is before the court; intervention is more appropriate in those circumstances.
Once the court has granted visitation rights, the child’s parent or guardian must ask the court to revoke the visitation through a formal court proceeding. Like the grandparent, the parent can only make this type of request once every two years.
Standards for Granting Grandparent Visitation
The court may grant grandparent visitation if it finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that two requirements are met:
- The visitation is in the best interests of the child; and
- The child will suffer some type of harm if visitation is not permitted.
The court will consider the child’s relationship with his or her parents and grandparents in making this determination. However, Georgia has no presumption in favor of grandparent visitation, as there would be if a parent were petitioning the court.
In deciding visitation, the court will consider factors that include:
- Whether the child has ever lived with the grandparents
- Whether the grandparents have provided financial support for the grandchild
- Whether there was an established pattern of grandparent visitation
Custody and Grandparents’ Rights
In Georgia, grandparents do not get any special treatment when it comes to custody (as versus visitation) determinations. Grandparents are treated as regular third-parties, which means that it can be next to impossible to gain custody of a child when the child’s parents are fit and available.
Getting Legal Help with Grandparent Rights
Whether you are a grandparent or parent, you may need legal support in dealing with issues regarding grandparent visitation or custody. Contact us to learn more.