Grandparents Have Rights in Georgia

If a grandparent has shown that he or she is able to act in the best interests of his or her grandchild, it is the express policy of the state of Georgia that contact between a grandparent and grandchild is to be encouraged. It is further presumed in the state of Georgia that denying a grandchild contact with his or her grandparents is emotionally harmful to the child.

The opinion of a child's parent as to whether contact with a grandparent is in the best interests of the child is given deference, but such opinions are not conclusive. When a parent objects to and wishes to deny a grandparent's request for visitation with a grandchild, a grandparent may prevail over the parent's objections by proving with "clear and convincing" evidence that the denial of visitation will cause actual physical, emotional or mental harm to the grandchild.

Asserting the right to visitation

Depending on the circumstances, a grandparent may be able to file a petition for visitation as an original action or by intervening in a pending action. To file an original action for visitation, the grandchild's parents must be separated and the grandchild must not be living with both parents.

The other way to petition the court for grandparent visitation is to intervene in a pending action regarding custody of the grandchild, divorce of the grandchild's parents, termination of parental rights of either parent, visitation rights or adoption by a blood relative or stepparent.

Mediation

If the court decides that the petitioning grandparent can afford to pay for mediation, it will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the grandchild's interest and assign the matter to mediation. If the petitioning grandparent cannot afford to pay for mediation or if mediation fails, a court hearing will be scheduled to decide the matter.

Awarding a grandparent visitation

If the court finds that grandparent visitation is necessary to prevent harm to the child's health or welfare and would be in the child's best interest, it will order visitation.

Any circumstances under which the denial of visitation is reasonably likely to cause harm to the grandchild may justify the court's decision to award visitation rights to the grandparent. Specifically, harm to the child is reasonable likely to result if visitation is not granted and the grandchild has lived with the grandparent for at least six months, the grandparent has provided financial support for the grandchild's basic needs for at least one year or there exists an "established pattern" of regular child care provided by or visitation with the grandparent.

By law, an award of grandparent visitation must be for at least 24 hours per month. However, a grandparent visitation award cannot interfere with the grandchild's school or extracurricular activity schedules.

Other opportunities for contact

Whether or not visitation is ordered, a grandparent is still entitled to receive notice of opportunities to see his or her grandchild. These opportunities are any events or performances to which the public is admitted. Music concerts, graduations, dance recitals and sporting events are examples of events open to the public to which a grandparent is entitled to notice.

If you have questions about grandparents' rights in the state of Georgia, contact an experienced family law attorney today to schedule a consultation.

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