In many families, grandparents are involved in the minor children’s lives. Sometimes, legal disputes may arise where grandparents seek custody or visitation of their grandchildren. Under certain circumstances, Georgia law allows a grandparent to file for custody or visitation.
Can grandparents get custody in Georgia?
Yes, grandparents may get custody of their grandchildren in Georgia under certain circumstances. Grandparents must satisfactorily show that the minor children will suffer physical or long-term emotional harm if custody were awarded to the biological parent. The burden of proof here is higher than the usual burden of proof in civil actions. Once this showing is made, grandparents must then prove that an award of custody to the grandparents will best promote the minor children’s welfare and happiness. Clark v. Wade, 273 Ga. 587 (2001).
For example, where the grandparents made a showing that the biological mother of the minor children exhibited emotional immaturity, lack of parenting skills, inappropriate conduct, drug abuse, and irresponsibility toward her minor children, custody of the minor children may be awarded to the grandparents. Strickland v. Strickland, 298 Ga. 630 (2016).
How hard is it for grandparents to get custody of their grandchildren?
It may be hard for grandparents to get custody of their grandchildren. As explained above, certain requirements must be met before custody of minor children may be awarded to grandparents. Also, a showing that physical or long-term emotional harm will result if custody is awarded to the biological parent must be made by clear and convincing evidence. This is not a low burden of proof.
Can grandparents get visitation rights with their grandchildren?
Yes, under certain circumstances, grandparents may seek reasonable visitation with their grandchildren. Grandparents may file a new action to seek visitation rights to their grandchildren. However, a new action for visitation rights is not allowed if the parents of the minor children are not separated and the minor children are living with both parents.
Grandparents may be awarded visitation rights if the grandparents make a showing that the health or welfare of the grandchildren would be harmed unless such visitation is granted and if the best interests of the grandchildren would be served by such visitation.
The court may conclude that harm to the grandchildren is reasonably likely when, prior to the action:
- The grandchildren resided with the grandparents for 6 months or more;
- The grandparents provided financial support for the grandchildren for at least 1 year;
- There was an established pattern of regular visitation or child care by the grandparents; or
- Any other circumstances exist indicating that emotional or physical harm would be reasonably likely to result if such visitation is not granted.
Talk with a Georgia family law attorney about grandparents’ rights.