Most often, visitation cases involve disputes between the parents of a child. However, visitation may also be granted in some cases to the grandparents of a child. These cases often arise when a grandparent believes that he or she is unreasonably being denied visitation with the child and would like the court to intervene in order to ensure contact.
How Can the Case Be Heard?
Under Georgia law, a grandparent has two options for asking the court for visitation with his or her grandchildren. First, grandparents may file their own original action, but there are limitations on this option. Grandparents may only file an original action for visitation once every two years. Also, grandparents cannot seek visitation with a grandchild who lives with both parents, if the parents have not separated. The second option is to “intervene” (or join) as a party to an existing legal action including:
- Any action concerning the custody or visitation rights of their minor grandchild, including a divorce action between the child’s parents;
- An action for termination of either parent’s parental rights; or
- An action for adoption of the child by a stepparent or blood relative
What is the Standard for Granting or Denying a Grandparent’s Visitation Request?
Once a case is filed, the court must then decide whether or not to award reasonable grandparent visitation. Grandparent visitation will be awarded if the court finds that:
- The child’s health or welfare would be harmed if the request for visitation was denied; and
- The visitation is in the child’s best interests
In determining whether the child will be harmed by a denial of grandparent visitation, the court will consider the following factors:
- Whether the minor child resided with the grandparent for at least six months;
- Whether the grandparent provided financial support for the child’s basic needs for at least one year;
- Whether there was an established pattern of regular visitation or child care provided by the grandparent; and
- Any other circumstances that indicate emotional or physical harm would be reasonably likely if visitation was denied.
It should be noted that an approval of grandparent visitation is difficult to achieve. This is because there is no presumption in favor of visitation by any grandparent. Instead, the court presumes that the parent’s decision towards visitation is what is best for the child. The court will only go against this if the above standard is met. If grandparent visitation rights are granted, this does not mean that the parents do not have recourse. The legal custodian, guardian of the person, or parent of the child may petition the court for revocation or amendment of such visitation rights. For this revocation or amendment to be granted, good cause must be shown. Again, this petition, like an original action, cannot be filed more than once in any two year period.
If you are a grandparent or a parent involved in a grandparent visitation case, please contact the experienced attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum. We understand the complexities involved in this multi-party case and will work to ensure that the best interests of all are served.