In many family law situations involving the custody of a minor child, the grandparents might lose visitation rights with their grandchildren. If the parent of the grandchild has visitation rights removed, the custodial parents of a grandchild do not have to grant former in-laws any visitation with a grandchild. Georgia law was written to give grandparents a legal avenue in the event that the grandparents are unable to visit with their grandchildren.
Applicable Georgia Law Standards for Visitation Rights
In 2012, the Georgia General Assembly revised applicable law regarding visitation rights. The new applicable statute does not allow grandparents to file an action for visitation when a child’s parents are living together with the child. In cases in which a child’s parents do not reside together with the child then a Georgia court is permitted to grant “reasonable visitation rights” to grandparents. In accordance with this statute, the award of grandparent visitation rights shall not be less than 20 hours in any one month.
A grandparent must meet certain criteria, however, in order for a court to award visitation rights including proving:
- That the health or welfare of the child would be harmed unless visitation was granted, and
- That the best interests of the child would be served by the court ordering visitation with the grandparent.
In many cases, grandparents can have a particularly difficult time meeting this standard unless assisted by a skilled attorney. When determining whether it is in the grandchild’s best interests to have court-ordered visitation, a court will evaluate a variety of factors including:
- Previous interactions that the grandparent had with the grandchildren,
- The existing grandparent-grandchild relationship that has developed, and
- Any support that the grandparent might have provided the grandchild.
Custody Rights for Grandparents
If grandparents wish to obtain custody of their grandchildren in the state of Georgia, grandparents must comply with the provisions of the third-party custody statute. Unfortunately, grandparents receive no preferential status over any other person who seeks to obtain custody over a child that is not the child’s parent. The United States Supreme Court has subsequently held that the United States Constitution recognizes that each person has the right to raise his or her own child. Georgia law states that a court must presume that it is in the best interest of the child to remain with the child’s natural parents unless the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that the parent is not eligible to have parental duties over a child. The burden lies on the court to show that it is in the child’s best interest for custody to be awarded to the grandparent.
Contact a Skilled Family Law Attorney
If you are a grandparent, there is a potential that you will have legal recourse if you no longer have visitation rights with your grandchildren after your child’s parental or custody rights have changed in any way. If you are involved in this type of situation, please contact the law office of Vayman & Teitelbaum, P.C, who will be able to offer advice tailored to your unique circumstance. You can contact our law firm by either visiting the firm online or calling the firm at 678-736-7700 in order to schedule an initial consultation.