Divorce is difficult for more than just the former couple and any involved children. Another group of people that must adjust to the numerous changes that occur after a divorce are grandparents. In Georgia, there are some important rules (including O.C.G.A. section 19-7-3) regarding the rights of grandparents following a divorce. As a result, to navigate the various situations that arise, it is often a wise idea for grandparents to obtain the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.
Situation 1: Not Separated Parents
If a child’s biological parents remain married (or not separated) and the child resides
with both parents, grandparents do not have the right to petition for visitation rights. This means that even in situations in which parents have decided to entirely remove a grandparent from the life of a child, the grandparents do not have any legal standing to challenge this decision.
Situation 2: Separated Parents
In situations in which the parents are separated or divorced, grandparents are able to petition for rights. Grandparents can also petition for rights if one of the biological parents has died, has had parental rights terminated, or is incarcerated. To successfully obtain a visitation order, a grandparent must establish that failure to award visitation rights to the grandparent would damage the health or welfare of the child. This standard of damage to the child is much higher than decisions that are made in the best interests of a child. In situations in which the custodial parent is against visitation rights being assigned to the grandparent, there will likely be numerous obstacles before the rights are awarded.
Situation 3: The Child Lives with the Grandparents
If a child has been living with a grandparent or anyone other than the parent, courts sometimes find that the emotional standard must not be met. Instead, courts must merely find that awarding visitation rights to the grandparents in the best interest of the child. This standard is lower than the harm standard and requires a finding that awarding visitation rights would be the best possible choice for the child.
The Filing of Visitation Rights
Georgia Law acknowledges that any grandparent has the right to file an original action for visitation rights in any court when the state is considering any question regarding custody of a minor child or a divorce or termination of parental rights. If the court finds that failure to grant visitation rights would harm a child, visitation rights might be denied. Some of the factors that courts will consider include whether the minor child lived with the grandparent for six months or more, whether the grandparent provided financial support for the child’s needs for a period of at least one year, whether there is an established visitation pattern, or whether any circumstances indicate that harm would be likely to occur if visitation was not granted.
Speak with a Knowledgeable Family Law Attorney Today
The divorce process is often particularly complicated and its effects impact the lives of many people. As a result, to make certain that matters resolve in an agreeable way after the dissolution of a marriage, you should not hesitate to speak with an experienced family law attorney. Contact Vayman & Teitelbaum P.C. today to schedule an initial free consultation during which time our lawyers will review your rights after a divorce as well as how you can likely expect matters to resolve.