As a grandparent, you may expect reasonable access to your grandchildren. However, Georgia law does not guarantee grandparents’ custody or visitation rights. That said, you should consider your legal options and whether your circumstances might allow you to establish rights to your grandchildren.
An experienced family law attorney, like those with the Gentry Law Firm LLC, can help you explore possible answers to your visitation and custody questions. Securing your rights as a grandparent isn’t something you should attempt alone. Our decades of family and divorce law experience can help your case.
What Are Georgia’s Grandparents’ Rights?
Understanding what rights grandparents have regarding custody and visitation is essential. Custody and visitation are not interchangeable; there are distinct differences between them.
If a grandparent seeks custody of their grandchildren, legally, they want to become their guardians. If grandparents seek visitation, they want a court to grant them time to see their grandchildren.
Can You Be Awarded Custody of Your Grandchildren?
Grandparents can seek custody of their grandchildren. It’s usually granted when it is evident the children are living in a harmful situation. The court may grant custody if the grandchildren live in an abusive or otherwise unhealthy environment.
Grandparents seeking custody of grandchildren must establish clear reasons to be granted custody.
- Unfit parents: “uncaring” parents with significant issues like drugs, crime, or neglect
- Terminated parental rights: the parents have willingly given up their parental rights or had their rights legally revoked
- Developmental harm: the grandchildren will face physical, mental, or emotional harm if returned to their parents
- Evidence of neglect: evidence the parent(s) have physically or psychologically abused or neglected their children
Grandparents can also request custody of grandchildren whose biological parents are dead.
Once you apply for custody, a judge will review your reasons. They may grant custody if they find it’s in the grandchild’s best interest.
Can You Be Granted Visitation if You’re Denied Custody?
In Georgia, grandparents can seek visitation by filing an original action. When to file for visitation can be complicated. If the grandchild’s parents are married and the grandchild lives with them, there is likely no claim for visitation.
However, you can request visitation rights if the grandchild’s parents are separated. You can also seek visitation if the court believes the grandchild’s health or welfare is in danger without the grandparent being awarded visitation.
You can file for visitation during any custody action taken by the parents, including divorce proceedings, adoption cases, or when parental rights are terminated.
Each case is unique, and you’d benefit from the help of a family law attorney. At Gentry Law Firm LLC, we focus on custom designed care. Our attorneys are trained to provide the utmost care to your case, and your family.
When Can Grandparents File for Visitation Rights?
If the situations meet visitation requirements, grandparents can file for visitation rights once every two years.
However, they can’t apply for visitation if there’s another custody action pending. If the grandchild’s parents are working on a custody arrangement during their divorce proceedings, you couldn’t file a motion for visitation as a grandparent that year.
But, while you can’t file independently, you could file a petition to intervene in that case. If your visitation rights are granted, the grandchild’s parents can file to modify your visitation rights, but only once every two years.
When Will Courts Grant Grandparent Visitation Rights?
Ultimately, visitation will be granted if it’s in the grandchild’s best interests. If their health and well-being are damaged without visits with their grandparents, the court will probably protect the grandparents’ visitation rights.
Grandparents may be granted visitation in place of an unavailable parent’s visitation. If the parent has died, is incapacitated, or has been incarcerated, the grandparents could be given their visitation time, provided it’s found to be in the grandchild’s best interest.
If the parents and grandparents disagree on visitation, a judge might order them to complete mediation. Sometimes, a guardian ad litem represents the grandchild’s best interest. They’ll review factors in the grandchild’s life to ensure visitation will not be harmful. The guardian can check with the grandchild’s parents, coaches, teachers, or anyone else in the child’s life to see if the visitation is a good fit.
When is a Child’s Health In Danger Without Visitation with Grandparents?
A court could find that a grandchild’s health or welfare may be harmed if their grandparents are absent in certain circumstances.
The court will examine factors like:
- Has the grandchild lived with their grandparent for six months or more?
- Has the grandparent financially supported the grandchild for one year or more?
- Has the grandparent provided childcare or visited with the child regularly?
- Could there be any other circumstances to show the grandchild would be emotionally or physically harmed without their grandparent’s visits?
If there is evidence the grandparent’s absence would harm the grandchild’s life, the court may consider granting visitation. Visitation is only considered when the grandparents have a preexisting relationship with their grandchildren.
How Do You Request Visitation?
Grandparents can petition for visitation to receive court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren. This petition can be an original action if there aren’t any other ongoing custody actions or the grandparents can join an existing case.
Once you’ve filed a petition, you’ll be considered the plaintiff, and the grandchildren’s parents will be viewed as the defendants. You’ll need to include the name of the grandchildren and their dates of birth on the form. You’ll also provide the reasons their health or welfare will be harmed without your presence and why it is in the grandchildren’s best interest that visitation is granted.
A knowledgeable Georgia family law attorney can help you thoroughly and effectively prepare your case. They’ll know what evidence you’ll need to support your petition, and they can represent you in your visitation case.
What’s the Outcome of a Visitation Case?
If your bid for visitation is successful, you’ll have protected rights to see your grandchildren. You’ll receive a minimum of 24 hours a month to see them. Depending on the circumstances, you could get more.
If the court does not grant visitation, you’ll have to wait two years before you can try again. Even if you cannot visit your grandchild, the court can still order their parents to notify you about certain aspects of your grandchild’s life. They might have to tell you about things like school enrollment, participation in extracurriculars, graduations, or other events open to the public.
You could also lose any claim to visitation rights in some circumstances. Your rights could terminate if your grandchild is adopted by someone who isn’t a blood relative. If your child’s parental rights have been terminated after the grandchild’s new stepparent has adopted them, you may no longer be able to request visitation.
Gentry Law Can Help with Your Grandparents’ Rights Needs
Gentry Law Firm LLC, can answer your questions about custody or visitation. Our team of family law attorneys in Marietta will listen to your case and determine how to help you. Each case is unique, but we’re prepared to assist you in enforcing your rights as a grandparent.
We understand how difficult being excluded from your grandchildren’s lives can be. We know you want what’s best for them, so we’re ready to help you build your case.
We’re located in Marietta and offer compassionate legal advice throughout Metro Atlanta and across Cobb, Cherokee, Paulding, Bartow, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Clayton counties.