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Grandparent Vistation in Georgia

Earlier this year, the Georgia legislature changed the laws concerning grandparent visitation. As this is an evolving and important area of family law, we thought it would be a good idea to update everyone on the changes.

Georgia has attempted to expand the rights of grandparents in the new statute. Now it is permissible for grandparents to bring an original action for visitation or to intervene in any action determining the custody of a minor child they are biological grandparents of. The statutory language provides that a court may grant visitation to a grandparent if the court finds the health or welfare of the child would be harmed unless visitation is granted. There are several statutory considerations to be used in making such a determination, including: Has the minor child lived with the grandparents? Has the grandparent provided financial support for the needs of the child for one year? Has there been an established pattern of regular visitation or child care by the grandparent with the child?

However, it is important to note that the statute does not allow grandparents to file an original action for visitation in cases where the parents of the minor child are not separated, and the child is living with both parents. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently clarified this language, including adoptive parents as parents for as defined in the statute. In Hudgins v. Harding, 313 Ga. App. 613 (2012), the Court held that although the child being adopted by a stepfather did not preclude the grandparents from bringing an original action to obtain visitation, the fact that the mother and new adoptive father lived together did prohibit such action. It appears from this ruling that if grandparents want to seek visitation rights with a grandchild they must do so before the child is formally adopted by a step-parent who is currently living with the biological parent.

As more cases come before the courts interpreting the new statutes, we can expect far more changes and clarifications to the rapidly evolving area of grandparent visitation rights. If you are a grandparent seeking visitation with your grandchild please contact our experienced family law attorneys for assistance with your case.

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