Georgia law recognizes that it is important for children to maintain a healthy relationship with their grandparents and in certain situations allows grandparents to establish a legally enforceable visitation arrangement with their grandchild or grandchildren.
Under the law, grandparents may ask the Court to grant them the right to reasonable visitation with their grandchildren either by filing an original action for visitation or intervening in an existing case that determines the custody of their grandchildren (such as an adoption, divorce, or modification action).
While it is generally in the best interest of children to remain in the custody of their parents, in certain situations Georgia law allows grandparents to seek custody or visitation rights by intervening in divorce cases and other cases involving the determination of child custody. This law also allows grandparents to seek full custody in the event one parent dies while a child is still a minor when it is felt that the best interests of the child or children involved would benefit from this change of custody from the surviving parent.
When determining whether to grant a grandparent visitation, the Court assesses the best interest of the child and, if it finds that the “health or welfare” of the child would be damaged if the child is not afforded visitation with the grandparent, then the Court will grant visitation rights.
In considering whether the health or welfare of the child would be harmed without grandparent visitation, the court may find that harm to the child is reasonably likely to result where, prior to the original action or intervention:
- The minor child resided with the grandparent for six months or more;
- The grandparent provided financial support for the basic needs of the child for at least one year;
- There was an established pattern of regular visitation or child care by the grandparent with the child; or
- Any other circumstance exists indicating that emotional or physical harm would be reasonably likely to result if such visitation is not granted.
These matters can be complex and confusing, so it makes sense to contact Warner Robins, Ga., area custody attorney Lynn Hamilton Johnson at 478-922-3889 to get a clear understanding of the law and take the steps necessary to get a successful result.