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Georgia Grandparents' Rights

2012 Revisions Favor the Grandparents

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Georgia grandparents rights

A 2012 law has made Georgia a friendlier place for grandparents seeking visitation.

Photo © Chris Cannon / Explore Georgia

In 2012 the Georgia legislature passed HB 1198, making Georgia statute friendlier for grandparents seeking visitation with grandchildren. The revised statute has not been tested by the judicial branch, but hopes are high that it will hold up to scrutiny by the courts.

Understanding the state of affairs in Georgia requires a bit of history. In the 1995 case of Brooks v. Parkerson, the Georgia Supreme Court found that Georgia's statute for grandparent visitation was unconstitutional. The court ruled that a parent's decision about visitation could not be overruled without a showing of harm to the child, a difficult standard to meet, but one that possibly influenced the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the 2000 landmark case of Troxel v. Granville.

The revised statute passed in 2012 upholds the standard that harm to the child must be proven but provides easier avenues for reaching that standard.

In Georgia grandparents still may not sue for visitation of children living in an intact family, which means one in which both parents live with their children. In other situations they may sue for visitation either in an original action or as part of a custody suit. As for the finding of harm, the court is directed that it is "reasonably likely" that harm would occur to children deprived of contact with grandparents in the following situations:

  • The child resided with the grandparent for six months or longer.
  • The grandparent "provided financial support" for the child's basic needs for at least one year.
  • The grandparent had established a pattern of visiting the child or providing child care.
  • Other circumstances indicate that "emotional or physical harm" would result from a lack of contact.
In addition, the courts are directed to give "deference" to a parent's decision about visitation but not to consider such a decision "conclusive." In fact, the court is directed to presume that a child deprived of contact with a grandparent "may suffer emotional injury that is harmful to such child's health." This presumption is, however, "rebuttable." A similar provision covers cases in which a parent is dead, incapacitated, or incarcerated. If the parents of the missing parent are denied visitation, the court is to give consideration to that decision by the surviving parent, but it does not have to consider it conclusive. In all cases in which visitation is awarded, it "shall not be less than 24 hours in any one-month period."

An interesting provision of the law is that, independently of any visitation order, the court can require the custodial parent to notify the grandparent of all performances, such as sporting events and concerts, in which the child is involved, as long as the public is invited.

The court is given the ability to appoint a guardian ad litem for the child at the sole expense of the grandparent, provided that the grandparent can afford the cost "without unreasonable financial hardship." The same provision is made for mediation.

See Georgia Code. Look for Title 19, Chapter 9, Section 3 (O.C.G.A. §19-7-3).

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