Like many states, Georgia allows grandparents to seek reasonable visitation with their grandchildren. The visitation rights of grandparents, set out in section 19-7-3 of the Georgia Code, are explained below. For all of our articles on Georgia family law issues, see our Georgia Divorce and Family Law page.
Yes. Georgia law gives grandparents the right to ask a court for visitation with their grandchildren. Grandparents can exercise this right in one of two ways.
First, grandparents may file their own, original court action for visitation with their grandchild. However, there are some limitations to this general rule: they may only file an original action for visitation once every two years, and they can't seek visitation with a grandchild who lives with both parents, if the parents have not separated.
Alternatively, grandparents can "intervene" (join) as a party to an existing legal action including:
The court will award a grandparent reasonable visitation if it finds:
In deciding whether the child will be harmed by denying visitation, courts must consider the following factors:
If any of these factors are present, a judge may decide it's reasonably likely the child will suffer emotional harm from a failure to provide grandparent contact.
Georgia law gives the child's parent or legal guardian the right to ask the court to revoke or amend a grandparent's visitation. The parent must show good cause for the change. A parent may make this request only once every two years. Although courts do give some deference (respect) to a parent's wishes and judgment regarding whether grandparent visitation is in the child's best interests, the parent's judgment is not conclusive; in other words, parents don't have the final say in the matter.
After a grandparent files a petition (legal paperwork) for visitation rights, the court may appoint a "guardian ad litem" (independent advocate and spokesperson) for the child and send the parties to mediation if the court finds that the grandparent can bear the cost. Often, parties who are sent to mediation can come up with their own visitation arrangements. If not, or if no mediation is held, the court will hold a hearing to decide the visitation request.
Yes, but it can be very hard to win. In a custody proceeding between the parents and a grandparent, the court will determine custody based on the best interests of the child standard. The court will begin with a presumption that parental custody is in the child's best interests, but a grandparent can rebut this presumption with evidence that awarding custody to the grandparent would be in the child's best interests and would best promote the child's welfare and happiness.
If you have questions about bringing an action (or intervening in one) for visitation with your grandchild, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area.
For the complete text of the law governing grandparent visitation actions in Georgia, see Ga. Code Ann., § 19-7-3