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Can Grandparents Obtain Visitation Rights in Georgia?

In a divorce or other court case where child custody is at issue, an unfortunate result can be an upset in a child’s family life. This may include interruption of a beneficial relationship, such as one with a grandparent. Georgia law recognizes the right of grandparents to seek visitation with their grandchildren, but the exercise of this right requires adhering to rules designed to make sure the child’s best interests are given the highest priority.

Under Georgia’s statute, the ability of grandparents to file a petition for visitation depends on the living arrangements of the child and their parents and other circumstances. Grandparents cannot obtain visitation rights against the parents’ wishes when the parents are living together with the child. Instead, the opportunity arises when the child’s parents are separated or divorced or when a court deems that the child’s health or welfare would be adversely affected by the absence of grandparent visitation.

A harmful effect from denial of visitation can be established by evidence of such situations as these:

  • The child lived with the grandparent(s) for six months or more.
  • The grandparent(s) financially supported the child for a year or more.
  • The grandparent(s) regularly visited with or cared for the child.

The court can also take into account any other relevant circumstances. The court considers the parents’ wishes but places greater emphasis on whether the child would be harmed without grandparental visitation. In a disputed case, an experienced visitation rights attorney plays an important role.

Grandparents can request visitation only once every two years, but no request can be made during a year when another custody action is pending. Once visitation rights are granted, a modification can be requested by the parents or any other person with custody rights. Modifications likewise can be requested only once every two years.

Termination of grandparents’ visitation rights occurs if the child is adopted, unless the adoptive parent is a blood relative. If a stepparent adopts the child, the parents of the biological parent also lose their right to visitation.

If one parent is unavailable to care for the child due to death, incapacity or incarceration, a judge may grant visitation to the parent of the unavailable parent if it is found to be in the child’s best interest.

To safeguard the child’s best interests, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem, who gathers information from various sources to determine the most suitable visitation schedule. Even in cases where grandparent visitation is denied, the court may order parents to inform the grandparents of significant events in the child’s life, such as school enrollment or public performances.

At the Law Office of S. Mark Mitchell, LLC in Newnan, I serve clients throughout Georgia in family law matters, including visitation disputes. Call me at 470-344-8550 or contact me online to schedule a consultation.