Petitioning for Child Custody as an Equitable Caregiver
In July 2019, Georgia gave legal recognition to the importance of the role that a non-biologically related adult can play in a child’s life. With the passage of the Equitable Caregiver Act, the courts may grant custody and visitation rights to stepparents and certain other people who have provided care and support to a child.
If a child’s parents divorce or separate and the child no longer lives with them, the court may be charged with assigning legal and physical custody, in addition to parenting time and visitation rights.
Before the passage of the Equitable Caregiver Act, only relatives of a child were allowed to petition for custody or visitation rights. At first, the act applied only to grandparents, but it has since been extended to include close relatives like siblings, aunts and uncles.
In order to be considered an equitable caregiver, you must prove the following:
- You have undertaken a full and complete parental role in the child’s life.
- You have provided consistent caretaking for the child.
- You fully and permanently accept parental responsibility for the child without expectation of monetary compensation.
- You have a bond with the child that has been fostered or supported by one or both of the parents.
- The parent or parents acknowledge and accept that you have behaved in a manner consistent with a parental role.
Once equitable caregiver status has been established, you may petition for custody or visitation rights. This requires you to prove that the child would suffer physical or emotional harm — and their best interests would not be served — if the relationship were to be severed. In determining the harm that could be caused by termination of the relationship, the courts may consider the following factors:
- The child’s current and former caregivers
- The psychological bonds the child may have formed with you
- The other parties seeking caregiver status
- The medical and psychological needs of the child
Because the Equitable Caregiver Act is relatively new, it is unclear how courts may address different complications that may arise. Obtaining legal representation is thus advisable for anyone involved in a custody or visitation case under the law. Whether you are seeking to establish equitable caregiver status or opposing a petition by someone else, the Law Office of S. Mark Mitchell, LLC in Newnan is ready and able to assist you. Please call 470-344-8550 or contact the firm online to schedule a free case evaluation.