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Grandparents’ Rights


When couples seek a separation or divorce after having children together, there are legal provisions in place to assist courts in protecting the best interests of the children. Unfortunately, however, courts often can and do overlook the important interests of grandparents in maintaining strong ties with their grandchildren in the face of families breaking up. The problem is especially poignant when a custodial parent has a strained relationship with his or her in-laws. If you are the grandparent of a child whose parents are parting ways, and you are hoping to protect your rights with respect to your grandchild, the family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas C. Rowsey can help. We have assisted Atlanta residents as well as individuals from Roswell, Alpharetta, Milton, and other communities in a wide range of issues arising from divorce.


For many years, grandparents had virtually no legal rights with respect to their grandchildren. More recently, however, divorce rates have gone up and people have become more mobile, leaving many grandparents with few options as their children or former sons- and daughters-in-law moved grandchildren away or denied grandparents access to them. Today, most states have recognized that this is not only unjust, but can be emotionally damaging to the children involved. While a grandparent’s rights are not as robust as one might hope, they do exist. Thankfully, the state of Georgia has made some important strides in recognizing the rights of grandparents, although it is still an area of the law that remains partly unsettled.

In 1995, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a statute that granted certain visitation rights to grandparents, declaring that a custodial parent’s decisions regarding grandparent visitation could not be overruled without a showing of “harm to the child.” To address this difficulty, Georgia passed a law in 2012 that outlines how a grandparent can legally meet this standard. Although the validity of the statute has not yet been tested in Georgia courts, it outlines specific criteria for helping grandparents pursue custody or visitation rights.

This law includes a rule that, if the children are not in an intact family, grandparents may bring an original action for visitation or custody, or they may formally join an existing custody or visitation action. The statute directs the courts to find that denial of visitation for the grandparent is “reasonably likely” to result in “harm to the child” if:

  • The child lived with the grandparent for at least six months;
  • The grandparent provided necessary financial support to the child for at least 12 months;
  • The grandparent provided child care;
  • The grandparent regularly visited the grandchild; or
  • Other circumstances exist that indicate that the child would be emotionally or physically harmed by being denied contact with the grandparent.

The law contains many other provisions, including grandparents’ rights in cases where a parent has died, has become incapacitated, or is incarcerated.


While the law of grandparents’ rights is still murky, there are steps you can take to try to protect your relationship with a grandchild in the face of domestic upheaval or even potentially seek custody if the circumstances warrant it. For further information about your options during a divorce or separation, you can contact the Atlanta lawyers at the Law Offices of Thomas C. Rowsey by calling (770) 993-5317. Alternately, you can use our online form to set up an appointment for a free consultation.

Thomas Rowsey, Attorneys at Law

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GAAW Wright

Tom has been our attorney for many years. He has been with us through thick and thin. He has successfully handled all our queries and cases with patience and understanding. We highly recommend Tom!

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My family and I moved to Roswell from Chicago over ten years ago. At that time, we were referred to Tom to assist us with some of our legal needs. Since then he has become a trusted friend we consider to be our family attorney. The comfort in being able to speak candidly with him and know that he understands our concerns is invaluable. Tom is a man of integrity, vast experience (more than 25 years), who has an exceptional knowledge of the law. Impeccable ethics and an unparalleled work ethic make him an outstanding attorney who is capable, though, and diligent. I recommend him highly to anyone in need of sound legal counsel.

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At all times for the duration of my case, Tom demonstrated professionalism, confidence, and honesty. At no point was I pressured to make any one decision over another, but Tom did his best to inform me about the consequences and benefits of all of my options. If he did not know some specific detail regarding my case, he made the effort to find out. Tom instantly exudes trustworthiness and was always in steady contact. I would recommend his services to anyone.

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I met Tom over 10 years ago after settling in Roswell with my family. I have learned over the years that Tom is a man of high integrity, genuine and extremely knowledgeable in his field. Along with being honest, he is a straight shooter and will let you know where you stand. He will provide you with personal attention you don’t get at bigger firms and will go the extra mile. As legal matters can be frightening to deal with, Tom will guide you through the process and get you the results you need. You couldn’t ask for a better person to be fighting for you.