LEGAL GUIDANCE FOR ATLANTA RESIDENTS IN FAMILY LAW MATTERS
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 Rowsey & Stelter 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.
PROTECTING YOUR RIGHTS AS A GRANDPARENT
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.
EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS WITH AN ATLANTA ATTORNEY DURING DIVORCE
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 Rowsey & Stelter by calling (770) 993-5317. Alternately, you can use our online form to set up an appointment for a free consultation.