It seems that more and more in society, there are several families in which grandparents are playing an important role in raising minor children. This has become true in American marriages where the couple is still together and is often even more so the case after one or both parents are no longer in the picture, whatever the underlying reason may be. In such situations, grandparents may seek visitation rights with the kids. While in some cases this is possible under the law, other situations, unfortunately, do not have the same result. In any scenario where grandparents are seeking visitation rights in La Grange, Georgia, there are certain requirements that must be met so that any rights granted to the grandparents do not overstep the rights of any parent or guardian still active in the child or children’s lives.
Seeking Grandparent Rights
Under Georgia law, there are two ways to seek grandparent visitation rights. First, a grandparent may file his or her own petition seeking visitation rights. Alternatively, a grandparent may join an existing action dealing with visitation or any other child custody issue. Of note, neither option is available to a Georgia grandparent when the child or children (1) lives with both parents who still have parental rights and (2) the parents are not separated. This is because the state of Georgia, like many states in the nation, favors two-parent homes and the court will not seek a reason to break up the home unnecessarily.
No matter which option a grandparent chooses to file a petition for visitation rights in La Grange, the Georgia court of jurisdiction will typically send the parties involved to mediation to try to resolve the issue or will hold a hearing on the matter. If the relationship between the parties is volatile, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to ensure the child’s rights are being protected during this process. To be clear, a guardian ad litem represents the child and no one else involved in the matter. As such, he or she has no legal obligation to share any information with the other parties – just the court of jurisdiction.
High Burden to Meet
Georgia falls in line with most states in the country when it presumes the best interests of a child are better served when their minor’s parents are making life choices for them. As a result, the burden that must be met for visitation rights to be granted are high under applicable law. Typically, a Georgia court will award visitation rights if it determines that not granting them would be harmful to the child (i.e., not in the best interest of the child). While this initially does not sound like a big burden to meet, there are several factors that are considered when determining what is in the best interests of a child.
Specifically, Georgia law requires that the best interest of a child must be determined after considering multiple factors that affect all aspects of the child’s life. This includes 20 different factors to be considered, such as the child’s physical safety and welfare, need for permanence and stability, wishes and long-term goals, as well as background and community ties. Likewise, the court also looks at the ability of each person to care for the child, the existing emotional ties between the child and each person, the home environment of each person, and any evidence of past abuse, among other factors.
Help in La Grange
The relationship between grandparent and grandchild is precious and worth fighting for. If you want to seek visitation rights with your grandchild in La Grange, Georgia, contact the experienced LaGrange, Ga family law attorneys at Moffitt Law, LLC today to schedule your initial case evaluation.