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How Grandparents Can Enforce Their Visitation and Custody Rights

The relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is a special bond to be treasured. However, there are family situations that can put grandparents at odds with their adult children over the grandchildren, driving them into legal confrontations.

Depending on the circumstances, grandparents can seek to enforce their visitation rights or, in more extreme cases, seek custody of their grandchildren. So it’s vital that grandparents understand that they have well-established legal rights.

When grandparents seeking custody or visitation rights with their grandchildren first meet with legal counsel, the lawyer needs to assess the situation. First, what is the relationship between the grandparents and the grandchildren? Another consideration is whether the minor children are residing with the grandparents and for how long that has occurred. The lawyer also will want to know if the grandparents are providing financial support and whether the minor children have special or unique needs that the parent or parents are neglecting.

Factors That Favor Grandparents’ Visitation

Visitation disputes are common in scenarios when an adult child has died but has children and the remaining parent doesn’t want the deceased spouses’ parents to see those grandchildren.

Under Georgia law, grandparents can file their own, original court action or they can intervene in a pending case, such as those involving: 

But grandparents cannot pursue visitation with a grandchild who resides with both parents if the parents have not separated and the child is living with both parents.

A court may grant grandparents visitation rights if the judge finds by clear and convincing evidence that the health or welfare of the child would be harmed if it isn’t granted and grandparent visitation is in the best interests of the child.

The court considers four factors in determining whether to grant visitation, including prior to filing the original action of intervention:

Grandparents should be aware that in Georgia, the child’s parent has the right to request that the court amend or revoke the visitation. But, the parent has to show good cause for the requested change.

Going for Custody as a Grandparent

Grandparents have seen themselves increasingly thrust into the role of parenting for their grandchildren, especially due to the growing opioid crisis and related family trauma. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report on the crisis, in 2016 there were 7.2 million grandparents living with their grandchildren, and more than 2.5 million were responsible for their grandchildren’s basic needs.

There are several ways parents can lose their parental rights and consequently allow grandparents to get custody of their grandchildren.

Under Georgia law, some of the ways those parental rights can be lost include:

Most judges are very protective of a parent’s right to parent. Courts in Georgia presume that it is in the best interest of the child or children for custodial rights to remain with the parent or parents. But that presumption may be overcome by showing that an award of custody to the grandparent is in the best interest of the child or children.

That said, a court won’t ignore clear and blatant evidence of neglect or abuse. The longer the grandparents have been involved with their grandchildren and contributed to their financial well-being, the friendlier the court will be to their custody request.

For more information, visit our Grandparent and Third-Party Custody and Visitation page or contact us today!

About The Author

Jordan E. Whitaker Associate

Jordan Whitaker handles an array of family law matters with a focus on child custody, paternity and legitimation, domestic violence and temporary protective disorders. She helps clients navigate the difficult processes that come with divorce, child custody and domestic violence by advocating for her clients’ best interests while striving for a peaceful resolution. Jordan first Read More

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