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The relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is unique. Children receive unconditional love, support, and a sense of family from their grandparents. Sadly, disputes may arise between parents and grandparents that jeopardize these family relationships.

If you want to defend your legal rights as a grandparent, let a caring child custody attorney help. A capable Atlanta grandparents’ rights lawyer can work diligently to protect the special bond you have with your grandchildren.

Does State Law Support Grandparent Visitation?

Official Code of Georgia Annotated §19-9-3 encourages continuous contact between a child and their grandparents if the grandparents can act in the child’s best interests. If a grandparent is denied contact with their grandchild, they can file a separate petition for visitation or intervene in the parents’ divorce or custody action. However, grandparents may not seek court-ordered visitation if the grandchild lives with both parents, the parents’ legal rights to the child have not been terminated, or the parents are not separated or divorced.

To successfully gain visitation, grandparents must prove that their lack of visitation would harm the child’s health or welfare. Additionally, they must show that grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests. The grandparents must present “clear and convincing evidence” to meet this burden of proof. Additionally, it is irrelevant whether the grandparents would be adversely affected by a lack of contact with their grandchildren. Because of the legal complexities of a grandparent visitation case, it is best to consult a knowledgeable lawyer before initiating any legal action.

Can Grandparents Seek Custody of their Grandchildren?

There are circumstances in which grandparent custody may be necessary to protect a child. While Official Code of Georgia Annotated §19-7-1 does permit a grandparent to file for custody of a grandchild, local courts presume that a child is best cared for by their parents.

To overcome this presumption, grandparents must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the child would suffer physical and emotional harm if custody is granted to or remains with the natural parents. If a judge determines that such potential for harm exists, the grandparents must then demonstrate that awarding them custody will promote the child’s happiness and welfare.

This legal presumption can be extremely challenging to overcome, but a grandparent must do so before a judge will consider awarding custody to them. In some cases, a child’s psychological evaluation may be needed to determine the possibility of physical or emotional harm if grandparent custody is denied. Additionally, a judge may appoint an attorney for the child, referred to as a guardian ad litem, to assess the child’s physical and emotional state relative to the grandparent’s request for custody.

Unlike a visitation case, custody gives the grandparents the same legal rights to the child as a parent. The grandparents may decide important matters for the child, enroll them in their health insurance plan, and even seek child support from the parents. To understand these complex custody laws, a grandparent should work with a compassionate attorney in the Atlanta area.

Impact of a Child’s Preference in a Grandparent Custody or Visitation Case

Often, children have very strong connections to their grandparents. Grandparents can provide a type of love and support different from that between parents and children. If a child expresses a preference for contact with their grandparents, a court must consider it when deciding the case.

However, the judge must still independently assess whether the child’s preferred custody or visitation arrangement meets their needs. A capable grandparent’s rights attorney can explain the process of weighing a child’s preference against the ‘best interest of the child’ standard.

Learn More about Grandparents’ Rights from a Respected Atlanta Attorney

Family law focuses on protecting relationships between family members. If you are a grandparent who has lost contact with a beloved grandchild or need to protect them by assuming custody, our skilled legal team can help. Call an experienced Atlanta grandparents’ rights lawyer today to find out how you can preserve your grandparent-grandchild relationship.

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