There are two primary ways for grandparents to obtain custody of their grandchildren over the parent(s)’ objection: petition for custody under O.C.G.A. § 19-7-1(b.1), or file a dependency petition in Juvenile Court.
Petition for Custody
This case is filed in Superior Court and requires the grandparent to show that (1) parental custody would harm the child, and (2) the award of custody to the grandparent will best promote the child’s health, welfare, and happiness. “Harm” means either physical harm or significant long-term emotional harm, not social or economic disadvantages nor the stress of situations such as divorce or a change in housing or school.
This case is filed in Juvenile Court to obtain temporary custody of a child while a parent addresses their issues that make them unable to properly parent the child. The grandparent must show that the child has been abused or neglected. In Juvenile Court, a parent may have the right to a court appointed attorney. If the Court finds that the child is a dependent child and places the child in the custody of the grandparent, the Court might order the Department of Family and Children’s Services to provide services to the parent to rectify their issues causing dependency. For example, if the cause of the dependency is substance abuse issues, the Court might order DFCS to obtain substance abuse treatment for the parent and monitor the parent’s compliance. In the alternative, the Court might not involve DFCS but issue an order giving the parent certain conditions he or she must meet to regain custody.
If the parent is willing to consent to the grandparent having custody of the child, then the best course of action might be obtaining a temporary guardianship through Probate Court. At the Atlanta Divorce Law Group, we can assess the facts of your specific situation and determine the best course of action for a grandparent seeking custody of a grandchild.