By: John R. Coleman, Jr. & Natalie V. Teston
Coleman, Chambers, Rogers & Williams, LLP
Question: "I have always had a very close and loving relationship with my grandchildren. Recently I had a falling out with my daughter, which has prevented me from being able to see my grandchildren as often as I would like. I still have a good relationship with my ex-son-in-law, but he only gets limited visitation with the children, and I don't want to take up any of his time. Am I a candidate for Grandparent Visitation?"
Answer: Parents' rights are afforded the greatest protection under Georgia law. Generally, a grandparent is not allowed to bring an action seeking visitation as long as the grandchild is living with both of his or her parents. When the grandchild is not living with both parents, or when the grandchild's parents are separated, there are two possible avenues for obtaining Grandparent Visitation. Under these circumstances a grandparent may file an original petition seeking visitation rights or, if there is a pending action concerning custody of the grandchild, the grandparent may attempt to intervene in and seek visitation rights within the pending custody action.
Test: The grandchild's parent's opinion regarding Grandparent Visitation will be given deference. However, to convince a judge to award Grandparent Visitation a grandparent must prove that without Grandparent Visitation the grandchild's health or welfare would be harmed and that it is in the grandchild's best interest to have court-ordered visitation with their grandparent. The judge will look at the following factors to determine if harm is likely to result to a grandchild without Grandparent Visitation:
1. Whether the grandchild has resided with the grandparent for 6 months or more;
2. Whether the grandparent has provided financial support for the basic needs of the child for at least one year;
3. Whether there was an established pattern of regular visitation or child care by the grandparent with the child; or
4. Whether any other circumstances exist indicating that emotional or physical harm would be reasonably likely to result if such visitation is not granted.
Typically, grandparents are only allowed to file a petition seeking visitation once every two years and grandparents must wait one year following any other action concerning custody of the grandchild to file their visitation petition. After Grandparent Visitation is awarded, the grandchild's parent or legal guardian may petition the court to revoke or modify the visitation as frequently as once every two years.
As you can see, the burden is high for those wishing to obtain court-ordered Grandparent Visitation. Not every grandparent is a good candidate for Grandparent Visitation. Even in cases where Grandparent Visitation is awarded, it is never guaranteed to continue throughout the future. Only an attorney reviewing the specific facts involved in your case can knowledgeably discuss whether or not you are a good candidate for Grandparent Visitation. We at Coleman, Chambers, Rogers & Williams, LLP can certainly assist you with this matter. Please give us a call today for a consultation with one of our family law attorneys.
About the authors: John R. Coleman, Jr. and Natalie V. Teston are attorneys with Coleman, Chambers, Rogers & Williams, LLP, in Gainesville, Georgia. The law firm of Coleman, Chambers, Rogers & Williams, LLP regularly handles all types of domestic relations actions. The firm has handled and can handle domestic relations cases in numerous counties, including: Hall County (Gainesville), White County (Cleveland), Lumpkin County (Dahlonega), Gwinnett County (Lawrenceville), Dawson County (Dawsonville), Habersham County (Demorest/Cornelia), and throughout all of Northeast Georgia.