Aunts and Uncles undoubtedly play an important role in a child's life, and sometimes circumstances arise where they must take on an even greater responsibility.
If you find yourself in a situation where you're considering becoming a legal custodian for your niece or nephew in Georgia, it's essential to understand the rights and laws that come with that responsibility.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) Section 19-7-1(b.1) outlines the criteria and requirements for Aunts and Uncles to obtain custody, and seeking the assistance of an experienced legal team can make the process smoother and less stressful.
Here at Your Law Firm, we understand the complexity of family law and custody, and are dedicated to helping you achieve a positive outcome. Our professional and friendly approach provides the guidance and support you need when navigating through challenging legal situations.
When it comes to the rights of Aunts and Uncles in Georgia, being given legal custody means more than just having a child live with you. It includes the ability to make important decisions about their education, medical treatment, extracurricular activities, and religion.
While their parents may still be present and involved somewhat in the child's life, Aunts and Uncles with legal custody hold the primary custodial rights. This not only ensures that the child's best interests are being considered, but may also require the parents to provide financial support to you for the upbringing of the child. The parents may even have set visitation time with the child, but the child will live primarily with you.
If you are an Aunt or Uncle seeking custody of a child in Georgia, it's important to understand and protect these rights.
What the courts look for in deciding Aunt and Uncle custody cases
Courts in Georgia assume in what's called a legal presumption that all children should stay with their parents as it is in their best interest - unless and until someone proves otherwise. Therefore, if you believe the parents are abusing or emotionally harmful to your niece or nephew, you will need to show the court that the child staying with their parent is actually not in the child's best interest, and also to show that the child living with you is in their best interest.
To prove that a child should be removed from their parent's custody, it must be demonstrated that the child would experience physical harm or significant, long-term emotional harm if they stay with their parent. Evidence of a parent's history of drug abuse and unsuccessful attempts at rehabilitation or physical abuse toward the child may be used to support this argument. If the parent is unwilling to seek help or change their behavior, this is also relevant information the court needs to see and hear.
It's important to understand that the court will consider the specific circumstances and needs of each child. This includes things like their past and present caregivers, the people they have formed strong emotional connections with, who has maintained contact with the child over time, and any special medical or psychological needs the child may have. If you as their aunt or uncle have contributed to any of these items, this only strengthens your case for custody.
It's essential to have strong and convincing evidence that can prove your case to the judge, that the parents are harmful and that you are the best option for custodian of your niece or nephew. To achieve this, it's advisable to seek help from an experienced legal team who can assist you in identifying and gathering the necessary evidence. Otherwise, the court is likely to side with the parents.
The fight for custody
In Georgia, it can be challenging and emotionally taxing to obtain custody of your niece or nephew, particularly since there is the legal presumption we talked about earlier - that the court assumes it is in the child's best interest to remain with their parent or parents. This implies that Georgia's laws favor granting legal custody and parental control to the child's biological parents as the default position.
If you are an Aunt or Uncle seeking custody, you may have a chance to be declared the lawful custodian of your niece or nephew if you can prove that the child is being harmed by staying with their parent and that you can provide a safer and more stable home. This can help you overcome that legal bias in favor of the parent as the custodian.
Once you get custody, what happens?
The state of Georgia recognizes that Aunts and Uncles can play a pivotal role in the lives of their nieces and nephews.
If granted custody of a child, Aunts and Uncles become legal guardians with all the rights and responsibilities that come with that title. This includes the right to make important decisions for the child, such as healthcare and education, as well as the responsibility to provide for their basic needs.
This also means the child lives with them full-time, and if the parents are still around, they may have set visitation rights to the child. The parents may also be required to pay you child support to help support your niece or nephew financially.
Later on, if you're seeking to make the relationship more permanent, you can seek to adopt your niece or nephew as well.
How We Can Help
While the process of an Aunt or Uncle obtaining custody of their nieces and nephews can be challenging, for those who are successful it is an opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child. It is important to remember that being granted custody is just the beginning of a new chapter in the relationship between Aunts and Uncles and their nieces and nephews.
With dedication and hard work, Aunts and Uncles can provide a stable and loving home for the children in their care. If you want to learn more about your rights and to see if you qualify for custody - contact Your Law Firm today.