Understanding family law can be challenging, especially when it comes to the rights of grandparents. Often, we hear folks ask: “do grandparents have rights to grandchildren in Georgia?”
The answer is, yes – grandparents in Georgia do have certain rights to their grandchildren, but these rights are not automatically granted and often come into play in specific situations.
Let’s take a deeper look.
How Do I File for Grandparents’ Rights in Georgia?
The process of filing for grandparents’ rights in Georgia can seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.
First, you need to file a petition with the court, stating your reasons for seeking visitation or custody. This is best done with the assistance of a knowledgeable family law attorney who can guide you through the legal intricacies.
Remember, in Georgia, the courts always prioritize the best interests of the child. Thus, you need to prepare strong evidence showing that maintaining a relationship with you is beneficial to the grandchild’s wellbeing.
For a grandparent custody case, you must also show that it is harmful for the child to remain with their parents – this is a high hurdle, but can be met if the parents are physically abusive or have untreated drug or alcohol issues.
If you’re seeking grandparent visitation, then you need to show that it will be harmful to the child to not see you or have a relationship with you. You also cannot file for visitation if the child lives with both their parents and their parents are not separated.
Seek Legal Counsel
To find out more for you specific situation, reach out to a local grandparent rights attorney. They’ll be able to point you in the right direction of what kind of case to file, and what you’ll need to prove in order to have the judge side with you in your case.
Reasons Grandparents Can File for Custody of a Grandchild
As a grandparent, there are several reasons you might wish to seek custody of a grandchild. Perhaps the parents are unable to provide a stable home due to substance abuse, mental health issues, or incarceration. Or maybe there’s been neglect, abuse, or abandonment.
In all these scenarios, you, as a grandparent, can step in to provide a safe and loving environment. But remember, the court will require substantial proof that the parents are unfit and that living with you is in the grandchild’s best interest.
How Much Does It Cost to File for Grandparents Rights?
The cost of filing for grandparents’ rights varies depending on the complexity of the case and whether or not you hire an attorney. Here are some common fees associated with grandparents’ rights cases in Georgia:
Filing Fees & Court Costs
Court filing fees may range from $200 to $500, but can go higher if the case involves custody battles or requires expert witnesses.
Hiring a lawyer can significantly increase the cost, but considering the legal complexities involved in such cases, it might be a wise investment. An experienced attorney can help navigate the legal system and increase your chances of success.
For an uncontested case, where the parents agree to you having custody or visitation with your grandchildren, attorney fees to draft and file the paperwork range somewhere between $2,000 – $5,000.
For a contested case, where you must go to court to fight to get grandparent custody or visitation, you’re looking at $5,000 up to $25,000 or even more, in attorney’s fees.
Guardian ad Litem Fees
A guardian ad litem is an attorney who represents the children and determines what their best interest is: stay with mom or dad? Go with you as the grandparent? Have visitation with you? Or not have visitation with you?
If the court determines that you are able to carry the cost of this guardian ad litem, you could be required to foot the whole bill. These costs are similar to hiring an attorney for yourself, and range anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 or more, especially if a trial is needed in your case.
Mediation is often required in contested domestic relations cases in Georgia – and that includes grandparent custody or visitation cases. Much like the guardian ad litem cost, if the court determines that you are financially able to carry the cost of mediation, the court could require you to pay the entire cost of the mediation.
This includes paying them mediator, a third-party neutral trained to help all parties involved come to an agreement on some or all of the outstanding issues, if at all possible.
Mediators generally cost between $200 – $400 per hour, and you can expect to be in mediation for 4 to 8 hours – or even more. So that’s roughly $800 to $3,200 and up.
Rough Total Costs
If we add up all those numbers from above, you’re looking at about $5,000 or so for an uncontested grandparents’ rights case. And about $12,000 up to $40,000 or much more, for a contested case, depending on whether you must pay for other costs or only your own attorney costs.
Due to the financial commitment that may be involved in pursuing your grandparents’ rights, make sure you have a consultation with a local attorney who is experienced in grandparents’ rights cases, to get a better ballpark of what you’ll be signing up for once you bring your case.
It may be expensive, but worth it, to protect your relationship with your grandchildren.
How Much Visitation Can Grandparents Get in Georgia?
The amount of visitation grandparents can get in Georgia depends on several factors, including the child’s schedule, the parents’ wishes, and the court’s assessment of the child’s best interests.
Georgia law does consider the importance of maintaining a bond between grandchildren and grandparents.
However, the courts also respect the rights of parents to make decisions about their children’s upbringing.
Therefore, obtaining visitation rights might involve demonstrating that the child would suffer harm if not allowed to maintain a relationship with you.
While grandparents do have certain rights to their grandchildren in Georgia, exercising these rights often requires navigating complex legal channels. If you find yourself in this situation, talk to a local grandparents’ rights attorney about it to ensure your grandchild’s best interests are upheld.