Grandparent Custody - becoming the official custodian of your grandchildren
As a grandparent, you undoubtedly share a unique and special bond with your grandchild. However, circumstances beyond your control – such as divorce or death – may result in your grandchild being left without a stable and nurturing home environment. Fortunately, under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) Section 19-7-1-(b.1), Georgia law recognizes grandparents' ability to seek custody of their grandchildren in certain situations. At Your Law Firm, we are here to help you navigate the complexities of grandparent custody actions in Georgia. Our team can guide you through the process of seeking custody and advocating for the best interests of your grandchild. Together, we will work to ensure that your grandchild has a safe and secure home environment where they can thrive.
When it comes to grandparent custody actions in Georgia, it's essential to understand what custody means, legally. Custody is more than just a child living with you most of the time. Custody is the right to make important decisions about a child's life, such as their education, medical treatment, and religion. If you're granted custody of your grandchildren, it will mean that you have legal decision-making power over them. The parents will still be around, but they will not be the primary custodians. This means that the parents will likely visit their children and have regular contact with them, but you will be responsible for their day-to-day care and upbringing. In addition, the parents will most likely have to pay child support to help cover the costs of raising their children. While the process can be complex, having a clear understanding of the legal system in Georgia can make it easier to navigate.
The fight for custody
Fighting for custody of your grandchild in Georgia can be a difficult and emotionally charged process, especially when you must overcome the legal presumption that it is in the child's best interest to stay with their parent or parents. What this means is that Georgia as a state has decided that legal parents should be the ones having custody and parental control over their children - and that is the status quo for every parent from the start. However, as a grandparent, if you can show that the child is being harmed by staying with their parent as the custodian and that you are the best option for providing a safe and stable home, you have a fighting chance under the Grandparent Custody statute of overcoming this legal presumption and being declared the lawful custodian of your grandchild.
What the courts look for in deciding grandparent custody cases
As noted earlier, there is a legal presumption that the child should stay with their parents, as it is in their "best interest" unless and until someone shows the court otherwise. Therefore, if you're a grandparent seeking custody of your grandchild, you need to be able to show the court that it is not in the best interest of the child to stay with their parents.
One way to show this is to prove that the child will suffer harm - either physical harm or significant, long-term emotional harm - if they remain with their parent. You can show this by the parent's history of drug abuse and failure to rehabilitate, or if the parent has physically hurt and abused the child, and will not seek to get help or change.
Another thing to note is that the court will look at each child's particular needs and circumstances, which includes their past and present caretakers, the people the child has formed psychological bonds with and the level of strength of those bonds, who has actually been interested in and made contact with the child over time from those looking to have custody, and if the child has any special or unique medical or psychological needs.
All the evidence must be very clear and able to prove to the judge - otherwise, the court will likely rule in favor of the parents. It's important to work with a legal team that can assist you in identifying and gathering the relevant evidence, to make sure you have the best case possible.
Once you get custody, what happens?
Grandparent custody actions can be a daunting and emotional process, but understanding what happens when a grandparent gets custody of their grandchildren can help ease some of the uncertainty. Once the custody order is in place, the grandparent becomes the legal and physical custodian of their grandchildren. In some cases the parents may pay you for child support. The parents may also have visitation rights and you will have to work with them to make sure the child or children are available to meet with the parent during those times. However, it's important to keep in mind that a parent or other potential custodian can try to modify or change the custody arrangement every two years. While this may seem overwhelming, it's important to stay informed of your legal rights and duties as a grandparent with custody. Until the court says otherwise, you are your grandchildren's legal and permanent custodians. With patience and perseverance, you can create a stable and loving home for your grandchildren.
As we've seen, grandparent custody is difficult, but not impossible. If you are already acting as the custodian of your grandchild, due to the lack of support from their parent or parents, then you have a head start in gaining official legal custody. With the right legal help and a strong case, you can provide the loving and supportive environment your grandchild needs to thrive. Let's work together to make it happen.