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Grandparent Visitation

Authored By: Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc LSC Funded

Information

Grandparent Visitation
by: Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc.

GRANDPARENT VISITATION

Lindsay C. Verity
Atlanta Legal Aid Society
Last Revised: January 2014

Do grandparents have the right to visit their grandchildren?

In Georgia, under O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3, grandparents have the right to ask the court for visitation rights but they do not automatically have the right to actually visit their grandchildren.  There are two ways for a grandparent to ask the court for visitation.  

1.   File a Petition for Visitation. A grandparent can file an original action in the form of a “Petition for Visitation” in the superior court. To file this type of action:

  • there cannot be any other cases before the court that involve custody or visitation for the child,
  • the legal parents (including adoptive parents) of the child must be separated or divorced (if the child is living with both parents, a grandparent cannot file a petition for visitation),
  • a grandparent cannot file this type of action more than once every two years, and 
  • a grandparent cannot file this type of action in any year that another custody action has been filed regarding the child.

2.   Join an Existing Case. A grandparent may get involved in an existing case for custody, visitation, divorce, or termination of parental rights.

Who is a “grandparent”?

A grandparent is the parent of a parent of a minor child, the parent of a child’s parent who has died, or the parent of a minor child’s parent whose parental rights have been terminated.  A biological father’s parents are grandparents, even if the father was not married to the mother and has not legitimated the child.

What does a grandparent have to do to win a visitation case?

In most situations, to win a visitation case, a grandparent must show the court, by clear and convincing evidence, two things:

1.       The child's health or welfare would be harmed if the child could not visit the grandparent AND

  1. Visitation is in the child's best interests.

How would the child’s health or welfare be “harmed”?

The court has to consider and may find that harm to the child is reasonably likely to occur if, before filing the original action or intervention:

·         The child lived with the grandparent for six months or more,

·         The grandparent provided financial support for the child’s basic needs for at least one year,

·         There was a pattern of regular visitation between the child and grandparent OR

·         There is any other circumstance which shows that the child would likely have emotional or physical harm if visitation is not granted.

Additionally, a court may presume that not getting any visitation with a grandparent would be emotionally harmful to a child’s health.  However, the parents can show the court that this presumption is not true for their specific case.

What if the child’s parent (the grandparent’s child) is deceased, incapacitated, or incarcerated?

If a parent dies, is incapacitated, or is incarcerated, that parent’s parent only has to show that visitation with him- or herself would be in the child’s best interest.  The grandparent does not have to prove that the child would be harmed if visitation is not granted.

Are there restrictions on the visitation that a grandparent can be granted?

Yes, the visitation cannot interfere with child’s school or regular extracurricular activities.  However, any visitation given to a grandparent shall include at least 24 hours per month.

Can a grandparent go to the child’s public events?

Whether or not visitation is granted, the court can tell the parents that they have to tell the grandparent about all of the child’s public performances (such as graduations, music recitals, or sporting events).

Can a parent ask the court to change or stop the visitation with a grandparent?

After visitation has been granted to a grandparent, once every two-years a parent (or legal custodian or legal guardian of the child) can petition the court to amend or revoke the visitation. 

Can a grandparent get involved in an adoption?

Yes, but only when no legal parent is alive at the time of adoption (O.C.G.A. § 19-8-5).

For more information please contact the Atlanta Legal Aid Society or Georgia Legal Services Program office nearest you.


For Relatives caring for a minor child, call the Relative Caregiver Legal Hotline: 1-888-257-9519 (toll free)

For Clayton, Cobb, Dekalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett Counties, call Atlanta Legal Aid Society: 404-524-5811

For all other counties, call Georgia Legal Services Program: 1-800-498-9469 (toll free)

For Seniors age 60 and older, call the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline: 1-888-257-9519 (toll free)

Lindsay C. Verity
Director, Grandparent/Relative Caregiver Project
Atlanta Legal Aid Society
Last Revised: January 2014

Last Review and Update: Jan 27, 2014