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Do grandparents have visitation rights in Georgia family law?

When discussing divorce, child support, child custody and other family law matters, most Georgia residents focus on the nuclear family of the parents and their children. But, while it may be less common than in bygone years, there is often an extended family that is affected by the breakup of an intimate relationship that involves children. One major relationship that can sometimes be overlooked is that between the children and their grandparents. So what rights do grandparents have in Georgia regarding their grandchildren?

Georgia Code Section 19-7-3 provides some guidance regarding how grandparents may petition for visitation rights. This section of the law defines grandparents as the parent of a minor child's parent, regardless of whether the minor child's parent has died or had parental rights terminated. While there is no presumptive right to visitation for grandparents in Georgia, they may make a formal request of the court to award some right to visit the grandchildren.

The two basic ways to do this are to intervene in an already pending family law case, or to file a new Petition for Visitation with the court. To file a new petition, there are some restrictions, such as that there can be no pending custody or visitation cases, the parents must be divorced or separated, no custody petition can have been filed the same year as the grandparents request and the grandparents can only file a petition once every two years.

Generally speaking, for a grandparent to prevail in receiving visitation rights, two factors must be present. The court must find that not allowing visitation with the grandparent would cause harm to the child's health and welfare, and the visitation must be in the child's best interest.

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