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What must a grandparent show to get visitation in Georgia?

A little over a month ago, this blog discussed the fact that grandparents may, in certain situations, ask a family court for visitation with their grandchildren. To review, the grandparents may join, or intervene, in an existing family law case, or they can file an original petition with the family court if there are no other pending cases involving the children, the parents are separated or divorced, no custody action for the children has been filed in the past year, and the grandparents have not filed for visitation in the past two years.

As we pointed out previously, there are a couple of factors that the law requires to be present in order to overcome a parent's wishes regarding visitation. The grandparents must show that not ordering visitation will cause harm to the child's health or welfare and that the visitation is in the child's best interest. The child's best interest standard is similar to that used throughout family law custody and visitation decisions and will vary widely based upon the specific circumstances of each case. The law does, however, offer some guidance as to making a showing of the "harm to health or welfare" standard.

According to the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, there are several sets of circumstances which may allow a court to find a reasonable likelihood of harm to a child's health or welfare. Thus, if a grandparent can show these conditions existed before the intervention or filing of the original petition, he or she is more likely to be awarded visitation. The first of these conditions is that the child lived with the grandparents for more than six months. Second, there may be a reasonable likelihood of harm if the grandparents provided financial support for the child's basic needs for more than a year. A past regular pattern of visitation with the child is the third enumerated condition. Finally, any other circumstance that would show likely emotional or physical harm if visitation isn't granted can be taken into account.

It is important to remember that meeting one of these conditions is not a guarantee of a grandparent receiving visitation rights. The parents may still show reasons why there would be no harm or that the visitation is not in the child's best interests. Anyone with questions as to how these proceedings may work in practice may wish to consider contacting an experienced Georgia family law attorney.

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