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Attorneys Vic Hill and Brad MacDonald

Georgia bill increases grandparent visitation rights

Recently, the Georgia House of Representatives passed a law that aims to give grandparents more access to their grandchildren, even if the children’s parents oppose such contact. The bill will strengthen the rights of Georgia grandparents to visit grandchildren who are caught in the middle of child custody or similar family law cases.

House Bill 1198 will increase grandparents’ visitation rights regarding grandchildren whose parents are embroiled in divorce or custody cases, or the termination of parental rights. Under the new law, family court judges will be encouraged to allow children to visit their grandparents when that grandparent has previously visited with the child on a regular basis or has financially supported the child for at least one year.

In addition, the new law will allow judges to rule stating that a child would be harmed without some sort of minimal contact with their grandparents, if those previously stated qualifications have been met.

If the judge makes that finding, he or she must order the child to spend at least 24 hours per month with the grandparent. It is not known whether those hours must be consecutive.

Like all other child custody determinations, this new bill would only require family court judges to consider whether grandparent custody is in the ‘best interests of the child.’ As in most other areas of family court, the custody determination will still be largely up to the discretion of the judge.

The House of Representatives passed the bill in early March, and the Senate followed suit this week. Barring any additional amendments or procedural issues, it will now go to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal for his signature.

Source: Anderson Independent Mail, “Grandparent visit rights backed under Ga. bill,” Mar. 7, 2012

Source: Georgia General Assembly, “HB 1198