New Grandparent Rights Law in Georgia

On May 1, 2012, the Governor signed into law a new bill that strengthens the rights of grandparents in Georgia. The new law, which is effective immediately, revises the former “no presumption” principle in child custody cases and prompts judges to rule in favor of visitation for grandparents who have financially supported or regularly visited their grandchildren. The new bill indicates a need to consider the potential health risks involved for a child who is denied visitation rights to his or her grandparents. Furthermore, the law allows judges to rule that a child’s health may be compromised without “minimal” visits from grandparents, lasting at least 24 hours in a month. The exact revision to Official Code of Georgia O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3 is as follows:

“In considering whether the health or welfare of the child would be harmed without such visitation, the court shall consider and may find that harm to the child is reasonably likely to result where, prior to the original action or intervention:

(A) The minor child resided with the grandparent for six months or more;

(B) The grandparent provided financial support for the basic needs of the child for at least one year;

(C) There was an established pattern of regular visitation or child care by the

grandparent with the child; or

(D) Any other circumstance exists indicating that emotional or physical harm would be reasonably likely to result if such visitation is not granted.”