If the Georgia House of Representatives has its way, judges in Gwinnett County and throughout Georgia will soon have additional authority in granting visitation rights to Grandma and Grandpa. House Bill 1198 unanimously passed the House last week and is headed to the Senate for consideration.
Georgia law already allows the granting of grandparent visitation rights through the court system. The new law lays out specific grounds for the court to consider in determining whether grandparents are entitled to visitation, including:
- Whether the child lived with the grandparents for six or more months
- Whether the grandparents financially supported the child for one or more years
- Whether the grandparents had previously been allowed to regularly spend time with the child
- Whether the child would be harmed if he or she was not allowed to see the grandparents
Parents still maintain the right to decide whether grandparents should have access to their grandchildren, but a court can now overrule a parent's decision if harm to the child would result.
The proposed law allows a court to presume that a child would be harmed if not allowed to see his or her grandparents. A parent who does not want the grandparents involved would have to offer evidence to the contrary to stop grandparent visitation.
If grandparent visitation rights are granted, at a minimum under the proposed law, the visitation schedule must include at least 24 hours per month. Regardless of whether visitation is granted, the court may order the custodial parent to let grandparents know when their grandchild will be involved in a public performance such as a school play or graduation.
There may be changes to the new grandparent visitation legislation before it passes the Senate if it passes the Senate. Any questions related to the rights of grandparents to visitation should be discussed with a Georgia child custody and visitation attorney.