Generally, theses inquiries relate to three specific situations: grandparents wanting visitation rights to grandchildren; grandparents wanting custody of grandchildren; and grandparents merely wanting power of attorney or formal guardianship to temporarily care for grandchildren.
While it is the express policy of the State of Georgia to encourage contact between grandchildren and grandparents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the children, in the State of Georgia grandparents have limited rights to grandchildren.
In the case of visitation rights, a grandparent may petition a Georgia superior court for visitation rights to grandchildren only in the instance in which a custody, visitation, divorce, or termination of parental rights case regarding the children is already pending, or whenever there has been an adoption in which the adopted child has been adopted by the child's blood relative or by a stepparent.
In such a situation, a Georgia superior court may grant any grandparent reasonable visitation rights if the court finds the health or welfare of the child would be harmed unless such visitation is granted, and if the best interests of the child would be served by such visitation.
In Georgia there is no presumption in favor of visitation by any grandparent.
Grandparents in Georgia may not file an original action for visitation where the parents of the minor child are not separated and the child is living with both of the parents; parents that are married and living together have the right to deny grandparents visitation with the child.
In the case an adoption petition filed by a blood relative or stepparent, a grandparent who has already been awarded visitation rights may intervene and object to the adoption of a child, and in that case the Georgia superior court may deny the adoption or grant the adoption but continue the grandparents' formal visitation rights.
Grandparents in Georgia wishing to obtain custody of their grandchildren as opposed to visitation rights may file an original action for custody in Superior Court, and may be granted custody if the court hearing the issue of custody, in the exercise of its sound discretion and taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case, determines that an award of custody to the grandparent is in the best interest of the child or children and will best promote their welfare and happiness.
In Georgia there is a rebuttable presumption that it is in the best interest of the child or children for custody to be awarded to the parent or parents, but this presumption may be overcome by a showing by the grandparent that an award of custody to the grandparent is in the best interest of the child or children.
The sole issue for determination in this type of case is what is in the best interest of the child or children.
If a grandparent feels that they can show a Georgia superior court that it is in the best interest of the child that custody be removed from a parent and awarded to the grandparent, the grandparent may file a custody action regardless if the parents are married and living together.
In the case of a grandparent in Georgia who needs to care for grandchildren temporarily with the permission of a parent but does not want formal visitation rights or custody to grandchildren, the parent may delegate to the grandparent residing in Georgia caregiving authority regarding the minor child when hardship prevents the parent from caring for the child.
This authority may be delegated without the approval of a Georgia court by executing in writing a power of attorney for the care of a minor child in a form substantially complying with the laws of Georgia.
A parent may automatically terminate the authority delegated to the grandparent by notifying the grandparent by certified or overnight mail.
The authority to designate a grandparent to act on behalf of a minor child is in addition to any other lawful action a parent may take for the benefit of the minor child, and the parent shall continue to have the right to medical, dental, mental health, and school records pertaining to the minor child.
One step further in this type of case is for the grandparent to petition for formal guardianship of the grandchild in a Georgia Probate court; this is a formal, court-ordered relationship as opposed to a non-court ordered relationship.
In Georgia, formal guardianships are granted only with the permission of both living parents and they may be terminated by the filing by the parent of a request to end the guardianship and in that case the Georgia Probate Court would determine whether it is in the best interest of the child to terminate the formal guardianship.
All visitation, custody, and guardianship cases in Georgia must be filed in the county in which the current legal custodian resides.