Fighting for child custody is never easy, especially for people who are seeking custody of a child they are not biologically related to. The law has traditionally favored the biological parent in matters of custody. For people who recognize a child they are not blood-related to as one of their own, this created big obstacles in divorce and child custody cases.
In July 2019, Georgia enacted a new law called the Equitable Caregiver Law. The Equitable Caregiver Law allows an adult who has previously cared for the child to request physical and legal custody of a child.
What qualifies someone as an Equitable Caregiver”?
For the courts to consider you an Equitable Caregiver, you must fulfill the following criteria:
- You have already undertaken a permanent, committed, and responsible role of a parent in the child’s life.
- You have consistently proved caretaking for the child as a parent, without expecting financial compensation.
- You have established an impactful bond with the child in which the child was dependent on you to some level.
- The relationship between you and the child was acknowledged by a parent of the child, who then accepted and behaved as though you were a rightful parent.
What does someone need to prove to a court to become an Equitable Caregiver?
In addition to meeting the criteria above, you must be able to prove that the child would suffer harm – physically or emotionally – if the Equitable Caretaker does not hold custody. Ultimately, the court wants to determine that continuing a relationship between you and the child is in the best interest of said child.
To determine the impact on the child, the court will consider:
- Who the child has formed strong emotional and psychological bonds with.
- The past and present caretakers of the child.
- Any unique medical or psychological needs that the child has, and who is better able to meet said needs.
Who benefits from the Equitable Caregiver law?
Some examples of people who might benefit from the Equitable Caregiver law are:
- Stepparents who is seeking custody of a child after separation or death of the biological parent.
- Grandparents who want legal custody of their grandchildren.
- Non-biological parents who care for a child and believe it is in the child’s best interest to stay with them.
- Non-biological parents in LGBT relationships who want custody of a child after a divorce or death of the biological parent.
Ultimately, the new Equitable Caregiver law changes the way that courts understand important adult-child bonds and helps broaden the legal understanding of family. Under this law, many Georgian children will find loving, nurturing homes with loved ones.