If you are a grandparent, stepparent, domestic partner or any other adult who has taken care of a child and shared a meaningful relationship with the child, you may wonder what rights you have to custody and visitation in Georgia.
Equitable caregiver’s law
The equitable caregiver’s law is a new law that became effective in July of 2019. It allows an adult who to request custody and visitation rights, even if they are not related by blood to the child. The law does not take away rights from the biological parents but considers the best interests of the child.
The law can apply to grandparents, stepparents, domestic partners, same-sex partners or any other interested party. The law may also cause potential issues if there is a conflict between the equitable caregiver and another relative of the child.
To be adjudicated as an equitable caregiver, an individual must meet certain criteria and follow certain procedures. The individual must file a pleading and an affidavit with the court, stating specific facts to support their claim.
Family court review
The court will then review the pleadings and affidavits and determine whether the individual has presented prima facie evidence of the requirements for an equitable caregiver relationship. First, the individual requesting rights must have established a parental role in the child’s life without financial compensation.
The individual must have engaged in consistent caretaking of the child and established a bonded and dependent relationship with the child, which was fostered or supported by a parent of the child. However, both the individual and the parent must have understood, acknowledged or accepted or behaved as though the individual is a parent of the child.
The individual must have demonstrated that the child will suffer physical harm or long-term emotional harm if the relationship between them is terminated. And, that continuing the relationship is in the best interest of the child.
If the court finds that the individual has met these requirements by clear and convincing evidence, it will adjudicate them as an equitable caregiver and grant them custody or visitation rights accordingly. The court will also consider other factors such as the wishes of the child, the stability of the home environment and the impact on the child’s physical, mental, and emotional health.