In our last post, we began discussing how one of the more overlooked aspects of divorce is the impact it can have on extended family. In particular, we focused on how grandparents might find themselves in the unenviable position of wondering whether they will be able to continue spending time with their grandchildren post-divorce.
To that end, we started discussing how the law in Georgia grants those who meet the definition of grandparents the ability to seek visitation rights by either joining an existing case or filing a petition for visitation.
What does filing a petition for visitation entail?
The first way in which a grandparent can seek to secure visitation rights is by filing an original action — i.e., a “Petition for Visitation” — with the superior court. This essentially means the grandparent is pursuing the matter independently and presumably with the assistance of a family law attorney.
Do any conditions have to be met in order for the petition to be heard?
Yes. The grandchild’s legal parents must either be separated or divorced, and there must not be any other legal actions relating to visitation or custody of the child pending before the superior court.
Furthermore, the grandparent cannot file the petition if 1) it’s been less two years since the last time they undertook this action and 2) another custody action has been filed concerning the grandchild within the preceding year.
What does joining an existing case entail?
Here, rather than pursuing legal action on their own, the grandparent seeking visitation rights essentially intervenes — again most likely with the assistance of a family law attorney — in an ongoing case relating to anything from divorce and custody to the termination of parental rights.
In a future post, we’ll examine what exactly a grandparent needs to prove to the court in order to prevail in their bid for visitation rights.
Remember to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you have any questions or concerns regarding divorce, child custody or other family law matters.