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Grandparent Rights to visit their grandchildren caught up in custody or divorce cases have been strengthened by the passage of House Bill 1198, passed by the Georgia House of Representatives March 7, amended, passed and adopted by the Georgia Senate on March 26, amendment accepted and passed by the House on March 29. The Governor signed it into law on May 1, 2012.
The new law will increase grandparent rights to seek visitation when grandchildren are involved in cases involving child custody, divorce or the termination of parental rights. It will encourage judges to allow children to visit their grandparents when that grandparent has financially supported the child for a year or regularly visited with the child.
The new law allows judges to rule that the child's interests would be harmed without some "minimal" contact with their grandparents. Those visits would total at least 24 hours in a month.
The new law eliminates the language that states that there is "no presumption" in favor of grandparent visitation, and adds the following language:
"In considering whether the health or welfare of the child would be harmed without such visitation, the court shall consider and may find that harm to the child is reasonably likely to result where, prior to the original action or intervention:
(A) The minor child resided with the grandparent for six months or more;
(B) The grandparent provided financial support for the basic needs of the child for at least one year;
(C) There was an established pattern of regular visitation or child care by the grandparent with the child; or
(D) Any other circumstance exists indicating that emotional or physical harm would be reasonably likely to result if such visitation is not granted."
It further establishes a rebuttable presumption that a child who is denied any contact with his or her grandparent or who is not provided some minimal opportunity for contact with his or her grandparent may suffer emotional injury that is harmful to such child's health.
The new law is effective immediately. It revises Official Code of Georgia O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3.