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Child Custody – Georgia Case Law Update Part 2

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On January 30, 2009, the Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s award of custody to the child’s maternal grandmother instead of her father. In Galtieri v. O’Dell (A08A1822), the biological father, who had legitimated the child, contended that the trial court erred in its determination because it failed to find that awarding custody to him would harm the child.

The Court of Appeals agreed and vacated the trial court’s ruling, stating that “it is clear that the trial court failed to apply the proper legal analysis for determining whether custody should be awarded to…the maternal grandmother, rather than…the biological father.” Specifically, the Court pointed to O.C.G.A. §19-7-1(b.1), which establishes a rebuttable presumption in custody disputes between a biological parent and a third party relative that it is in the child’s best interest to award custody to the parent. To win custody, the third party relative must show by clear and convincing evidence that awarding custody to the parent would harm the child. The Court of Appeals found that the trial court’s statement that “from the personal experience of the court…it would be detrimental to the child to move from Georgia” was insufficient to meet this standard.

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