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Limited Exception to Grandparents’ Rights Statute in Georgia

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The Supreme Court of Georgia recently affirmed and clarified a limited exception to the law that allows grandparents to petition the Court for visitation rights with their grandchildren.Hudgins v. Harding, 313 Ga. App. 613 (2012). Generally, when a child is adopted, the former grandparents' rights are terminated with the adoption. (See O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3 (b)). However, when a blood relative or a stepparent adopts a child, grandparents have theright to intervene and seek visitation rights in a new civil action. This new action is permitted only when the parents of the child are separated and the child is not living with both parents.

In the case of Hudgins v. Harding, 313 Ga. App. 613 (2012), the biological parents divorced and the minor children all lived with the mother. She remarried and her new husband adopted thechildren. The biological father's parents, the child's biological paternal grandparents, attempted to intervene and filed an action to obtain grandparents' visitation rights. Id. at 614.However, due to the fact that there was no evidence that parents (the biological mother and the adoptive father) were not living together, the Court found that the grandparents' attempt tointervene and get visitation rights with the children was not permitted under the law. Id. at 616. The Court remanded the case back to the lower Court to determine whether the biologicalmother and adoptive father were separated and whether the minor child was living with both parents. Id.

This case is distinguished from a recent ruling in Kunz et al. v. Bailey et al., 290 Ga. 361 (2012), which affirmed that grandparents could file an original action for visitation rights ifthe parents are separated and the child is not living with both parents. However, in Kunz v. Bailey, there was evidence that the child was living with both parents and that the parents were notseparated, thus the Court denied the grandparents' request. The case acknowledged that State and the Court have no right to intervene into a parent's right to raise children when the family isintact. Id.

If you have questions about grandparent's rights, please contact our Atlanta Family Law Attorneys.

By Elizabeth Doak, Associate, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC

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