Understanding Visitation Rights
Visitation is the part of the court order that defines the conditions for the non-custodial parent to have contact with the child. Visitation is limited by legal custody being vested in the other parent. This means that your visitation does not give you the authority to conflict with the long range decisions and policies of the parent with legal custody. For example, if the parent with legal custody has decided to raise the child in the Jewish tradition, the parent with visitation rights may not take the child to be baptized in a Catholic church.
Even in cases of abuse, the only reported cases have upheld supervised visitation. Supervised visitation is when the parent is only allowed to visit with the child in the company of another person. This person is usually a friend or relative that the two parents agree will be allowed to act as a chaperon. Supervised visitation often calls for a restriction of visitation to a particular location and time.
Who can be awarded visitation? Obviously a biological parent can be awarded visitation. Additionally, grandparents (even when the parents weren’t married or are not currently divorced) and step-parents may be awarded visitation rights in Georgia. While there are no reported cases of brothers or sisters being given visitation, a strong argument could be made that it would be in the best interest of the child.
When can visitation be denied? The court has the power to deny visitation. Normally the court will only stop visitation for a certain time or until a certain task is performed. For example, the court has previously stayed visitation until the parent met their financial obligation. If your spouse should deny you court ordered visitation, you first file for a modification of visitation for a more definite schedule, before filing a contempt action. Many parents feel they have the right to stop paying child support, but they are wrong. Withholding of child support will only get you in trouble and possibly arrested.
Like many states, Georgia allows grandparents to seek reasonable visitation rights with their grandchildren. Grandparents may file for custody on their own, original court action for visitation with their grandchild. The attorneys at North Metro Litigators represent grandparents in visitations cases throughout Marietta, Smyrna, Alpharetta, Atlanta, Cartersville, Woodstock, and the entire Metro Atlanta area. Although grandparents have this right under Georgia law, there are some limitations. Grandparents may not file for visitation rights with a child who lives with both parents, if the parents have not separated. Furthermore, grandparents may only file an original court action for visitation every two years.
The second way a grandparent may file for visitation is to join an existing legal action including:
- Anything that directly relates to the custody or visitation rights of the minor grandchild, including divorce between the child’s parents
- A court action involving the adoption of the minor child by a step-parent or blood relative
- A court action for the termination of parental rights
After a grandparent files a court action for visitation rights, the court may appoint a “guardian ad litem” (independent advocate and spokesperson) for the child and send the parties to mediation if the court finds that the grandparent can bear the cost. Often, parties who are sent to mediation can come up with their own visitation arrangements. If not, or if no mediation is held, the court will hold a hearing to decide the visitation request.
In Georgia, the MINIMUM visitation to be awarded to a Grandparent is 24 hours per month. Many times, Grandparents are awarded one full weekend per month or more. Do not be without attorney representation during your visitation petition process. Contact the attorneys at North Metro Litigators today to start your visitation court action.