Third Party Custody

Third Party Custody Attorneys in Atlanta, Georgia

In a third party custody case, someone other than a biological parent is permitted to contest parental custody if they are relatives or equitable caregivers of the child, with standing as specified within Georgia statutes. The third party asking for custody must show there will be harm to the child should the child remain with the parent.

A third party custody arrangement may contemplate visitation agreements, conditions, restrictions and changes until the child reaches adulthood. This is determined by the best interest of the child and fitness of the parent. The experienced third party custody attorneys at A.B. Olmos & Associates, P.C. are able to provide the guidance and legal advice you need throughout this custody dispute.

Who May Bring an Action for Third Party Custody

The following individuals may seek contested custody of a child:

  • Paternal or maternal grandparents or great-grandparents
  • Aunts or uncles
  • Older siblings who have reached majority
  • Adoptive parents
  • Adults considered equitable caregivers by the court
A father hugs his child as the mother smiles from the couch in a professional legal environment

There is a legal process to obtain custodial rights. Being active in a child’s life does not immediately grant an individual rights to the child, and custody may not be granted if there is at least one fit biological parent. The court accounts for limited standing with family member intervention. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-1(b.1) and O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3.

Georgia law outlines the individuals who are eligible to petition the court for third party custody within defined situations. Through the Equitable Caregiver Act, third party custody has expanded to include non-biological, non-adoptive caregivers, as long as they can provide clear evidence of the following:

  1. Fully and completely undertaken a permanent, unequivocal, committed, and responsible parental role in the child’s life;
  2. Engaged in consistent caretaking of the child;
  3. Established a bonded and dependent relationship with the child, the relationship was fostered or supported by a parent of the child, and such individual and the parent have understood, acknowledged, or accepted or behaved as though such individual is a parent of the child; and
  4. Accepted full and permanent responsibilities as a parent of the child without expectation of financial compensation.

Call our office to discuss whether you meet the Georgia requirement to participate in a third party custody action. Our third party custody attorney will be able to explore your options with you.

Parental Rights and Fitness Doctrine

During third party custody disputes, the court applies the parental rights and fitness doctrine to make a ruling.

In an initial custody contest between a parent and a third party, the parental rights and fitness doctrine is considered to determine child custody placement and the child’s best interest standard does not apply. This means:

  1. The biological parent is entitled to custody unless clear and convincing evidence shows the parent is unfit.
  2. The biological parent has lost the right to custody under one or more conditions prescribed by statute.See O.C.G.A. § 19-7-1(b) and O.C.G.A. § 19-7-4.
Grandfather holds granddaughter on his shoulders as grandmother smiles up at her

In a subsequent custody modification in which the third party currently has custody, a parent can recover custody if they prove conditions have changed in regards to the welfare of the child. If the required change of condition is shown with legally sufficient evidence, the child’s best interest standard then applies. This means the court considers the following:

  • Health and safety of the child.
  •  Sibling and parent relationships. If a custody change may separate family members who are close, this may affect the court’s decision.
  • Preference for retaining family integrity and what other avenues were considered prior to the child being placed with the third party.
  • Biological parents’ relationship to one another, and each parent’s mental and physical health.
  • Each party’s ability to provide for any mental and physical health needs for the child, including additional special needs.
  • A close look at the child’s home environment to determine if adequate care can be provided, including emotional guidance and financial support.
  • Child’s age and whether they have the maturity to communicate a reasonable preference.
  • Presence of domestic violence in the home and the protection of the child.

Discuss Your Third Party Custody Case with A.B. Olmos & Associates, P.C.

If you’re ready to take the first step towards initiating a third party custody case, contact A.B. Olmos & Associates, P.C. by giving us a call at 678-683-8500 or filling out an online contact form. Custody contests between a parent and a third party can be difficult to navigate within Georgia law, and our team of family law attorneys can help. Schedule an initial consultation to discuss your options with the team experienced in this process.

Our office is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturdays by appointment only.