Stepparents in many states have a hand in raising a child, which we often see in Hollywood. But in Georgia, stepparents can't be awarded visitation rights or be obligated to pay child support to stepchildren.
In most states, the court will show a strong preference to the natural parents' wishes, but stepparents can still overcome that presumption.
Georgia, however, is another story.
Twenty-three of the 50 states statutorily authorize stepparent visitation. In 10 states, stepparents are explicitly named as having the right to request visitation. In 13 other states, stepparents are considered "interested third parties." Five others allow stepparents to petition for visitation.
The guiding rule for those courts is the best interests of the child. So if a court finds that the child is best served by stepparent visitation, the court can grant a stepparent visitation rights.
Some of the factors other state courts will consider in granting a former stepparent visitation rights include:
- Personal involvement. How involved was the stepparent is in the child's life?
- Length of relationship in the parental role. How long did the stepparent fill the role of the child's natural parent?
- Emotional relationship. How close -- emotionally, not geographically -- are the stepparent and child to each other?
- Financial contributions. How much financial support did the stepparent provide to the child?
- Detriment to the child. How much harm, if any, will the child suffer if the increased visitation isn't granted?
Stepparents in Georgia
In Georgia, courts don't follow the best interests of the child. Parents have a constitutionally protected right to decide their child's "companionship, care, custody and management."
Even if the child explicitly says he or she wants a stepparent to visit, in Georgia the child's wishes are subordinate to the right of the legal parent. (In other states, a stepparent can prevail if denying visitation would be detrimental to the child. Factors the court will consider include the child's happiness, sense of security, mental health, or emotional development.)
The vast majority of states think the best interests of the child should be the determining factor for stepparent visitation rights. That's just not the case in Georgia. Instead, stepparents have to make an informal agreement with legal parents outside of the court to get stepparent visitation opportunities.
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