Georgia law designates non-parents/third parties into two (2) groups: Specified party and Non-specified party. A specified party includes: a grandparent, great-grandparent, aunt, uncle, great-aunt, great-uncle, sibling or adoptive parent. A non-specified party includes all others. The importance of these designations in Georgia Child Custody law is based on the difference in legal burden that the court requires by the non-parent via evidence to obtain custody of a minor child when opposed by the child’s parent.
A specified party, listed above, is required to show the court by clear and convincing evidence that 1) parental custody would harm the child (in order to rebut the presumption in favor of the parent), and 2) the award to the specified party will best promote the child’s best interests.
In contrast, the legal burden of a non-specified party is based upon whether the child custody hearing is an initial determination of custody or a modification. In an initial custody determination, between a parent and non-specified party, the parent is entitled to custody unless it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that 1) such parent is unfit or 2) has lost the right to custody under provisions provided by Georgia law.
In a modification action, where a non-parent has been awarded custody in a subsequent modification proceeding, the parent must show 1) a change of condition affecting the welfare of the child and 2) that awarding the parent custody would be in the child’s best interest.
Post written by: Tiffany Lunn Esq