When disputes arise, our Gwinnett County child custody attorneys help to ensure both the child’s rights, and the stepparent’s rights, are protected.
Disputes over child custody are one of the most emotional and hotly contested issues dealt with in the family courts. While the law is clear that both biological parents have a right to play an active and engaged role in their child’s life, the issue is more complex when it involves the rights of stepparents. At Zimmerman & Associates, we provide the trusted legal guidance and aggressive representation you need in this situation. As experienced Gwinnett County child custody attorneys, we act as a strong legal advocate on behalf of stepparents, helping to ensure their rights are protected.
Protecting the Rights of Stepparents and Stepchildren in Georgia
Stepparents’ rights are a common issue in child custody proceedings today, considering the high number of divorced and remarried couples. It is also particularly relevant in cases involving members of the LGBTQ community.
Under Section 19-7-3 of the Georgia Code, people other than the parents do have certain legal rights when it comes to maintaining a relationship with a child. However, this generally applies to grandparents, great grandparents, and siblings. Under current laws, stepparents are generally not protected.
This is unfortunate, as many stepparents play a loving and supportive role in raising their stepchildren. In many cases, they have been involved in their child’s lives from an early age. Disrupting this relationship, and not allowing the stepparent to have parenting time, can be psychologically harmful to both them and the child. At Zimmerman & Associations, we act as a strong legal advocate on the side of stepparents, and their stepchildren, in these situations, helping to ensure their rights and relationships are protected.
Stepparent Adoption and Obtaining Parental Rights
Even though stepparents, in many circumstances, have been heavily involved in raising and building emotional ties with a child, they cannot legally be awarded visitation rights in Georgia under the current paternity laws, unless they have gone through the process of legally adopting that child, or entering into an agreement with the child’s legal parents. If the stepparent is concerned about maintaining certain legal, parental rights with respect to a child (presuming that, as a spouse, the stepparent meets the basic requirements mandated by Georgia law with respect to being generally eligible), the stepparent can seek to adopt the child under any one of these circumstances:
- When the child’s biological father/mother is no longer living, and with the living father/mother’s consent;
- Presuming the child’s biological parents are not married to each other, the biological father/mother voluntarily surrenders his/her parental rights in writing (not required if the biological parent has had no contact with the child, and has failed to provide support for at least 12 months), while the other parent also consents to the adoption, in writing;
- If the biological father/mother has failed to maintain a meaningful parental relationship or pay child support for a year or more, the biological father/mother’s rights may be terminated, and the stepparent may adopt the child over objection.
It is important to note that, if the child is 14 years or older, he or she must also consent to the adoption. The process is initiated by working with an experienced child custody attorney to file a Petition for Stepparent Adoption. Once a stepparent adopts the child, he/she has the same legal parental rights as a biological parent, meaning that he/she can seek custody/visitation rights upon divorce. At Zimmerman & Associates, we provide the trusted legal representation you need to defend your rights as a stepparent in Georgia child custody proceedings.
Reach Out to Our Gwinnett County Child Custody Attorneys Today
If you are a stepparent involved in a parenting time dispute, reach out to Zimmerman & Associate. We act as a strong advocate on your side, helping to protect the relationship you have with your stepchild. Call or contact our Norcross child custody attorneys online and request a consultation today.