Divorcing spouses must navigate their changing personal relationship while building separate lives. In addition, a divorce involving children from a previous relationship may present further complications.
Georgia is one of the few states to address stepparents’ rights through its recent implementation of the Equitable Caregiver Act.
What is the Equitable Caregiver Act?
As of 2019, Georgia law recognizes that individuals other than a child’s biological parents may attain parental status. As a result, aunts, uncles, grandparents and stepparents are among those who may petition the court for child custody and visitation.
How can stepparents become equitable caregivers?
Stepparents hoping to become their stepchildren’s third-party caregivers must convince the court to assign them equitable caregiver status by:
- Demonstrating their parental role in the children’s lives
- Contributing to the children’s consistent, ongoing caregiving
- Providing care without financial compensation
- Demonstrating a close and nurturing bond with the children
- Showing that the biological parents support their emotional bond with the children
- Demonstrating that severing their relationship with the children would distress them emotionally or physically
After meeting these requirements, stepparents may proceed with petitioning the court for child custody or visitation.
Does equitable caregiver status guarantee visitation or custody?
Equitable caregiver status does not automatically grant stepparents visitation or custody. They must also petition the court for these rights. However, doing so does not guarantee that they will succeed. For example, the court still prioritizes the rights of fit biological parents. Ultimately, a judge will make a ruling considering the most beneficial arrangement for the children.
Although Georgia’s Equitable Caregiver Act is relatively new, it addresses the expanding definition of parenthood and has the potential to ease the emotional stress children experience during a divorce.