Where a child was living with his or her mother and adoptive father (said father being his or her stepfather who had adopted the child after termination of the biological father’s rights), the paternal grandparents had no right to bring an original action for grandparents visitation rights. The Court of Appeals reached this holding by looking to the following language in O.C.G.A.
§ 19-7-3(b): “This subsection shall not authorize an original action [for establishment of grandparents visitation rights] where the parents of the minor child are not separated and the child is living with both of the parents.” The appellate court asserted that any other construction – i.e., one that would not include an adoptive parent as a “parent” for the purpose of this statute – would accord him or her unwarranted second class parental status.
IN SUM: the paternal grandparents should have moved to intervene when the stepfather was adopting child / their son’s biological rights were being terminated. The moral of the story is that grandparents cannot wait until a stepparent adoption is finalized, and then hope to seek to establish visitation rights through an original action.
Laura Morgan is a Family Law Consultant. Laura is available for consultation, brief writing and research on family law issues throughout the country. She can be reached through her website. www.famlawconsult.com