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New Developments in Georgia Family Law 2016

I am a few weeks behind in getting this written, but if you follow our blog regularly, you may remember a similar posting in July 2015. After the Georgia General Assembly passes legislation during its term that gets signed into law by the Governor, these new laws typically become effective July 1st.

There were a few key changes to some of the laws effecting Georgia families that passed in 2016. Without diving into the minutiae of changing "the" to "this" and the like, I thought it might be of interest to discuss a couple of the substantive changes that may have some very noticeable impacts on many of our local families:

O.C.G.A. _ 19-7-3 regarding grandparents' rights to intervene in certain domestic relations cases was expanded to allow intervention by not only grandparents, but great-grandparents AND siblings of parents. This is another example of the slow speed with which the law catches up with the realities of life, but it is a welcome change, nonetheless. As Justice Hunstein pointed out in her dissent in the 2015 case Stone v. Stone (297 Ga. 451), there is a continuing increase in the number of children being raised by persons other than their parents. While primarily this is done by grandparents; great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles are often also tasked with the roles of providing the day-to-day support for our children. We began to see in Georgia case law in 2014 and 2015 some real expansion in grandparent rights and the legislature is catching up by expanding the field of relatives who can exert legal standing. The term "legal standing" means that a person is allowed to pursue some legal claim. Previously, under the old version of this statute, only grandparents could pursue visitation rights. The restriction that these persons cannot pursue legal visitation rights when the family is intact remains.

O.C.G.A. _ 19-7-21.1 which previously allowed for voluntary acknowledgments of legitimation has been repealed which means the only method to legitimating a child born out of wedlock is by pursuing legal action in court.

These are two changes in 2016 that will assuredly effect many Georgia families. If you think that one of these changes may impact your family, call us today for a free consultation.

Additionally, there has been significant work over the past couple of years on substantially revising many of the statutes in Georgia regarding adoptions. The 2016 version of this bill was "HB 881" if you are interested in reading some about it. I have been promised that it is still very much being pursued, so maybe next year's blog post will discuss some of those changes! 

David Purvis

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