Hi, I'm Dave Ward with The Ward Law Firm. One of the things that's been a problem here in Georgia for a number of years is, what happens to stepparents and that relationship that they might develop with kids, if the marriage was to be dissolved through divorce or some other mechanism?
A lot of times what can end up happening is it sort of leaves a stepparent who's developed a long-term relationship with a child sort of high and dry for lack of a better term. Well, the legislature has recognized that this is a problem and recently enacted something called an Equitable Caregiver Statute. Under George's Equitable Caregiver Statute, we now have an opportunity for people who have fulfilled a parental role in a child's life. We've now given them an opportunity, even if they're not a parent to seek custodial rights, visitation rights, etc. So that way we can protect and maintain that relationship for a child.
In order to qualify as an equitable caregiver there are 5 things that a person needs to prove to the court by clear and convincing evidence. The first one is they have to demonstrate a clear and unequivocal dedication to a parent-child relationship with the child. Number two, establish that there has been an ongoing and established pattern of caregiving where the child is concerned. They have to also establish that this relationship was developed with the approval of one or both of the actual biological parents and legal parents of the child. Four, have to establish this was done with no expectation of any sort of financial compensation and then number five, they have to establish for the court that severing that relationship presents a risk of either physical harm or long-term emotional harm to the child and that it would be in the child's best interest for that relationship to continue.
There are a number of things that people can do in order to try and give themselves a leg up on these situations, including in situations where say for example, there was a death of the custodial parent. There are things that can be done to help put somebody in a good position to make their case as an equitable caregiver for that child.
If you'd like more information about being an equitable caregiver, qualifying for and what you can do in advance to try and take care of that. Give us a call. I'm Dave Ward with The Ward Law Firm and we help parents protect those things that matter most.