Georgia’s New Law About Equitable Caregivers

If you spend as much time online and on social media as most people do, chances are that you’re always up-to-date on the latest celebrity scandal and today’s most popular viral video. News that truly affects your day-to-day life, on the other hand, doesn’t always make it onto your newsfeed. As your local experts in Georgia family law, our team at Oxendine Law is spreading the word about an important change to Georgia law, O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3.1, which establishes the concept of equitable caregivers for children. Here’s what you need to know about the new law.

What Is an Equitable Caregiver?

Simply put, an equitable caregiver is someone who fulfills a parental role for a child but isn’t the child’s legal parent. This most often applies to a parent’s spouse or long-term partner who lives with the family. For example, let’s say John and Mary have been in a relationship and living together for ten years. John has a 12-year-old child from a previous relationship. While Mary isn’t that child’s mother, she’s been living with the child and acting as a parent for them for ten years. Under Georgia’s new law, she may be considered an equitable caregiver.

How is Someone Adjudicated as an Equitable Caregiver?

An individual seeking to be adjudicated an equitable caregiver of a child under O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3.1 needs to show the Court certain criteria to be eligible to be considered as a possible custodian for the child:

  • That you have fully and completely taken on a permanent, committed role as a parent to the child;
  • That you have engaged in consistent caretaking for the child;
  • That you have established a bonded and dependent relationship with the child, that relationship was supported by a parent of the child, and you and at least one parent have acknowledged and behaved as though you are also a parent to the child;
  • That you have accepted responsibilities as a parent to the child without expectation of financial compensation.
  • That you have demonstrated that the child will suffer harm if the relationship doesn’t continue and that continuing the relationship is in the best interest of the child.

Why is O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3.1 Important?

In effect, O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3.1 expands Georgia family law so that it accommodates non-traditional family structures. Not every household consists of mom, dad, and baby anymore. This bill recognizes that a person without biological relationship or documented legal ties to a child can still be an important part of that child’s life and may even be the best person to raise that child.

For anyone with a vested interest in a child’s well-being, whether it’s their own child or someone close to them, it’s important to understand the basics of family law in Georgia. However, keep in mind that this blog is merely a brief overview of the basics. Family law is a complex field and we’re here to help. To find out your options for filing a custody modification or an original custody arrangement based on this new law, call Oxendine Law to discuss your case.