I am not the child’s biological or adoptive parent, but I have acted in a parental role. Can I get custody?
The law allows for a person to establish him/herself as an “equitable caregiver,” which is a person who has acted as a parent for a child under certain circumstances. An equitable caregiver could be:
- a stepparent who has not adopted the child, but has acted as the child’s parent;
- a parent’s romantic partner who has acted as the child’s parent;
- another family member who has been acting as the child’s parent; or
- another person substantially involved in the child’s life in a parental role.
You can only get custody or visitation as an equitable caregiver if the child’s parents are separated, and the child is not living with both parents.1 However, you cannot ask the court to become an equitable caregiver if:
- your relationship to the child was created as a result of “dependency proceedings,” or because the child was removed from his/her parents’ home as a result of abuse, neglect, or exploitation and placed with you; or
- there is an open child welfare and youth services case from the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Services about the child and his/her parents.2
For more information on how you can convince the judge that you should be considered an “equitable caregiver,” go to What will I need to prove to the judge to establish myself as an equitable caregiver?
1 O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3.1h)
2 O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3.1(i)