The so-called “traditional” family structure is quickly becoming, well, less traditional. Loving, committed couples are choosing to raise kids together in whatever form suits them best.
For example, the Family Equality Council estimates there are 200,000 children in the U.S. being raised by a same-sex couple. There are also many blended families, with a step-parent happily taking on a significant parental role with their partner’s child.
The law has not always done a good job accounting for the wide range of potential family situations. Fortunately, a recent change helped bridge a troubling gap.
Left out in the cold
Many adults who are not biologically related to a child still commit to taking on a legitimate parental role. For quite a long time, if that parent separated from the child’s biological parent, they could be left out in the cold.
That’s because Georgia law did not give these non-biological parents many parental rights. Nor did the law provide a path for someone to request these legal rights.
So even if you were unequivocally a committed, loving parent to your spouse’s child, the law did not provide any specific protections for you in the event of a separation. No custody rights, no visitation rights, nothing.
The Equitable Caregiver Law changed this.
Establishing Equitable Caregiver status
As of July 1, 2019, a Georgia resident can file a petition to be considered an Equitable Caregiver. This allows an individual that held a legitimate parental role to request custody rights the law would not grant them otherwise. This is particularly vital for many step-parents or same-sex parents, as the Georgia Voice explained.
In order to be deemed an Equitable Caregiver, you must demonstrate to the courts that you:
- Had “fully and completely” taken on a “permanent, unequivocal, committed, and responsible” parental role
- Consistently took care of the child
- Have an “established and dependent relationship” with the child, which has been supported by the other parent
- Took on these parental responsibilities without any expectation of being paid
In addition, you have to show it is in the best interests of the child that your relationship with them continue, and that severing this tie could be harmful to them.
The Equitable Caregiver Law is a huge boost for any parent in an unconventional family structure. It can help ensure your relationship with your child – whom you have loved and raised without fail – will be protected long into the future.