"NICHOLAS' LAW" - Afford visitation rights to non-custodial extended family members, particularly aunts and uncles.

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As most are aware, Georgia law states that the father has no rights to a child unless he has been married to the mother or has filed a legimation petition. Georgia law also states visitation rights may be granted to grandparents even if the child has not been legitimated.  O.C.G.A.19-7-3 states, in cases where the parents of a child do not live together with the child, the revised statute allows courts to grant reasonable visitation to grandparents who can prove they have had an ongoing, consistent relationship with the child for an extended period of time and the child has never been endangered, harmed or neglected while in their care or control.  However, there are no such provisions that allow these same rights to aunts/uncles under the grandparent visitation law, even in the absence of living grandparents.  An aunt/uncle of a child should be afforded the same rights if they can establish the same guidelines as outlined in O.C.G.A. 19-7-3.  If an aunt/uncle has cared for, loved and help support the child the same way as a grandparent, why should they be denied these same protections and rights?  With that said, I propose "Nicholas' Law" to provide non-custodial extended family, particularly aunts/uncles, the right to petition the court for reasonable visitation if they can provide proof of these same guidelines.  On March 14, 2014 my nephew, Nicholas (10) spent the night with me and my family, as he did on regular basis following a birthday dinner we attended for his mother.  On March 23, a dispute between his mother and father (my brother) occurred and they separated.  Since this time, I have been denied any and all contact with Nicholas by his mother.  I have been a constant presence in his life since his birth and for the last nine years, he has spent all holidays and birthdays with me and my family.  Over the last 6 years, he has spent the night with my family 2-6 times a month, spending time with us and especially my 11 year old daughter.  Never living more than 15 miles apart, they are more like brother/sister than cousins.  They have an extremely close relationship, even swapping weekends between houses on a regular basis.  We have vacationed together, attended sporting events as well as just leisure time togther regularly.  Not only has this been devastating to me to not have my nephew in my life, it has been twice as difficult on my daughter.  So difficult, she is currently in therapy.  When you have shared a child's entire life, to only have them removed suddenly because the mother has deemed it better for HER, rather than what's best for the child, it is an injustice.  Not only for the child, but the family that loves and cares for him.  The child should not be deprived of a loving family simply because the mother no longer wishes to have a relationship with the father.  My family grieves the absence of Nicholas from our lives these last 10 months.  It seems as devasting a loss as if the child has died.  In cases like mine, when the family member has done nothing but love and care for the child, there are no laws that give me provision to file for reasonable visitation.  In this sitatuion the childs best interest and needs are not being served with this unexplained absence of a loving family from his life.  Passing a law of this nature will give rights to family members who have provided, cared and loved the child as if they were their own.  If nothing has transpired directly between the family member and the child to support the removal of the relationship, it is emotionally and mentally abusive to all parties.  Putting this law in place will protect innocent children from unwarranted heartache and grief.  No child should feel abandoned by their family simply at the mothers whim.  As there is not always grandparents living to exercise their rights under O.C.G.A. 19-7-3., this law would provide relief for extended family members, particularly aunts/uncles.  In our case, his grandmother (my mother) is alive and has filed a petition to grant her reasonable visitation with him.  I ask that you consider enacting a bill/amendment to provide this relief for extended family members.  I miss my nephew as I know he misses me and our entire family.

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