Custody. Cobb Superior Court. Before Judge Stedman, pro hac vice.
Judgment reversed and case remanded.
Barnes Law Group, Roy E. Barnes, for appellant.
Dupree & Kimbrough, Hylton B. Dupree, Jr., Blake R. Carl, for appellee.
MILLER, Judge. Doyle, P. J., and Dillard, J., concur.
Following a bench trial, the superior court granted permanent custody of three minor children to their maternal grandparents. The children's mother appeals from the denial of her motion for new trial, contending, inter alia, that the evidence is insufficient to support the superior court's order depriving her of her right as a parent to the care and custody of her children. After a thorough review, we find that the grandparents have not proven by clear and convincing evidence that the children will suffer either physical or significant, long-term emotional harm if they are placed in the mother's custody. Accordingly, we reverse the grant of permanent custody to the grandparents.
In a custody dispute between a parent and a third-party relative, there is " a rebuttable presumption that it is in the best interest of the child or children for custody to be awarded to the parent or parents of such child." OCGA § 19-7-1 (b.1). A third-party relative may overcome this statutory presumption only by showing, with clear and convincing evidence, that the children will suffer either physical or significant, long-term emotional harm if custody is awarded to the parent. See Clark v. Wade, 273 Ga. 587, 598-599 (IV) (544 S.E.2d 99) (2001). When reviewing a superior court's custody ruling, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's decision. See Whitehead v. Myers, 311 Ga.App. 680, 688 (1) (716 S.E.2d 785) (2011).
So viewed, the evidence showed that the mother's oldest daughter, C. S., was born in September 1998; her son, L. T., was born in July 2000; and her youngest daughter, I. S., was born in August 2006. The grandparents first obtained temporary emergency custody of the [330 Ga.App. 880] children in 2006 after the home which the mother shared with I. S.'s biological father was raided by police. In October 2008, the juvenile court found that all three children were deprived and, with the mother's consent, the court extended the grandparents temporary custody of the children through July 2010, with supervised visitation for the mother.
Shortly before the 2008 temporary custody order expired, the grandparents filed a petition in the juvenile court for appointment as the children's permanent guardians. After expiration of the temporary custody order and while their guardianship petition in the juvenile court was still pending, the grandparents filed their petition for permanent custody in the superior court. The grandparents also simultaneously sought an emergency ex parte custody order in the superior court. In the resulting ex parte order, the Paulding County Superior Court awarded the grandparents temporary custody of the children and set a hearing date for a final custody determination.
Prior to the scheduled hearing, however, the case was transferred to the Cobb County Superior Court based on the parties' agreement that Cobb County was the appropriate
venue. The Cobb County Superior Court granted the mother's requests for visitation over Christmas 2011 and pending resolution of the main case. The superior court also ...