MILLER, P. J., MCFADDEN, P. J., and BETHEL, J.
Miller, Presiding Judge.
the second appearance of this grandparent custody case in
this Court. In Jewell v. McGinnis, 333 Ga.App. 108
(775 S.E.2d 539) (2015) ("Jewell I"),
this Court vacated the superior court's order granting
joint legal custody to the mother and the paternal
grandparents, with primary physical custody to the
grandparents. Further, in Jewell I, this Court
remanded the case with direction for the superior court to
make the statutorily required factual findings by clear and
convincing evidence under OCGA § 19-7-1 (b.1). On
remand, the superior court entered a new order (the
"Revised Custody Order"), which contained factual
findings and again granted joint legal custody to the mother
and grandparents and primary physical custody to the
mother appeals from the superior court's Revised Custody
Order, contending, inter alia, that OCGA § 19-9-6 does
not authorize an award of joint legal custody to a parent and
a third party. We agree, and therefore we reverse the award
of joint legal custody in this case and remand for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Supreme Court of Georgia and this Court have both held that a
third party may have sole legal custody of a child
when no parent is suitable for custody; however, Georgia
statutory law only supports joint legal custody
arrangements between parents. Stone v. Stone, 297
Ga. 451, 455 (774 S.E.2d 681) (2015); Sheffield v.
Sheffield, 338 Ga.App. 667, 669 (791 S.E.2d 428) (2016);
Marks v. Soles, 339 Ga.App. 380, 386 (2) (793 S.E.2d
587) (2016). See also OCGA § 19-9-6 (5) ("Joint
legal custody means both parents have equal rights and
responsibilities for major decisions concerning the
child[.]") (punctuation omitted.); OCGA § 19-9-3
(a) (1) (setting out general custody guidelines and
recognizing that joint custody considerations remain with the
superior court had no power to grant joint legal custody to
the mother and the paternal grandparents. Consequently, we
must reverse that award and remand this case for further
proceedings. Stone, supra, 297 Ga. at 455.
light of our holding in Division 1, we need not address the
mother's remaining argument.
reversed and case remanded with direction.
Bethel, J, concurs
McFadden, Presiding Judge, concurring specially.
that we must reverse and remand. I concur fully in Division
1: the trial court was not authorized to award joint legal
custody to a parent and a third-party. But I disagree with
Division 2. We must address - and reverse - the trial
court's finding "that the child would suffer both
physical and significant emotional harm if she were placed in
the custody of [the mother]."
majority notes, this case is now before us for the second
time. The first appeal was by the mother from an order
"awarding joint legal custody of her daughter, C. M., to
Jewell and to the child's paternal grandparents, Stephen
and Diane McGinnis, with primary physical custody to the
grandparents." Jewell v. McGinnis, 333 Ga.App.
108 (775 S.E.2d 539) (2015). "[W]e vacate[d] and
remand[ed] the case for the trial court to make ... findings
under the required standard." Id. at 111 (3).
Those findings included whether "parental custody would
harm the child physically or emotionally." Id.
That finding is required by a gloss our Supreme Court put on
the grandparent custody statute, OCGA § 19-7-1 (b.1),
when the statute's constitutionality was challenged.
Clark v. Wade, 273 Ga. 587 (544 S.E.2d 99) (2001).
remand after Jewell I, the trial court
found the requisite prospect of harm. The mother has
enumerated that finding as error. And error it is. It is
error that would surely drive the proceedings on remand and
so generate a third appeal and a third remand.
delay is always a denial of justice. But delay is
particularly harmful to children. This child was six years
old when her grandparents first filed an emergency motion
seeking custody of her. She is now almost ten. This