BARNES, P. J., MCMILLIAN and REESE, JJ.
grandparent visitation case, John Mitchell Reid, Jr., the
father of D. R., a 12-year-old boy, appeals from the trial
court's order granting visitation with D. R. to
Reid's mother, Vickie Lindsey. Reid contends that the
trial court's findings of fact were not supported by
clear and convincing evidence, that the court erred in ruling
that Lindsey's visitation had priority over D. R.'s
extracurricular activities, and that it erred in ordering
Reid to pay a portion of the Guardian ad Litem's fees.
For the reasons set forth, infra, we affirm the court's
order as to its award of visitation to Lindsey, but reverse
the court's order requiring Reid to pay a portion of the
Guardian ad Litem's fees.
in the light most favorable to the trial court's
judgment,  the evidence showed the following facts.
D. R. and his twin brother, J. R., were born to Reid and his
first wife, Sherry, in December 2005. J. R. was born with
serious medical issues that required numerous surgeries and
prolonged periods of hospitalization in Atlanta. As a result,
Sherry Reid was usually at the hospital with J. R., and Reid
had to work and take care of their other children at home.
Given these circumstances, Lindsey and her
husband (collectively, "the
grandparents") offered to take care of D. R. in their
home. Over the next ten years, D. R. lived almost exclusively
in the grandparents' Cherokee County home, although he
often visited his father and the rest of his family. Further,
during that ten-year period, Reid and his family sometimes
also lived in the grandparents' home (hereinafter,
"Lindsey's home") due to Reid's financial
difficulties and J. R.'s frequent hospitalizations.
2006, when D. R. began living in Lindsey's home, until
May 2016, his grandparents provided almost all of his
financial support, and Lindsey home-schooled D. R. and made
most of the decisions concerning his care. The grandparents
enrolled D. R. in sports programs and music lessons,
routinely took him to church, and often took him to college
and professional football and baseball games, to theaters and
museums, and on out-of-state trips.
August 2011, when D. R. was five years old, his mother
suddenly and unexpectedly died. The grandparents purchased a
home near theirs for Reid and J. R. to live in, although D.
R. continued to live with his grandparents. Reid remarried
shortly after his first wife's death, but he and his
second wife divorced about a year later. Then, in 2015, Reid
married again, and he and his wife, Nicky, had a daughter, K.
2016, Reid moved D. R. out of Lindsey's home and into his
home ("Reid's home") to live full-time with
him, his wife, D. R.'s twin brother, J. R., and his
half-sister, K. R. Reid also notified Lindsey that she would
not be allowed any visitation or phone contact with D. R.
unless he (Reid) was present.
31, 2016, Lindsey filed a petition against Reid seeking
primary custody of D. R. and child support. She subsequently
amended the petition to include a request for reasonable
visitation with D. R. as an alternative to custody and child
support. In February 2017, the trial court conducted a
hearing, during which Lindsey focused solely on her request
for visitation with D. R., stating that she was not asking
for custody at that time. Following the hearing, the court
issued a temporary order in which the court made the
following findings of fact.
to the court, in the nine months that had passed between May
2016, when Reid moved D. R. out of Lindsey's home, and
the date of the temporary hearing, D. R. had been
"happy, loved, and well cared for" by Reid; enjoyed
many new activities with his father; had a "close and
warm loving relationship" with all of his family
members; appeared to feel like he was part of the family; and
did not want to stop living with his father.
so, the court found that, in the ten years between D.
R.'s birth in December 2005 and May 2016, Lindsey had
been D. R.'s primary physical custodian; provided almost
all of D. R.'s financial support; met all of his
"health, dental, education, social, and moral
needs[;]" provided D. R. with family vacations,
celebrations for special events and holidays, and numerous
extracurricular and cultural activities; and ensured that D.
R. had ongoing contact with his twin brother, J. R., and
other members of his family and step-families. The court
found that, during this time, Reid had "made no
meaningful assertion of his parental rights [and] agreed to
and supported [Lindsey] raising [D. R.]"
court found that, as a result of Lindsey's consistent and
stable parental care and support of D. R. throughout his
childhood, D. R. was "very bonded with [Lindsey] and her
husband." The court found, however, that Reid had
"prevented reasonable contact between [D. R.] and
[Lindsey]" during the nine months that had passed since
Reid removed D. R. from Lindsey's home. According to the
court, D. R. had already experienced significant loss during
his childhood, including the death of his mother, the
separation of him from his family due to the substantial
medical needs of his twin brother, the loss of his
relationship with his former step-mother and step-siblings,
and his sudden removal from Lindsey, "his primary
caregiver of ten (10) years[.]" The court found that, as
a result, "[c]ontinued removal from [Lindsey] would be
another traumatic loss and harmful to [D. R.]."
upon these findings of fact, the trial court concluded that
there was clear and convincing evidence that D. R. would be
harmed if he was denied contact with Lindsey and that such
contact was in D. R.'s best interests. As a result, the
court awarded Lindsey visitation with D. R. on weekends
(subject to his scheduled extracurricular activities) and for
two weeks of uninterrupted visitation during summer vacation,
as well as permission for Lindsey to call D. R. three times a
months after the March 2017 temporary order took effect,
however, several issues arose between the parties that
significantly interfered with or prevented Lindsey's
visitation with D. R. For example, Reid enrolled D. R. in
various baseball, basketball, and other sports programs that
required D. R. to attend training sessions and/or games for
several hours almost every weekend. The hours of these
activities varied and sometimes changed at the last minute.
The activities also required Lindsey to drive several miles
to the sports venue to drop off D. R. and then wait until he
was finished. As a result, Lindsey was often prevented from
making other plans for her visitation with D. R. Further,
Lindsey's visitation during school breaks and summer
vacation were hampered or prevented altogether because of
sports activities or because Reid made alternative plans for
early 2018, the court conducted a final hearing on
Lindsey's petition, after which it issued the final order
in which it expressly adopted and incorporated its findings
of fact from the March 2017 temporary order, with one
exception. The court modified the prior fact findings as to
Reid's involvement with D. R. while the child lived with
Lindsey, finding that Reid had maintained an ongoing
relationship with D. R. during this period and had visited
the child regularly, and that D. R. briefly resided in
Reid's home at some point. The court also found that Reid
had provided some financial support for D. R. and that, when
the child was with him, Reid had provided for the child's
basic needs. Still, according to the court, "[a]lthough
[Lindsey] did not exclusively raise [D. R.] for ten (10)
years, she did provide the majority of parenting. [Reid]
allowed [Lindsey] to provide all financial support of the
child throughout most of [the child's] life[, ] as well
as [make] the majority of parental decisions."
addition, the court expressed concern about the conduct of
Reid and D. R. toward Lindsey since the temporary order took
effect, specifically the "high conflict visitation
exchanges between the parties; disrespectful actions of [D.
R.] towards [Lindsey]; rescheduling of visitations;
[Reid's] denial of Court[-]Ordered visitations;
[Reid's] unreasonable interference with [Lindsey's]
visitations; and [Reid's] significantly increasing [D.
addressing D. R.'s relationship with Lindsey, the court
found that D. R. had an important relationship with Lindsey,
that Lindsey had had "a significant impact" on the
child's life, and that, "for many years, the child
viewed her in a parental role."
to the court, D. R. had "experienced tragic loss and
much instability in his life[, ]" and Lindsey had been
"a consistent and stable parental figure" for him.
The court found that D. R. and Lindsey had "a strong
emotional bond [that was] important to the child's
welfare[, ]" that denial of visitation with Lindsey
would harm D. R., and that a set, mandatory visitation
schedule was in D. R.'s best interests, because he would
then "know what to expect."
upon these facts, which the trial court found were supported
by clear and convincing evidence, the court concluded that a
set visitation schedule that provided for regular, exclusive
visitation with Lindsey was in D. R.'s best interests and
that denial of such visitation would harm D. R.'s
welfare. As a result, the trial court granted Lindsey
visitation with D. R. for a minimum of one weekend each
month, two weeks during D. R.'s summer vacation, a
portion of his school breaks, and various holidays, subject
to certain conditions involving his extra-curricular
activities. It is from this order that Reid filed the
In reviewing an order granting grandparent visitation, we
view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial
court's judgment to determine whether any rational trier
of fact could have found by clear and convincing evidence
that the mandated visitation was authorized.
[I]n doing so, we do not weigh the evidence or determine
witness credibility, but defer to the trial court's
factfinding and affirm unless the evidence fails to satisfy
the appellate standard of review.
these guiding principles in mind, we turn now to Reid's
specific claims of error.
contends that the trial court erroneously failed to make
specific findings of fact, based on clear and convincing
evidence, that D. R.'s health and welfare would be harmed
unless visitation was granted or that visitation would be in
the child's best interests. We disagree.
minor child is not living with both of his parents because
the parents are separated or, as in this case, one of the
parents has died, the child's grandparent has the right
to file an original action for visitation with the child
pursuant to OCGA § 19-7-3,  which is commonly referred
to as the "Grandparent Visitation
Statute."The Georgia General Assembly enacted the
statute "to provide a mechanism for courts to grant a
grandparent visitation rights with his or her minor
grandchild, where, as here, a child's parent objects. In
this regard, the statute codified a standard for the trial
courts to utilize in balancing the wishes of an alienated
grandparent, the rights of the parents, and the interests of
the child." The statute provides as follows:
the filing of an original action [for visitation], the court
may grant any family member of the child reasonable
visitation rights if the court finds by clear and
convincing evidence that the health or welfare of
the child would be harmed unless such visitation is granted
and if the best interests of the child would be served by
such visitation. The mere absence of an opportunity for
a child to develop a relationship with a family member shall
not be considered as harming the health or welfare of the
child when there is no substantial preexisting
relationship between the child and such family member.
In considering whether the health or welfare of the child
would be harmed without such visitation, the court shall
consider and may find that harm to the child is reasonably
likely to result when, prior to the original action or
(A) The minor child resided with the family member for
six months or more;
(B) The family member provided financial support for the
basic needs of the child for at least one year;
(C) There was an established pattern of regular
visitation or child care by the family member with the
(D) Any other circumstance exists indicating that emotional
or physical harm would be reasonably likely to result if such
visitation is not granted.
court shall make specific written findings of fact in support
of its rulings.
the statute provides that,
[w]hile a parent's decision regarding family member
visitation shall be given deference by the court, the
parent's decision shall not be conclusive when failure to
provide family member contact would result in emotional harm
to the child. A court may presume that a child who is
denied any contact with his or her family member or who is
not provided some minimal opportunity for contact with his or
her family member when there is a preexisting relationship
between the child and such family member may suffer emotional
injury that is harmful to such child's health. Such
presumption shall be a rebuttable presumption.
an initial matter, in arguing that the trial court failed to
make specific findings of fact in support of its award of
visitation, Reid has misrepresented the court's final
order by ignoring all of the order except for the court's
ultimate conclusion, i.e., that D. R. would be harmed if
visitation was denied and that such visitation was in D.
R.'s best interests. As shown above, in the temporary
order, the court made numerous factual findings based on the
clear and convincing evidence presented. And, in the final
order, the court expressly incorporated the findings of fact
from the temporary order and made additional fact findings
based on what had occurred with D. R. and the parties ...