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2021-22 Regular Session
Passed into Law
House Bill 154. In yet another set of revisions and amendments to the Georgia Adoption Code, this law reverts to 21 the minimum age for a person to adopt a child, returns certified mail as an allowable method of service of a parent or biological father of a child, authorizes a petitioner to request that a court appoint an agent to do an investigation if the court doesn’t do so, allows the petitioner to recommend an agent for an investigation, and other changes. Forms are once again revised, so any attorney who handles adoptions will once again need to review all the changes and adjust forms. The bill was signed by the Governor on 3 May 2021. Review the final version here. It is effective 1 July 2021.
House Bill 231. This law adds a new chapter in the Domestic Relations Code, OCGA §§ 19-13A-1 to 19-3A-6 that defines a “dating relationship” and “dating violence” and provides when a protective order should be granted based on dating violence in such a relationship. It essentially authorizes a petition and proceedings in the manner authorized in the Georgia Stalking statutes. The passed bill was signed by the Governor on 10 May 2021. The text can be read here. It’s effective 1 July 2021.
House Bill 236. This bill amends the Domestic Violence Act by adding provisions that allow a petitioner to request from law enforcement “periodic security checks from any local law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in which the petitioner resides.” To obtain these checks, the petitioner will have to provide a written request to the local law enforcement agency along with a copy of the protective order. The law is a little fuzzy on how long such orders remain in effect. The bill was signed by the Governor on 4 May 2021. The Version passed can be found here. The law is effective 4 May 2021.
Senate Bill 28. This Senate legislation enacts changes to the Georgia Juvenile Code, including allowing hearsay evidence, adding “abandonment” and “neglect” of a child as triggering the requirement to report child abuse. The passed version was signed by the Governor on 3 May 2021. The law will be effective on 1 January 2022. Review it here.
Senate Bill 75. This bill makes changes to provisions in OCGA § 44-7-23 related to the early termination of a lease by a documented stalking victim. It was signed by the Governor on 6 May 2021. It goes into effect on 1 July 2021. Check it out here.
Senate Bill 234. Titled the “Georgia Mediation Act,” this bill provides for uniformity in mediations. It includes provisions governing the confidentiality of communications in mediations. Signed by the Governor on 10 May 2021, it goes into effect on 1 July 2021. Review it here.
Introduced – Did Not Pass
House Bill 442 – This legislation was proposed to amend OCGA § 19-9-1 to add “management of social media” to the list of major decisions addressed in child parenting plans. If amended, § 19-9-1 (b)(2)(E) would state, “An allocation of decision-making authority to one or both parents with regard to the child’s education, health, extracurricular activities, management of social media, and religious upbringing, and if the parents agree the matters should be jointly decided, how to resolve a situation in which the parents disagree on resolution.” The bill was passed by the House on 25 February 2021. In the Senate, it was referred to the Judiciary Committee. Read it here. Follow it. Find your legislators.
Child Custody – House Bill 96 – This legislation intended to significantly change child custody in Georgia by amending OCGA §19-9-3, providing for a presumption of equal parenting time that my be only be rebutted by a trial judge who finds in writing clear and convincing evidence that “either parent is not fit, willing, or able to participate in such an arrangement.” It requires written findings of facts and specific findings regarding the child custody factors addressed by a trial judge, in any custody order including a temporary order. In addition, it does away with existing provisions regarding the desires of children from 11 to 14 and specifies that a trial judge may take into account the desires of a child “if such child is of appropriate age and discretion.” It’s the same bill introduced near the end of the 2019-20 Regular Session as House Bill 1140. See more on this bill here.
House Bill 216. This legislation would make some changes to the Equitable Caregiver Act, notably by adding a paragraph to the required Complaint stating the Plaintiff can demonstrate harm will come to the named child and allowing a Court to “remove” granted custody rights “upon a finding by a court that one or both parents are no longer a risk of causing physical harm or long-term emotional harm to the child.” The bill is assigned to the Juvenile Justice Committee. Read it.
House Bill 309. This bill would enact the “Georgia Red Flag Protective Order Act,” which would authorize anyone to apply for a court order to issue a protective order requiring a person whom it has been shown to pose a significant danger of harming himself or herself or others to surrender all firearms and prohibit that person from purchasing or possession firearms. The bill is quite detailed. Read it here.
House Bill 457. This bill allows courts to order parents to support children beyond age 18 if enrolled in post-secondary education. It arrived in the House Hopper on 11 February 2021, and needs to be read. It was assigned to the Judiciary Committee. Review it here. Track it.
Senate Bill 54. Sponsored by 15 Senators, this bill would amend OCGA § 19-9-2 to add a provision that a court may delay any final determination of custody of a child until criminal charges or murder or voluntary manslaughter against a surviving parent are resolved. Read it.
Senate Bill 244. If this bill goes into effect, it will prohibit anyone under a domestic violence order, after there’s been an opportunity for a hearing, from “receiving, possessing, or transporting any firearm.” It will also require that person to surrender all firearms to a dealer within 24 hours. The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee on 25 February 2021. Read it here.
2019 – 2020 Regular Session
Passed into Law
Custody Counterclaim – Senate Bill 190 – This significant law amends OCGA §§ 19-9-22 and 19-9-23 to define “legal custody” and “physical custody” and to specifically authorize a counterclaim for modification of legal or physical custody of a minor child in response to a complaint for change of custody. Signed by the Governor 7 May 2019, Effective 1 July 2019.
Blind Parent Custody – House Bill 79 – Reciting that blind persons “continue to face unfair societal biases regarding their ability to successfully provide parental care,” this law defines the meaning of “legally blind” and enacts OCGA §30-4-5 to protect legally blind parents in custody, visitation, foster care, guardianship, and adoption cases. It includes an amendment to OCGA §19-9-3(a)(3)(I) to incorporate its provisions as a factor in custody cases. The bill was signed by the Governor on 2 May 2019, effective that date.
Marriage Age – House Bill 228 – This law raises the minimum age to marry from 16 to 17, amending OCGA §19-3-2 to allow a 17 year old to obtain a marriage license if legal proof of emancipation is provided, the other party is no more than 4 years older, and each party presents a certificate of completion of premarital education under OCGA §19-3-30.1. The act was signed by the Governor on 6 May 2019 and became effective 1 July 2019.
Real Estate Filing Fees – House Bill 288 – This act revises OCGA §9-15-14 to change Superior Court filing fees to file real estate instruments and documents. Signed by the Governor on 6 May 2019, the law went into effect 1 January 2020.
Child Support – House Bill 381 – This bill makes several minor, grammatical changes to OCGA §19-6-15. It was signed by the Governor on on 6 May 2019, effective 1 July 2019.
Continuances – House Bill 502 – This law amends and revises OCGA § 9-10-150 which governs continuances for members of the Georgia General Assembly who are either a party or an attorney representing a party in a civil case. The law expands its reach to members of the Official Legislative Counsel and others. It also expands the presumptive period of time for any continuance to 7 days prior to a legislative session through 3 weeks after recess or adjournment of the session, plus (now) any day there is a meeting of any committee on which the member serves, any day the member attends “national legislative conference or board meeting,” and any day the member “attends a caucus meeting…or “a study committee of the General Assembly.” In addition, the law provides the criteria to be employed if a member of the General Assembly seeks any other sort of continuance. This bill was signed by the Governor on 7 May 2019 and became effective on 7 May 2019.
Equitable Caregivers – House Bill 543 – This law enacts OCGA §19-7-3.1, which provides that any person who can qualify as an “equitable caregiver” may file a case to be granted standing to seek custody or visitation rights to any minor child(ren), regardless of the legal relationship of the person to the child(ren). The law provides what an individual must show, by clear and convincing evidence, to establish standing. It does not apply and will not authorize such a case “when both parents of the minor child are not separated and the child is living with both parents.” The bill was signed by the Governor on 6 May 2019 and became effective law on 1 July 2019.
Introduced – Did Not Pass
Civil Practice – Senate Bill 390 – As rewritten by the Senate Judiciary Committee, this effort to “streamline the process of litigation” would have revised OCGA § 9-11-12 to add a “stay” of discovery pending a motion to dismiss or a motion for judgment on the pleadings, revise § 9-11-36 regarding admission requests, revise § 9-11-37 related to motions to compel discovery, and, significantly, add to this statue a new subpart (e) to provide sanctions for a “failure to preserve documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things.” It did not survive Cross Over Day.
Mediation Privilege – Senate Bill 464 – Proposed as the “Georgia Uniform Mediation Act,” this bill would have added a brand new Chapter 17 to Title 9 of the OCGA, providing for privileged with respect to “Mediation Communication.” The bill was passed by the Senate on 12 March 2020 and presented to the House on 13 March 2020. The Session ended before further action on the bill. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20192020/SB/464
Child Custody – House Bill 1068 – Proposed by Chuck Efstration, the legislator behind the Equitable Caregivers Act, this bill intended to amend that act, codified as OCGA §19-7-3.1, by adding some provisions restricting who can qualify as an “equitable caregiver.” It was introduced on 27 February 2020, reported favorably by committee, and went no further.
Child Custody – House Bill 1140 – This bill was an attempt to rewrite the law on Child Custody, including a presumption of equal parenting time that a judge can alter only by making a written finding “that clear and convincing evidence exists that either parent is not fit, willing, or able to participate in such an arrangement.” This bill dropped in the House of Representatives on Monday 9 March 2020, but did not survive Crossover Day.
2017 – 2018 Regular Session
Passed into Law
Antenuptial Agreements, Several Changes, Execution Requirements, OCGA §§ 19-3-60 through 19-3-68, 13-4-82, 13-5-30, House Bill 190, Signed by Governor 3 May 2018, Effective 1 July 2018
Adoptions, Jurisdiction, Major Revisions, New Forms, OCGA §§ 19-8-1 et seq., House Bill 159, Signed by Governor 3 March 2018, Effective 1 July 2018
Child Support, Major Changes, Automatic Adjustment for Multiple Children, Income Imputation, Ability to Pay, Incarceration Effect, OCGA §19-6-15, Senate Bill 427, Signed by Governor 8 May 2018, Effective 1 July 2018 and 1 October 2018
Child Support, Final Judgment and Decree, Income Withholding, OCGA §§ 19-5-12, 19-6-14, 19-6-15, 19-6-29, 19-6-30, 19-6-31, 19-6-32, 19-6-33, 19-6-33.1, 19-11-3, 19-11-6, 19-11-8, 19-11-9.3, 19-11-12, 19-11-15, 19-11-18, 19-11-32, 19-11-37, 19-11-39, 19-11-101, 19-11-150, 19-11-164, and others, Senate Bill 137, Signed by Governor 9 May 2017, Effective 1 July 2017 and 1 October 2017
Civil Practice, New Forms, OCGA §§ 9-11-133, 9-11-7.1, 9-11-3, 9-11-58, Senate Bill 132, Signed by Governor 9 May 2018, Effective 1 January 2018
Employees Retirement System of Georgia, ROTH Contribution Program, OCGA §45-18-32, House Bill 312, Signed by Governor 9 May 2018, Effective 1 January 2018
Garnishment, New Forms, OCGA §§ 18-4-3, 18-4-5, 18-4-7, 18-4-8, 18-4-9, 18-4-19, 18-4-82, Senate Bill 194, Signed by Governor 8 May 2018, Effective 1 July 2018
Name Change, Domestic Violence Victim Options, OCGA §§ 19-12-1 et seq., House Bill 279, Signed by Governor 8 May 2017, Effective 1 July 2017
Paternity, Genetic Testing, OCGA §19-7-54, House Bill 344, Signed by Governor 3 May 2018, Effective 1 July 2018
Terms of Court Changed, Waycross Circuit, OCGA §15-6-3, House Bill 808, Signed by Governor 3 May 2018, Effective 1 January 2019
Georgia Single Parent Day Established, 21 March Each Year, House Resolution 279, Signed by Governor 7 May 2018, Effective 7 May 2018