In the case of In the Interest of C. L., a divided Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the Oconee County Juvenile Court’s grant of joint custody of C. L. to Jeff Newell, her biological father, and Ralph Lloyd, her legal father, and directed the juvenile court on remand to award custody to Newell, holding that the juvenile court erred in its application of the child’s best interest standard in determining custody of C. L., since Lloyd, who has raised C. L. since shortly after her birth, was not one of the limited number of related third parties, who may seek custody from a legal parent pursuant to OCGA § 19-7-1 (b.1) and he had no rights to custody after the superior court granted Newell’s legitimation petition.

Approximately two weeks after her birth, the juvenile court granted custody of C. L. to Lloyd, C. L.’s mother’s husband; within two months, the Superior Court granted Newell’s petition for legitimation, after a DNA test confirmed Newell’s paternity, without determining whether it would be in C. L.’s best interest, and transferred the case to the juvenile court for the custody determination; and, applying the child’s best interest standard, the juvenile court awarded joint custody to Newell and Lloyd, with primary physical custody to Lloyd and visitation to Newell. The Court noted the existence of a gaping hole in Georgia’s family law regarding custody between a biological father and a legal father that only the legislature can fix.

Presiding Judge Gary Andrews dissented, to argue that Lloyd had standing to seek custody under OCGA § 19-7-1 (b.1) as a "parent," and the juvenile court correctly decided the case under the best interest of the child standard.

SOURCE: Fulton County Daily Report