Frederick and Nichole Hastings were married in August 2006. At the time of their marriage, Nichole Hastings was aware that his former girlfriend was pregnant, according to court background in the case. After the baby’s birth in October 2006, Frederick Hastings established paternity and the couple obtained custody. In February 2009, Nichole Hastings gave birth to their second child.
Two years later, Frederick Hastings filed for divorce. A Putnam County Superior Court judge ruled that it was in the children’s best interest for the wife to be awarded primary physical custody of both children.
Frederick Hastings appealed to the state Supreme Court, seeking to challenge the placement of his older biological child with Nichole. He argued that under the Official Code of Georgia, Nichole, as an adoptive parent, was defined as a “third party,” and the statute says that in a custody dispute between a parent and a third party, there “shall be a rebuttable presumption that it is in the best interest of the child or children for custody to be awarded to the parent.” In order to counter that presumption, he contended that under a 2001 court decision, she would have to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that his older child would suffer physical or emotional harm if placed with him.
The state Supreme Court disagreed in its opinion, released Monday.
The 2001 decision also goes on to say that the presumption favoring the parent over a third party in a custody action “may be overcome by a showing that an award of custody to such third party is in the best interest” of the child or children.
“Both the legislatue and our courts have repeatedly confirmed that an adoptive parent stands on the same footing and has the same rights and obligations as a biological parent,” the opinion said.