Visitation and Custody Rights for Grandparents in South Carolina

Visitation and Custody Rights for Grandparents in South Carolina

The relationship between parents and their children has been legally defined and parental relationships with their children are always constitutionally protected as a fundamental right. Children, however, may have relationships with other relatives that are less defined and outlined. For example, the relationship between a child and his/her grandparents has been the subject of much debate, especially when the child has significant ties to his/her grandparents. Grandparents’ rights (or lack there of) vary from state to state. South Carolina, however, is one of the states that has outlined a legal role for grandparents, especially in the circumstances where the child’s parent (or parents) has died.

Grandparents’ Visitation Rights

In 2010, Grandparents’ visitation rights were broadened and gave grandparents standing in family court to bring claims for visitation, among other types of rights. Parental rights, even in the face of this group, are still predominant, and the courts remain loyal to the presumption that a “fit” parent’s decision to permit or prohibit the grandparents’ visitation is in the best interest of the child. The grandparents, if the parent has prohibited their visitation rights, may still bring a claim if they can show that there are compelling circumstances (such as abuse in the home), which question the “fitness” of the parent. This right, however, is not limited to just grandparents and may be invoked by any third party who believes there are compelling circumstances to question the “fitness” of the parent in question.

Grandparents’ (and Third Parties) Other Avenues to Visitation/Custodial Rights

Grandparents may also attempt to gain visitation (or other types of custodial rights) in the same way that third parties may attempt to establish their claim. Third parties (such as grandparents, stepparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, etc.) may utilize two other avenues (the psychological parent test and de facto custodian test) to establish their parental/custodial rights in the face of an unfit parent.

The Psychological Parent Test

The psychological parent is one who is not the biological parent but has had significant, daily ties with the child in question and displays strong emotional ties with the child like a parent would.

To establish that you are the psychological parent, you must satisfy the following four qualifications:

  1. The biological or legal parents of the child facilitated and assented to the creation and establishment of the parent-like relationship between you and the child;
  2. You and the child lived in the same household
  3. The obligations of parenthood were undertaken by you, including but not limited to, the child’s care, education and development without any intention of receiving financial or monetary compensation; and
  4. The duration of the relationship between you and the child was sufficient enough to create a parent-like connection between you.

The De Facto Custodian Test

According to South Carolina “De Facto Custodian” statute, if a third party has shown with clear and convincing evidence that he or she has been the primary caregiver, as well as, sufficient financial supporter, he or she may be able to petition to be the child’s de facto custodian.

To establish yourself as a de facto custodian of the child in question, you would need to satisfy the following requirements:

  1. You cohabited and resided in the same household with the child for at least six months or more with a child under the age of three; or
  2. You resided in the same household as the child for at least one year or more for a child older than the age of three.

If the court finds you to have established yourself as a de facto custodian, the court may grant visitation or custody rights to you if the biological parents are found to be unfit or other compelling circumstances (such as the safety of the child) are present.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in the Mount Pleasant, Charleston Area

Grandparents (and other third parties) have quite a few obstacles when attempting to qualify for visitation or custodial rights with regards to their grandchildren. An experienced family law attorney from the Klok Law Firm LLC will be able to aid you throughout this complex and difficult time and guide you throughout the legal process. Contact the Klok Law Firm LLC today for an initial and confidential consultation.