Grandparents’ Rights in South Carolina

If you’re a grandparent, you know how much joy and comfort grandchildren bring to your lives. Sometimes, circumstances make it challenging for parents to care for their children. If your grandchildren are in an unsafe or neglectful situation, you might consider seeking custody.

Gaining custody of a grandchild allows you to make medical, financial, and educational decisions for them. Without obtaining legal custody, you have no right to make these decisions for your grandchildren. If their parents are absent or unfit, you may struggle to help your grandchildren succeed.

Voluntary Custodial Transfers

In some cases, such as when a parent is suffering from addiction issues or is incarcerated, they may wish to voluntarily transfer custody of a minor to the child’s grandparents. If your child’s custodial parent(s) agree to allow you to take custody of your grandchild, entering an order is relatively easy and straightforward. Even so, engaging a family custody lawyer can help ensure you complete the process correctly and quickly. A lawyer will help minimize the disruption and upset for you and your grandchild so you can get back to normal.

Involuntary Custodial Transfers

It can be possible to obtain custody of a grandchild if you prove the child’s parents are unfit to care for their children. Although South Carolina law gives significant weight to the rights of a child’s parents, it values the child’s best interest more than any other considerations. If a court determines that a parent is no longer capable of caring for their child, it may terminate their parental rights. The court would then have the discretion to grant custody to a grandparent or other individual, depending on the evidence. In most cases, the court will award custody to a child’s family member rather than a foster institution or family. If a court has removed your grandchild into foster care, you may be able to petition for temporary or permanent custody successfully.

De Facto Custodian

Often, a parent who struggles with addiction or who is financially unstable will entrust their own parent with their child’s day-to-day care and custody. If you have resided with and been the primary caregiver and financial supporter for a child under three years old for six months or more, or a child older than three years for one year or more, you are their “de facto custodian” under the law. If this is the case, you have grounds to petition for custody of your grandchild or grandchildren.

State law authorizes a court to “grant visitation or custody of a child to the de facto custodian if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the child’s natural parents are unfit or that other compelling circumstances exist.” There are no bright-line rules that define these criteria, so it is vital to get a lawyer who can clearly present the situation to the court and express its severity.

Terminating Parental Rights for Non-Custodians

Family law courts have the discretion to terminate parental rights and award custody of a child to a third party in certain circumstances. South Carolina courts do not terminate parental rights lightly. The courts must determine that one or more grounds set out by law exist and that termination would be in the child’s best interest. The statutory grounds for termination of parental rights include:

  • Abuse or neglect of the child.
  • Parents’ untreated drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Untreatable medical conditions that prevent a parent from providing even minimal care.
  • Abandonment of the child.
  • Murder by one parent of the other.
  • Murder by one parent of another child.

If you think you have cause to petition for custody of a grandchild, you should consult with a family law attorney. An experienced lawyer will help you understand your rights and the strength of the evidence for and against your request. If the evidence supports a petition for temporary or permanent custody, an attorney will prepare and file the motion on your behalf. They will help you present convincing evidence to the court against the child’s birth parents to demonstrate their inability to care for their children.

Speaking to a family custody lawyer can help you better understand your rights as a grandparent. The experienced family law attorneys at Indigo Family Law understand the complexities of both family relationships and the family courts. We can help you protect your loved ones and provide for your grandchildren’s safety and care.

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