Grandparent (and Non-parent) Rights in South Carolina

Grandparent (and Non-parent) Rights in South Carolina

While the law gives great deference to parents of children, grandparents (and others) can get visitation and custody rights to children in certain situations.  I will breakdown the most common below:

De Facto Custodian (SC Code 63-15-60) – A De Facto Custodian is someone who is shown to have been the primary caregiver of a child and :  1)  the child has resided with that person six (6) months or more if the child is under three, or 2)  the child has resided with the person for a period of more than one year if the child is over three years old.

If you can prove the above requirements by clear and convincing evidence, the the law provides that you have the right to seek visitation.  Note, that it only gives the right to seek visits and does not give the right to seek custody.  It also does not guarantee that the Judge will grant your request.

Psychological Parent (Middleton v. Johnson, 369 S.C. 585, 633 S.E.2d 162) – a Psychological Parent is someone who has established a parent like relationship with a child.The following test was enumerated by the Middleton case:  1) the parents consented to and facilitated the parent-like relationship, 2) the person and the child lived in the same home, 3) the person took responsibility for the child’s care, education, and development without the expectation of compensation, and 4) the parental role is long enough for a parental bond to be established.

In this instance, it isn’t clear from the case that it gives you a right to request custody, but I have seen it done.

Grandparent (only) Visitation per SC Code 63-3-530 (A) (33) – A grandparent (natural or adoptive) can get visitation under this statute where one or both parents of the child are deceased, divorced, or separated, and:  1)  they are being unreasonably deprived of the opportunity to visit with the child, including a period exceeding ninety days, 2)  granting visitation wouldn’t interfere with the parent-child relationship, and 3)  the parents are unfit or the court finds compelling circumstances to override the parental decision to preclude visitation.

Again, this only applies to natural and adoptive grandparents.

Last but not least, best interests of the child (SC Code 63-15-240) – See my Child Custody Page for a complete explanation, but I have seen Judges do what was necessary to protect a child.  Sometimes that means giving custody or visitation to someone who may not ordinarily have the right to ask.  So, if you want custody or visitation rights, it probably is prudent to consult an attorney on the matter before giving up.

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