Grandparents’ Rights in Charleston, South Carolina
That loving, close relationship with your grandchild is one of life’s greatest joys. Is that relationship now at risk? How can the courts help you?
Possibly your relationship with your child has turned distant or acrimonious through no fault of your own. Consequently, you no longer see your grandchild. Perhaps the absence of your child, maybe due to imprisonment or death, has halted your relationship with your grandchild because the other parent is not allowing you to maintain it.
The South Carolina family court system is set up to help. You have remedies available. There are complex issues you need to present to the court. So, you will need help from an attorney or other knowledgeable people.
Landmark Case For Grandparent Visitation: Troxel v. Granville
Visitation rights and child custody cases are never easy in Charleston, SC. Besides the children and their parents, the grandparents suffer in divorce and custody disputes too. Most of these cases include long, painful battles.
Under the law, grandparents’ rights are not equal to parents. And they shouldn’t be, for a good reason. A parent’s rights are always primary to a grandparent’s rights. However, in certain circumstances, a court may grant grandparent visits even if the parent objects.
In South Carolina, matters of divorce, child custody, and grandparent rights are all decided in family court by state law. While no federal law addresses grandparent rights, the Troxel v. Granville came close. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court asserted that a judge should consider a parent’s reasons for declining grandparent rights. The process shouldn’t award the rights automatically.
The court is therefore tasked with assessing the needs of a child and parent’s wishes before allowing visitations. If the rights are awarded, the visitation must still be tailored to fit the schedules and needs of both the child and the parents.
Overview of Laws Governing Grandparent Visitation in South Carolina
Laws in South Carolina recognize the critical role grandparents can play in a grandchild’s life. However, the grandparents’ rights in SC are usually a reflection of their children’s rights. If the grandparents never maintain a good relationship with the child, the visitations may never happen. South Carolina law protects a parent’s liberty interest in the care custody and control of their child. Therefore, the Charleston court has to take into account the resolve of a fit parent concerning visitation.
Unless a child is not well cared for, the court is unlikely to interfere with what a parent decides. A court will need compelling circumstances to grant third-party visitation rights and the decision will follow S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-240 guidelines.
However, special situations exist that can influence a court’s decision regarding grandparents’ rights in South Carolina. They include situations where either of the child’s parents is deceased, the parents are living separate and apart, or divorced, and the child’s parents are unfit or there are compelling circumstances that prevail over the parent’s decision to block a grandparent’s visitation. Consequently, many grandparents in Charleston, South Carolina, choose to work closely with a family law attorney like Crossroads Family Law.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Relinquishment
Sometimes, parents may temporarily relinquish custody to grandparents in times of illness or financial distress. However, if this voluntary action doesn’t happen, grandparents must file a petition for custody. Subsequently, the family court will schedule hearing to determine whether it’s in the child’s best interests to award custody to the grandparent.
De Facto Custodian
In some cases, a grandparent may seek custody of a grandchild from their biological or adoptive child. However, the grandparent has to prove to a high standard (clear and convincing evidence) that he or she is a “de facto custodian” of the grandchild, according to S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-60.
To qualify as a de facto custodian, you have to prove that you’ve been the primary caregiver and financial provider for the grandchild. In addition to this, the child must have lived with you for at least six months for three-year-olds and below, and at least one year for three-year-old children and above. If a judge finds you as a de facto custodian, the court may grant you visitation or custody if there’s clear evidence for an unfit parent or other existing compelling circumstances.
Can a Biological Grandparent Obtain Visitation with an Adopted Child?
A child placed for adoption severs ties between the child and the biological family. These termination rights extend down to grandparents. As a general rule, a grandparent has no right to visitation with an adopted grandchild.
However, some cases touch on stepparent adoption or on instances where the grandparent’s son or daughter passed away and didn’t consent to the adoption. In one South Carolina case, the grandparents were granted visitation after their son (child’s father) died but had not given consent for adoption. The child’s mother, unrelated to the grandparents, remarried and the new husband adopted the child. The court gave visitation rights because the death of their son didn’t sever the ties to the grandchild.
Abrupt or planned changes in parents’ relationships can cause a parent to discontinue grandparents’ rights in Charleston, South Carolina. Yet, mostly, it’s in these turbulent times that the child needs the stability of the grandparents. Luckily, there are laws in South Carolina that offer hope for grandparents who want to maintain this relationship with their grandchildren.
A Family Law Attorney Can Help
The South Carolina law has affirmed that child-parent relationships take time to form. Therefore, grandparents have to prove that they stayed with the child for a considerable time. This period is called continuous cohabitation and should be proven. Sometimes also, the court might appoint an attorney to represent the child. Standard pieces of evidence relevant include photos, videos, financial statements, and character witnesses. If you want to increase your odds as a visitation petitioner, you should work with the best grandparents’ rights attorney SC has to offer. If you have more questions regarding obtaining court-ordered grandparents’ visitation rights in Charleston, South Carolina, contact a local family attorney for advice.
Get Help Seeing your Grandchildren
Kathy Dailey Hubbard defends grandparents’ rights in SC. She understands how vital the grandparent-child relationship is and works to protect it. If your grandchild is being withheld from you, obtain visitation rights through the court. Call 843-474-4000 or fill in the contact form to schedule a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Charleston, SC.