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May 6, 2019

Child Neglect: What it is, and How it Affects Custody

child neglect definition and impact on child custody in south carolina

What is Child Neglect in South Carolina?

Although child neglect may seem simple, South Carolina law often extends child neglect and abuse beyond commonly used definitions. South Carolina law defines child abuse or neglect as when the child’s guardian:

  • Causes physical or mental injury, including by corporal punishment that is excessive
  • Committing or allowing someone to commit any type of sexual offense against the child
  • Does not provide enough clothing, shelter, food, health care, or education
  • Abandons them
  • Encourages or approves of the child committing crimes

These definitions seem both clear and strict. However, there are some notable exceptions to these definitions. One of the most notable exceptions is that corporal punishment, such as spanking, is not considered abuse if administered by the parents or with their permission and does not cause lasting harm.

Additionally, in the State of South Carolina a parent cannot be held liable for not providing for the child’s needs if he or she is not financially able to do so and has not been offered the assistance to be able to do so. The law also does not allow the state to use school absences to show a lack of adequate education unless the school has made efforts to get the child in school, but the parents refused to cooperate.

How Does Child Neglect Impact Custody?

If a guardian is accused of child neglect in Charleston, he or she will face a difficult battle to gain or retain custody of the child. In all custody cases, the court will consider previous instances of child abuse or neglect in determining who should have custody of the child.

This is true even if the abuse or neglect did not involve the child who the parent is seeking custody of, since a history of abuse or neglect is considered a potential indicator of future neglect.

However, a history of abuse or neglect does not prohibit the parent from gaining custody. If the potential guardian can show that he or she has changed, custody can still be won. Evidence of changes might include counseling, the testimony of family and friends, a change in police record patterns, or any other signs that the guardian has been working to become a capable parent.

Even if the parent attempts to prove that he or she is no longer neglectful or abusive, it is possible that the court will determine that any parent or guardian who has a history of child neglect is unfit to parent. However, this does not necessarily mean that the parent will have no contact with the child.

In some cases, the unfit parent will still be allowed some visitation in order to have some kind of relationship with the child. With time, most South Carolina courts may even be willing to increase parental rights for the parent if he or she demonstrates sincere change.

Contact a Charleston Family Law Attorney

If you have a history of child neglect and are seeking custody, do not navigate this complicated issue alone. You may be able to maintain a relationship with your children with the help of an experienced family law attorney.

Attorney Lauren Taylor is dedicated to helping you with all your family law needs. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.