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August 5, 2019

Grandparents’ Rights in a South Carolina Divorce

Grandparent's rights in a divorce in South Carolina

Grandparents often have a hand in the raising of their grandchildren. The law recognizes the role of grandparents — although their rights are secondary to those of the child’s parents, situations can arise where the courts in South Carolina may intervene to allow the grandparents to visit or take custody of their grandchildren. The law addresses areas such as the divorce of the parents, the death of one of the parents, when one parent withholds the child from in-laws or when evidence of abuse or neglect exists.

Grandparent Visitation Rights in South Carolina

A 2014 revision to South Carolina family law expanded the grandparent visitation rights. Under the so-called grandparent visitation statute, the Family Court has the legal authority to grant visitation rights to grandparents when one or both parents of a minor child are deceased, as well as when they’re divorced or living apart. The court must also determine that:

  • The parents are “unreasonably depriving” the grandparent of the chance to visit the child, including denying visitation for more than 90 days
  • Awarding visitation rights would not interfere with the parent-child relationship
  • The parents are unfit to care for the child
  • Compelling circumstances exist that override the parents’ decision to deny the grandparents’ visitation rights
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Before the implementation of the statute, grandparents had to establish that their relationship resembled a parent-child relationship to receive visitation rights, a standard that few grandparents could meet.

Grandparent Custody Rights in South Carolina

Grandparents can also petition the court for legal custody of a grandchild in South Carolina in situations involving parental abuse or neglect, or when the parents are unable to provide for the child’s basic needs. The grandparents must demonstrate that they are the primary caretaker of the child and that they have forged a close bond.

Specific situations where grandparents can seek custody of their grandchildren include the following:

  • Evidence of persistent neglect by the parent exists.
  • The parent has permanently abandoned the child.
  • The parent has relinquished the role of raising and caring for the child to someone other than the second parent.
  • The parent refuses to carry out typical parenting responsibilities.

Obtaining custody is difficult for a grandparent. The parents’ rights supersede those of everyone else, including the grandparents. However, the court evaluates all custody issues on a case-by-case basis. The judge will review the facts and circumstances in each situation and make a ruling that’s in the best interest of the child, whether that entails living with the parents or granting custody to the grandparent.

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Contact an Experienced Charleston Family Law Attorney for Help

Many gray areas exist in grandparent visitation and custody situations, and no two cases are alike. If you’re in the Charleston, South Carolina area and have questions regarding grandparents’ rights in a divorce, Lauren Taylor Law can help. Our firm has extensive experience in handling all types of family law cases, including those involving grandparent visitation and custody rights. Contact us for more information and to discuss your case today.