In many cases, the bond between a stepparent and stepchild is as strong as the one between a natural parent and child. Unfortunately, the law has a different view of the relationship. If a marriage between stepparents fails, a non-biological parent may not always have the same rights regarding visitation and custody as a biological parent. Consequently, stepparents may not be as involved in the lives of their stepchildren as they — and perhaps the stepchild as well — would like.
Adoption Can Give a Stepparent the Right to Custody and Visitation
Sometimes, the bond between stepparent and stepchild becomes so strong that the stepparent wants to adopt the child. In South Carolina, an adoptive parent has the same legal rights as a birth parent regarding child custody and visitation in a divorce. However, adoption isn’t guaranteed — the natural parent can prevent the arrangement. If this occurs, obtaining visitation rights becomes difficult, if not impossible, for a stepparent. The death or termination of parental rights of the natural parent may be the only way for the stepparent to adopt.
Gaining Stepparent’s Rights in a South Carolina Divorce as a De Facto Custodian
One path a non-adoptive stepparent can pursue to obtain visitation and custody rights in South Carolina is meeting the criteria as a de facto custodian. Individuals can become a de facto custodian under South Carolina law if they can demonstrate that they’ve been the primary caregiver and provider of financial support for a child who is under three years old and resided with them for more than six months. The residency standard is one year if the child is three years of age or older.
The court may award visitation or custody rights to a de facto custodian if it finds that the natural parents are not fit to care for the child or if other “compelling circumstances” exist. Examples include when the birth parent is absent, incarcerated or serving in the military.
Meeting the Standards as a Psychological Parent
Another avenue for seeking stepparent rights in a South Carolina divorce is attaining recognition as the stepchild’s “psychological parent.” To meet the criteria, the stepparent must demonstrate that they lived in the same household with the child and played a significant role in care, education, financial support and development. Additionally, the natural parent must have consented with and fostered the parent-child relationship. Finally, the stepparent must have served in a parenting capacity long enough to have established a bond with the child.
Contact Lauren Taylor Law to Learn More About a Stepparent’s Rights in a South Carolina Divorce
If you live in or near the Charleston, South Carolina area, Lauren Taylor Law can assist you in a stepparent’s divorce situation. Attorney Taylor focuses much of her practice on family law in South Carolina. She has the experience and expertise to help you pursue the best course of action in your situation.
Contact Lauren Taylor Law for more information or to schedule a consultation today.
South Carolina divorce attorney Lauren Taylor is an authority on family law in Charleston and Greenville. Lauren Taylor Law is an authority on divorce, child support, and alimony in South Carolina. She graduated from the Charlotte School of Law, and has been practicing for several years now. Lauren Taylor relies on her experience and passion to fight for you during this stressful time. Learn more about her experience here.