The bond between a child and grandparents is an important one, and it can sometimes be among the closest relationships for the child outside the immediate family. Still, regardless of how devoted grandparents can be, they do not occupy the same position as parents. Therefore, it is understandable that you have concerns if your grandchild does not live under the same roof as both parents. The South Carolina statute on child custody and visitation applies in divorce cases, as well as situations where the child’s parents were never married. It does not include language that specifically grants grandparent rights.
However, grandparents are not entirely excluded from the child’s life. There are options that allow you to play a role, and the arrangement can be legally binding upon the parties. It is critical to discuss your situation with a Charleston grandparent rights attorney for personalized details. Some background information is also useful as an overview.
Basics About Custody and Visitation
Initially, you should understand what is involved with parental rights so you can appreciate your own as a grandparent. There are two issues that arise when parents are divorced, separated, or were never married:
- Child custody refers to the important decisions that parents make when raising the child, such as education, medical care, extracurricular activities, and religion. Regardless of where the child primarily resides, co-parents will usually share in decision-making.
- Visitation involves spending time with the child, and it is usually awarded to the nonresidential parent.
When Grandparents Can Exercise Rights
In most cases, grandparents will be concerned with exercising visitation rights rather than child custody. South Carolina does allow a grandparent to have custody, but typically only when a parent has died or is unable to adequately provide for the child.
As far as visitation, a grandparent must prove certain facts to get court approval. The judge must find that:
- The child’s parents are unreasonably depriving the grandparent of visitation for 90 days or other significant time period;
- The grandparent has maintained a relationship similar to parent-child;
- Allowing visitation does not interfere with the parent-child relationship; and,
- The child’s parents are unfit OR there are compelling reasons to dispel the presumption that a parent’s decision is in the child’s best interests.
Options for Resolving Grandparent Rights
Many disputes over grandparent versus parent rights are determined by the judge after a hearing, but it is possible to work out an agreement for grandparent visitation. The court is likely to approve an agreement that fully supports the child’s best interests, including emotional and physical needs.
Consult with a Charleston Grandparent Rights Lawyer to Learn More
This summary of South Carolina child custody and visitation laws for grandparents is helpful, but it is essential to retain experienced legal representation in a real-life case. To learn how our team can assist, please contact the Peck Law Firm. You can schedule a consultation with a grandparent rights attorney by calling (843) 631-7117 or visiting us online. After reviewing your situation, we can advise you on legal options.