Grandparent Visitation Rights in South Carolina

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Grandparents have limited visitation rights in South Carolina. Grandparents may compel visitation over the objection of a fit parent in certain circumstances.

The Greenville family law attorneys at Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC fight for the rights of grandparents. Because of the limited nature of grandparent rights in South Carolina, having experienced legal counsel can greatly improve your likelihood of success.

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Grandparent Rights in South Carolina

  • Generally, parents control their children’s upbringing. That includes deciding whether children should have a contract with grandparents. Camburn v. Smith, 355 S.C. 574 (2003).
  • There are some important exceptions.
  • Common reasons for grandparent visitation are the death of a parent, divorce and situations where a grandparent has had a significant role in raising a child.
  • South Carolina law allows a court to order visitation in certain situations.
  • To receive court-ordered grandparent visitation, you must petition the court, or join a case as a de facto custodian. (See S.C. Code § 63-15-60).
  • When visitation is court-ordered, it is enforceable, and the parents may not deny it.
  • An attorney can represent you to pursue grandparent visitation rights in South Carolina.

Grandparents can get visitation in South Carolina – but it isn’t easy. Certain criteria must be met.

What are the civil rights of grandparents?

In most circumstances, grandparent rights are derivative of the parent. In Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that fit parents have a fundamental right to make decisions for their children, including access to grandparents. Grandparents have civil rights to compel visitation only in exceptional circumstances.

Can a parent deny a grandparent visitation in South Carolina?

If a grandparent has court-ordered visitation, South Carolina law prohibits the parent from denying visitation. Without a court order, parents may choose whether to allow grandparents to have contact with their grandchildren.

Laws for Grandparent Rights in South Carolina

S.C. Code § 63-3-530(33) allows the court to order visitation for a grandparent, if:

  • One or both parents are deceased
  • Parents are divorced
  • Parents live separate and apart

To order grandparent visitation, the court must find that:

  • Parents are unreasonably deriving the grandparents of opportunities to visit the child
  • Deprivation of the child has exceeded 90 days
  • Visitation wouldn’t interfere with the parent-child relationship
  • The parents are unfit, or there are compelling circumstances to overcome the parent’s denial of visitation

The standard for declaring a parent unfit or overcoming the deference given to the parent’s decision is clear and convincing evidence. The court needs compelling evidence to award grandparent visitation over a parent’s objection.

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Grandparent as psychological parent

There may be a situation where a grandparent raised their grandchild in the role of a parent. If a grandparent was a psychological parent to a grandchild, for a length of time sufficient to establish a parental bond, the court may recognize the grandparent as a psychological parent and award visitation.

A grandparent may be a psychological parent if:

  • The parent consented to the parent-child relationship with the grandchild
  • Grandparent and grandchild lived together
  • The grandparent acted as a parent without expecting pay
  • Duration was sufficient for a parental bond

If a grandparent is a grandchild’s psychological parent, they may seek visitation. See Middleton v. Johnson, 369 S.C. 585, (S.C. Ct. App. 2006) (noting that establishing psychological parenthood is a “difficult undertaking”).

Grandparent as de facto custodian

A grandparent qualifying as a de facto custodian under S.C. Code § 63-15-60 may receive visitation or custody. The court must find by clear and convincing evidence that the child’s natural parents are unfit or that there are other compelling circumstances.

Talk to a Family Law Attorney in Greenville

At Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC, our attorneys help grandparents pursue custody. We are always willing to learn about your situation. Contact us today.

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