A close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren provides familial bonds that span across multiple generations. Unfortunately, if parents divorce or have an argument with the grandparents, these relationships can be jeopardized.
Dedicated child custody attorney, Greg Steele, has extensive experience protecting grandparent’s rights in family court. If your relationship with your grandchild is being threatened, our Anderson grandparents’ rights lawyer will do his best to find a solution that works for you and your family and which keeps your grandchild out of the dispute.
The Rights of Grandparents to Court-Ordered Visitation
South Carolina has long emphasized a parent’s fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit. A parent’s decisions are presumed to be in the child’s best interests. Accordingly, family court judges generally must defer to the parents’ wishes regarding their children’s interactions with their grandparents.
The fundamental right to parent makes it challenging for grandparents to secure time with their grandchildren over the parents’ objection. Under current law, a grandparent may not seek court-ordered access when the child’s parents reside together. They can, however, petition for visitation if the parents are living separately, divorced, or if one parent is deceased.
A grandparent must prove the following elements to successfully gain visitation with their grandkids:
- The child’s parents unreasonably deny the grandparents visitation
- The grandparent had a parenting relationship with the grandchild (i.e., acted as a de facto parent)
- Court-ordered visitation would not interfere with the parent-child relationship
- The parents are unfit to care for the child
A judge may also grant visitation without the parents’ approval if a grandparent can demonstrate through clear and convincing evidence that overriding the parents’ decision would better serve the child’s interests. For example, if a parent endangers their child’s safety by exposing them to dangerous situations, the court may consider transferring custody rights to the grandparents.
Grandparents as De Facto Parents
One of the primary ways for a grandparent to gain custody of a grandchild is to prove they acted as a “de facto” parent, meaning they have been the child’s primary caregiver for a period of time. Under South Carolina Code of Laws §63-15-60, a grandparent must demonstrate that they have cared for and supported a grandchild under the age of three for at least six months, or a grandchild older than three for at least one year.
If a grandparent can prove that they have been acting as a de facto parent, they may be awarded custody if the parents are deemed unfit or a compelling reason exists to remove the children from the parents’ custody. Compelling reasons could include untreated mental health or substance abuse issues, child abuse or neglect, or any other ongoing activity that could endanger the child.
To help them decide a grandparent custody case, a judge may rely on family psychologists, Department of Social Services investigations, or the recommendations of the grandchild’s court-appointed Guardian ad Litem. A knowledgeable lawyer could assess a case’s facts and prepare a grandparent custody petition if the circumstances warrant changing custody.
Seek Guidance from a Compassionate Grandparents’ Rights Attorney in Anderson
Generally, parents have the right to decide who can spend time with their children. As such, they can deny grandparents contact even if they had a close and loving relationship with the grandchildren before the connection was severed.
Fortunately, a dedicated Anderson grandparents’ rights lawyer can work to overcome the legal hurdles and secure a court order. Attorney Greg Steele can advise you of your legal rights and responsibilities and help you build your case for custody or visitation with the grandchildren you hold dear. Call today.