When people think of child custody arrangements, it’s usually in relation to parental divorce. However, parents aren’t the only ones who can have a right to custody. In some circumstances, the grandparents can become the legal guardians of a child. However, doing so is most often an uphill legal battle that requires meeting several prerequisites.
Circumstances That Can Lead to Grandparents Gaining Custody of Their Grandchild
South Carolina has established several sets of circumstances that can give grandparents the right to child custody. One such situation can involve when the child’s birth parents are both deceased or absent to care for their child. It is also possible to call the parent’s fitness to care for a child into question, such as situations where one or both parents:
- Are emotionally or physically abusive or neglectful
- Make poor decisions about child rearing
- Have a problem with substance abuse or addiction
- Repeatedly put the child’s safety in danger
Other compelling circumstances can apply, such as having a lack of financial resources to care of a child. Courts consider each case individually, so long as there is evidence that suggests the parents cannot give the appropriate care to their child – and that the grandparents are more suited to the role of caregivers.
Besides these circumstances, it is also necessary to establish that the grandparents are the child’s de facto guardians. By South Carolina law, this involves proof that:
- The grandparents are the primary financial support and caretakers of the children.
- The child has lived with the grandparents long enough to meet requirements; children younger than three must live with grandparents for at least six months, while children older than three must have lived with the grandparents for at least a year.
The file of a petition for custody marks the end of the period for the purposes of this requirement, and time that passes after submitting the application does not count. As such, it’s important for grandparents seeking custody to only submit the applications they have had custody for the requisite amount of time.
South Carolina also recognizes grandparents that serve as psychological parents to children. The requirements for gaining custody as a psychological parent include:
- The child’s legal parent or guardian consented to the grandparent’s parent-like relationship with the child.
- The child and grandparent live in the same home.
- The grandparent took care of the child in the form of education and development without expecting financial compensation.
- The grandparent has served the role of a parent for a time long enough to establish a bond with the child.
If grandparents meet these requirements, then they can obtain legal custody of their grandchild.
Ways to Facilitate Approval of Child Custody as a Grandparent
While several avenues exist to give grandparents a way to gain legal custody of their grandchildren, it can still be difficult to meet all the requirements.
If the grounds for gaining custody is the parents’ inability to care for their child, grandparents should collect evidence that proves this lack of parental fitness. It can also help to have evidence a positive relationship between the grandparent and grandchild as well as any expenses spent on items for financial support of the child to establish the grandparents as a logical party to have custody.
Children deserve appropriate love and support from their guardians. In some cases, grandparents may be the ones best suited to provide that care. If so, they have a right to custody of their grandchildren – and South Carolina courts work to determine custody rights in a way that serves the child’s best interests. Discuss your case with our office for further help.