Do Grandparents Have Rights to Visitation?

Many South Carolina grandparents play an active part in raising their grandchildren. Does South Carolina have grandparents’ rights? While state laws recognize the role grandparents often play in doing so, grandparents’ rights in SC typically remain secondary to those of a child’s parents. However, At Turner Family Law, we recognize that situations may arise where the state’s family court system intervenes, allowing grandparents to have custody or visitation with grandchildren, regardless of the parent’s preferences.

What Laws Govern Grandparents’ Rights in SC?

In South Carolina, specific laws address grandparent visitation. Section 63-3-530(A)(33) of the 1976 Code, amended by Act 361 of 2008, dictates that grandparents may seek visitation rights in certain circumstances.

For example, they may do so if both parents die, divorce or live separately. The court may also grant grandparents visitation if it determines that the parents are preventing it without a valid reason, provided such visitation won’t disrupt or damage the parent-child relationship. If they find evidence that a parent is unfit, grandparent visitation may become more likely.

Section 63-7-730 of the 1976 Code also addresses grandparents’ rights in SC. If the court orders a child to remain in South Carolina Department of Social Services custody during a probable cause hearing and decides staying in the child’s home is bad for his or her welfare, they may place the child with a grandparent or close relative.

There are many factors to consider when making such decisions, including the grandparent’s suitability and willingness to care for the child. Ultimately, these laws give grandparents ways to seek visitation rights while prioritizing the welfare of South Carolina children.

Can Parents Deny Grandparents Visitation in South Carolina?

So, does South Carolina have grandparents’ rights? While grandparents may have a reasonable presumption that they can spend time with their grandchildren, South Carolina laws give parents considerable authority regarding who their children spend time with and when. If a parent believes spending time with grandparents is detrimental and there are no extenuating circumstances, it is typically within that parent’s rights to deny visitation.

When Are Grandparents Entitled to Visitation?

So, do grandparents have rights in SC? While grandparents may be able to secure visitation rights when parents die, divorce or separate, several other circumstances might make obtaining visitation possible.

When parents are unfit

Grandparents’ rights in SC may be attainable if the state’s family court system determines that the child’s parents are unfit. Courts may consider parents “unfit” if they are unable to provide a suitable environment for a child, compromising his or her safety.

When parents deny visitation without merit

Grandparents may also be able to secure visitation rights when courts determine that a child’s parents are being “unreasonable” in their denial of visitation. Typically, this means the parents prevent the grandparents from seeing their grandchildren for 90 days or longer.

When other compelling reasons exist

Every family court case is unique, and the family court system may also award grandparents visitation when there are “compelling reasons” to do so. Many different circumstances can constitute “compelling reasons,” but if denying visitation may cause the child emotional distress, this may count. If the court decides grandparent visitation is instrumental to a child’s growth and development, this may constitute a “compelling reason.”

While parents sometimes have the right to withhold visitation from grandparents, there are some situations that may merit the court granting grandparents’ rights.

How Do You Obtain Visitation Rights?

Grandparents who wish to secure grandparent visitation must file a petition with the family court. The petition should detail the reasons for requesting visitation, and grandparents should turn over any supporting evidence to support their assertions. The court will then review the petition before determining if visitation is appropriate.

If the court decides to grant visitation, it may establish a clear visitation schedule for the family to follow.

Is Custody an Option for Grandparents?

In some cases, South Carolina grandparents may want or need to obtain custody of their grandchildren. Under certain circumstances, they may be able to do so.

When a child faces persistent neglect

When parents persistently neglect their children, this may increase the chances of a grandparent obtaining custody rights. This is especially likely if the grandparents can demonstrate that the grandchild is in danger while caring for their parent or parents.

When a parent abandons a child

Grandparents’ rights in SC may also allow a grandparent to obtain custody if there is clear and convincing evidence that the parents abandoned the child.

When a parent leaves the child with a third party

In the case a parent decides not to raise or care for a child and leaves the child in the care of a non-parent third party, this may also allow grandparents to obtain custody.

When a parent refuses to parent

Grandparents may also get custody over a grandchild if they prove that a parent is unwilling to carry out traditional parenting responsibilities.

Whether grandparents get custody in these situations depends primarily on whether the court considers such an arrangement to serve the child’s best interests.

Have Questions About Grandparents’ Rights in SC?

The laws regarding grandparents’ rights in SC can be complex, but the team at Turner Family Law in Greenville, South Carolina, understands these laws and can help grandparents in their pursuits of visitation or custody. Call 864-806-2609 to learn more.

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