Third Party Non-Parent Custody in South Carolina

Posted by Leslie SarjiSep 17, 20140 Comments

There are some situations in which a South Carolina family court will find that the best interests of the child will be best served if the child is placed in the custody of a third party non-parent or guardian, rather than leaving the child in the custody of one or both of the child's biological, legal or adoptive parents.

Third party non-parents can include individuals such as the child's grandparents or extended family members, like an aunt or an uncle. There may also be a person in the child's life that acts as a “psychological parent” to the child, i.e., someone who has stepped into the role of a parent for the child, and has provided care and financial support for the child for an extended period of time. If certain requirements are met, the family court may find it appropriate to award custody to the child's psychological parent.

What is Required to be Considered by the Court as a Psychological Parent?

When assessing whether a third party non-parent qualifies as a psychological parent to the child for which he or she is seeking custody, the court will consider four criteria. If the child's parents are deemed unfit to care for the child, or there are extenuating circumstances that make it unsafe for the child to remain in the custody of his or her parents, the court will assess the third party non-parent against the following criteria.

The fitness of the child's parents must first be evaluated. Generally, the courts are reluctant to interfere with a family situation if the parents are considered fit to care for the child.

When considering the third party non-parent's psychological parent status, the family court will assess whether the child's biological or legal parents consented to, condoned and facilitated a parent-like relationship between the custody seeking non-parent and the child.

The court will also consider the amount of contact that the third party non-parent has had with the child. Factors like whether the child has been living with the non-parent, and whether the non-parent has been providing care and/or financial support for the child, will be given weight.

The court is also going to be interested in evidence that the child and the non-parent third party have a bond like that of a parent and his or her child. There needs to be a degree of attachment between the child and the non-parent.

Even if all of these criteria are met, the court will still deliberate over whether awarding custody of the child to the third party non-parent is in the best interest of the child. There might be a closer familial relationship with a family member that would be better for the child than the non-parent who is seeking custody.

What is in The Best Interest of the Child?

Issues involving child custody are always evaluated against a standard that puts in best interests of the child first and foremost. South Carolina law operates with the presumption that custody should be given to the biological, legal or adoptive parent of the child. However, this presumption exists only if the parent is fit to care for the child and can provide a good home for the child. Similarly, if a parent relinquishes his or her parental rights to have custody of the child, this presumption no longer exists. In order to obtain custody of a child as a third party non-parent, this presumption must be rebutted by evidence suggesting that granting custody of the child to his or her parents would not be in the best interest of the child.

Contacting a Charleston Family Law Attorney

If you are interested in obtaining custody of a child as a third party non-parent and you believe that you qualify as a psychological parent to the child which you are seeking custody of, please contact the family law attorneys at Sarji Law Firm, LLC. Our child custody attorneys can assist you with your fight to obtain custody. Call us today at 843-323-4341.

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