What Rights Do South Carolina Grandparents Have to Visitation With their Grandchildren?

Having a loving, close relationship with your grandchildren can be one of life’s greatest joys. Perhaps your relationship with your child has become distant or acrimonious, and you are no longer able to see your grandchildren as a result. Or perhaps your child is no longer in the picture because of imprisonment or death, and your grandchildren’s other parent is not allowing you to maintain a relationship with your grandchildren. If informal conversations, or even discussions mediated by a neutral third party, don’t change these circumstances, then you may be entitled to a court order from a South Carolina family court which facilitates visitation with your grandchildren.

In order for a grandparent to be entitled to visitation, the parents of the minor grandchild must either be divorced or separated, or one or both of the parents must be deceased. Under those circumstances, the court can order visitation where the grandparent can show that:

  • the child’s parents or guardians are being unreasonable in denying the grandparent and child the right to visit,
  • they have done so for at least 90 days,
  • giving the grandparent visitation rights wouldn’t interfere with the child’s relationship with the parent, and either,
    1. the grandparent can show that the parent or guardians of the child are unfit, OR
    2. the grandparent can show that there are compelling circumstances or, in other words, a very good reason that the court should overrule the parent or guardian’s decision to deny visits between the child and grandparent.

Prior versions of the law required the grandparent and child to have a relationship “similar to a parent-child relationship,” but due to recent legislation, that’s no longer a requirement for grandparents to have court ordered visitation. Bear in mind, however, that grandparent visitation is not likely to mirror the standard visitation that some non-custodial parents have. It is, instead, typically less often but enough to enable grandparents and grandchildren to maintain consistency in their relationship.

An important item to note, though, is that if your petition for visitation with your grandchildren is ultimately denied, the court may require that you pay the opposing parent’s attorneys’ fees, so it is important that you speak with an experienced family law attorney before bringing an action of this kind to ensure your facts and circumstances are likely to prevail under the legal standard. An attorney will also help to assertively represent your rights before a family court judge.

If you are a grandparent seeking custody of your grandchildren, there is a different legal standard you must meet, which will be covered in a later blog.

If you are a grandparent seeking to explore your South Carolina grandchild visitation or custody rights, contact the experienced attorneys at The Cate Law Firm in Spartanburg for a consultation, at (864) 585-4226.

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