Grandparents have been battling for improved visitation rights to see their grandchildren in South Carolina for many years. They finally have them after a new law was signed this summer.
State Governor Nikki Haley signed into law House bill 4348 on June 9, 2014. It amended
S.C. Code § 63-3-530 (A)(33), which is commonly known as the grandparent visitation statute.
The new law has been greeted as a victory for grandparents. It makes it easier for them to obtain court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren.
The modified subsection 33 now authorizes the family court to order the visitation for the grandparent of a minor if either his or her parents are deceased or are divorced, or are living separate and apart in different places if:
- The child's parents or guardians are unreasonably depriving the grandparent of an opportunity to visit with the child, including denying visitation of the child to the grandparent for a period exceeding 90 days; and
- Awarding grandparent visitation would not interfere with the parent-child relationship.
(a) the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the child's parents or guardians are unfit; or
(b) the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that there are compelling circumstances to overcome the presumption that the parental decision is in the child's best interest.
The previous statute made it difficult for grandparents because it required them to have "a relationship similar to a parent-child relationship with the minor child" as a condition of awarding custody. Very few grandparents could meet such an onerous requirement.
The new statute allows many more grandparents the right to seek court-ordered visitation. However, grandparents will still be unable to seek visitation when the child's parents are living together. But if one or both parents are deceased, or the parents are divorced or not living together, grandparents can seek visitation if it would not interfere with the parent-child relationship and either the parents or guardians are unfit or there are compelling circumstances to overcome the powerful presumption that the parental decision to deny such visitation is in the child's best interests.
Grand magazine treated the new law as a victory for grandparents in South Carolina. "The problem with the (previous) 2010 law is the fact that it actually placed almost impossible, and in one case contradictory conditions on the grandparents to prove," it stated.
It may be easier for grandparents to receive visitation rights than it was previously, but many legal obstacles still remain. An experienced Columbia grandparents' rights attorney can help you through the minefield. Call Masella Law at 803.748.9990.