If you’re a South Carolinian, getting divorced can be tougher than in some states – South Carolina is one of the states that make it hard for residents to dissolve their marriages.
In 2017, the divorce rate in the state was 2.6 compared to the nationwide rate of 3.2. These stats corroborate this claim.
A divorce is always hard, but adding children makes it more complicated. Read this guide to find out how to get full custody of your children.
The Different Ways to File for Child Custody in South Carolina
To know how to get full custody of a child, you must first know how to file for child custody. There are three ways a parent can file for child custody in South Carolina. These are:
Filing for Child Custody as Part of a Divorce
Depending on the reason for the divorce and the child’s age, the court may opt for a guardian ad litem or a lawyer to represent your child. This professional will spend time with your child and later present a detailed report on what would be best for the child.
You and your partner may be required to attend a parenting course that addresses issues children face when their parents are going through a divorce.
Filing for Child Custody as Part of a Paternity Hearing
If there’s no written proof acknowledging you as the child’s parent or you weren’t legally married, a paternity test must be done.
In South Carolina, a child born out of wedlock is under the mother’s full custody. Once your paternity is established you can file for a separate petition to get custody of your child.
Filing a Counterclaim for Child Custody
If you were served with divorce papers or a paternity petition, go through the proposed parenting plan. If you do not agree with it you can file a counterclaim with your proposed plan before 35 days are up.
How to Get Full Custody of Your Child
To get full custody of your child, you must first be able to prove that you can comfortably give your child their basic needs.
In addition, a child’s security, happiness, and overall well-being are prioritized when reviewing the child’s best interest.
The issue of who has been the child’s primary caretaker plays a major role in determining custody but it’s not the only thing.
Other factors taken into consideration include:
- The age and gender of the child. If the child is old enough to choose who they prefer to live with.
- The need to continue being in a stable home.
- Interaction and support from other family members including extended family.
- The physical and mental well-being of both parents.
- Parental drug abuse or child abuse.
- If the child requires special needs and how capable a parent is in meeting those needs.
- Parenting skills, if, for example, the parent uses excessive discipline.
- Whether there are other children whose custody affects the child’s custody agreement.
- The kind of relationship and interaction a child has with each parent.
- A guardian ad litem recommendation.
- History of domestic violence.
Custody proceedings can be long, tedious and expensive so one parent may opt to give full custody to the other parent and just get visitation rights. In cases where the couple was not married, the family court issues full custody for mothers unless it decides otherwise.
What If a Parent Is Deemed Unfit?
Grounds for full custody of a child may be determined if the other parent is unfit.
Exposing the child to danger or psychologically harmful situations are factors that may deem a parent unfit to have custody. Proving that the other parent neglected, abandoned and/or failed to provide basic requirements for the child can also be used as factors that may qualify them unfit.
A parent or guardian found to be unfit may lose custody or visitation rights over a child. They will also lose forfeit their rights to make any legal decisions for the child. They may also be required to transfer custody to the other parent decided by the court or place the child for adoption.
Abusive parents may face criminal charges in court.
Can a Step-Parent Get Full Custody?
In South Carolina, a step-parent can get full custody of a child if they had legally adopted the child.
Step-parent adoption, however, requires consent from one of the biological parents, if the other parent had relinquished their parental responsibilities, is dead or has been deemed unfit by the court. By adopting the child, the absent parent is cleared from any obligation to offer child support.
The step-parent may present to the family court that they were a “de facto custodian” to get custody of the child.
To qualify as a de facto custodian, you must have lived at least six months with the child if they’re less than three years and at least twelve months if they are older than three as well as being the child’s primary caregiver or financial supporter in that duration.
In other instances, if a person can prove to the court that they were a psychological parent to the child, they may be granted visitation rights to the child even against the natural parents’ will.
Factors taken into consideration include the following:
- the natural parents’ consent allowing the individual to play a parental role.
- living under the same roof with the child for at least six months acting as a parent.
- proof that the individual has created a bond with the child in the time spent together among other reasons.
Get an Experienced Family Lawyer to Fight for You
Divorce cases tend to be long and strenuous, that is why you will require a good and experienced family lawyer that will not only help you ease the process but also assist you in how to get full custody of your children.