In South Carolina, child custody and visitation rights are not always a matter of dispute between parents. Often, others have a relationship with a child and want to at least see the child or have outright custody. These situations can be complicated and difficult to navigate. One that comes up frequently is if there is a de facto custodian. Understanding how the law views a de facto custodian is essential for the parents and anyone else involved in the child’s life.

The de facto custodial is someone who, with evidentiary proof, provided financial support and was the main caregiver of the child and the child: was under 3-years-old while living with him or her for at least six months; or was older than three living and lived with him or her for at least one year. The amount of time will not be considered if a parent is seeking to regain custody from the de facto custodian.

The person will not be considered a de facto custodian until the court decides that the person has met the criteria to be a de facto custodian regarding the child. Once that determination is made, the person can request child custody and visitation rights. The de facto custodian can receive child custody and visitation if the court determines that the parents are unfit or there are other circumstances that warrant it. If a child is in the custody of the Department of Social Services, there can be no request to be considered a de facto custodian. Once the decision is made that a person is a de facto custodian, the court is required to join with that individual when there is an action initiated regarding the child.

The objective in any child custody and visitation case is to ensure that the child’s interests are served and he or she is adequately cared for. With a de facto custodian or parents who are disagreeing with the claims of a de facto custodian, having legal assistance is a must. A law firm that helps clients with child custody and visitation rights should be called for advice and representation.