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Applying Family Court Rule 27 to line jump the docket on visitation enforcement

I met with a father earlier this week for a consult.  He mentioned that he had gone five months without seeing his teenage daughter and his rule to show cause to enforce his visitation was scheduled for a pre-trial but hadn’t been set for hearing.  I found the matter distressing.  As I have previous blogged in 216 months, one only has a limited time to develop a relationship with one’s child before that child becomes an adult.  As I explained in Seeking criminal contempt for denied visitation, visitation interference is one of the few areas in family court in which I believe harsh sanctions are justified.

These views lead me to treat enforcement of visitation orders with urgency.  The South Carolina Family Court rules support this urgency.  Rule 27, SCRFC authorizes the family court clerk (not only the judge) to issue a rule to show cause upon a non-custodial person’s pro se petition to enforce an order that provides set visitation.  It further authorizes the clerk to issue a rule to show cause upon a pro se petition to require the return of the child when the non-custodial person refuses to return the child to the custodial person at the end of the period of visitation.  In both instances the clerk is required to set the rule within 30 days of the pro se affidavit being filed.  Rule 27(c) SCRFC.

One should never allow more than thirty days to elapse between filing a rule to enforce visitation or obtain return of a child and the hearing date.  In the past, when the court has proposed setting such a rule more than 30 days out, I have contacted the Chief Administrative Judge and requested the rule be set on an expedited basis. When the court is reminded of my client’s ability to file a pro se affidavit and get into court within 30 days, it has always honored that request.

Perhaps this is pushy, but visitation denial is one of those occasions in which it is completely appropriate to be pushy.

Put Mr. Forman’s experience, knowledge, and dedication to your service for any of your South Carolina family law needs.

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  • kim

    Mr Forman,

    Hi, I am a very concerned 3rd party that has observed enough Family Court hearings to have my faith in justice completely wiped out!
    I Have been reading your blogs for some time and finally decided to just send a note to see if you could offer some comments or direction.

    Having witnessed enough to last a lifetime on this topic, there is nothing it seems that can be done in the following recent circumstance- with a temporary visitation schedule in place pending trial – a currently deployed parent had asked his childs visitation to his home continue in his absence- other parent refused and not for reasons in that childs best interest ! Apparently that’s entirely acceptable by the courts and SC law- what power.. to essentially be able to cut off that child from all connections to the other parent and their siblings. I’m beyond disgusted – I am determined to find a way to prevent this from continuing and happening to others- parents need to recognize what’s at stake – these kids need us… ready to start raising awareness, working to change or pass new laws whatever it takes..
    any advice/suggestions on where to start would be appreciated…will be in that area next week

    • Your friend might wish to examine the recently enacted Military Parent Equal Protection Act, S.C. Code Ann. § 63-5-900 through -950 (2009), which provides some special rules for custody, visitation, and support when a military parent is required to be separated from a child due to military service.

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