Frequently Asked Questions

What is a “De Facto Custodian”?

In South Carolina, the family court can award custody or visitation to persons who meets the criteria of a “de facto custodian” as defined by S.C. Code § 63-15-60. This code defines a “de facto custodian” as:

a person who has been shown by clear and convincing evidence to have been the primary caregiver for and financial supporter of a child who:

(1) has resided with the person for a period of six months or more if the child is under three years of age; or
(2) has resided with the person for a period of one year or more if the child is three years of age or older.

Such de facto custodians can be awarded custody or visitation if the family court “finds by clear and convincing evidence that the child’s natural parents are unfit or that other compelling circumstances exist.”

This “de facto custodian” statute allows the family court to grant custody or visitation to persons who have spent significant time raising the child at issue. This code section can often be applied by relatives of family friends who have raised a child when the parents were absent. Thus a grandmother who raised her grandchild while her daughter was incarcerated, serving in the military, or otherwise too preoccupied to raise her own child, can seek court-ordered visitation, or even custody, without having to meet the requirements of the grandparent visitation statute, S.C. Code § 63-3-530 (A)(33).

 
 

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