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Supporting and Strengthening Families Act and Custody in South Carolina

Last month, the South Carolina House of Representatives approved a bill that would allow the custodial parent of a child the authority to grant another adult temporary care-giving authority regarding the child for a period not to exceed one year. This bill, which is now before the South Carolina Senate, allows the custodial parent to approve a temporary caregiver without court approval.

The bill, known as the Supporting and Strengthening Families Act, also allows the custodial parent to conduct full background checks including criminal history reports. Under this bill, the caregiver will have a broad authority in making decisions for the child including where the child attends school, and whether the child is enrolled in a public or private school. The adult chosen by the custodial parent however could not approve major decisions for the child such as whether the child could be married or receive an abortion. This act also applies to military parents who are deployed who can appoint a caregiver for the child for the duration of their deployment plus 30 days. While this bill still needs to be approved by the senate before it can become law, it may change how child custody determinations are made by South Carolina courts.

Child Custody in South Carolina

This proposed bill has the potential to change child custody and visitation arrangements by potentially allowing a custodial parent to cut the other parent out of a child’s life for up to a year. By avoiding the courts, and allowing the custodial parent to make their own determinations, it is possible that the custodial parent will not use the same factors that courts do in selecting a guardian.

In making a custody determination, South Carolina law begins the process with the benchmark phrase “the best interests of the child”. The family court will then weigh a number of factors in determining who should receive custody of the child. These factors include things the ability of each parent to be involved in the child’s life, the developmental needs of the child, and the presence of any manipulative behavior by any parent. Here’s the full list of custody factors SC courts uses to determine child custody.

South Carolina does not have a law that automatically awards custody to the child’s primary caretaker, but a presumption exists that the primary caretaker of a child will be awarded custody. The proposed amendments to the Supporting and Strengthening Families Act could affect this presumption. If a court knew that a primary caretaker would be soon letting another adult be responsible for decisions involving the child it may impact the court’s initial decision of a custody determination.

How can we help?

Child custody cases can be very complicated. If this bill passes in South Carolina, determinations of custody may become even more complex. If you're in, or expect to be in a dispute involving the custody of your children, it is important to contact an experienced attorney. Call Surasky Law Firm today at (803) 593-3912.

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