From aunts and uncles to grandparents, cousins and beyond, surrounding a child with a dependable support network is the key to happy and healthy development. However, separation and divorce may create difficulty for that support system to remain intact. Relatives seeking to stay in regular contact with children following custody rulings may benefit from extended family visitation rights.

What are extended family visitation rights?

South Carolina law mandates that noncustodial parents retain visitation rights/hours – alternating week or weekend stays, holiday visitation, etc., unless revoked by the court. 

Parents can lose custody to extended family members, or those extended members may gain visitation rights depending upon the facts of the case.  

In some cases, grandparents may gain visitation rights for example in the case where that grandparent’s child is deceased.  Other extended family members do not have these rights unless they can establish that they have standing to pursue visitation rights. 

The Impact of Baker v. Hardwick

In 2017, the South Carolina Court of Appeals issued an opinion in the case of Baker v. Hardwick, laying out factors to determine if an extended family member has the standing to pursue visitation. 

In Baker a child was removed from a father’s care by DSS and placed with a distant relative pending further investigation. The child was placed back with the father (Hardwick) after the investigation ruled him fit. 

The relative (Baker) sought visitation rights following the ruling. After being denied by Hardwick, the case was taken to the Court of Appeals, which ruled Baker did not have standing to pursue visitation and the Court laid out the criteria by which a non-parent could qualify for visitation rights.

Standing for Extended Family Visitation Rights

Extended family members may have legal standing to pursue these rights if:

  1. The nonparent is a grandparent
  2. The nonparent is a sibling.
  3. The nonparent can supply proof of status as a de facto custodian.
  4. The nonparent can prove a psychological parent relationship.

Bleecker Goes Beyond

If you are pursuing visitation rights and need unmatched legal counsel, Bleecker Family Law is here to help. Our skilled team of attorneys can assist with family law matters both in and out of court and will educate you on your rights, as well as the best course of action. Visit our website to explore our full list of services, and contact us today to connect with our team.