In South Carolina, family courts operate under the presumption that it is in a child’s best interests to remain in the custody of their natural parents unless it can be proven otherwise. That said, there might be cases in which a non-parent can seek legal custody of a child, especially if the child’s natural parents are deemed to be unfit or if there is another compelling circumstance for the court to consider.

In such cases, the court may award child custody or visitation rights to a de facto custodian or a psychological parent. What do these terms mean? When should you seek the help of a qualified family law lawyer to help you fight for custody of a child, even if you are a non-parent?

What is a De Facto Custodian?

In most cases, it is presumed that a parent is the primary caregiver of a child unless both parents share this responsibility equally. However, there are cases in which non-parent act as the primary caregiver and provider of financial support for a child.

Should this person petition for child custody or visitation following legal separation or divorce in which one or both of the natural parents are seeking custody? In the state of South Carolina, a de facto custodian who can prove to the court that they have provided primary care and financial responsibility for 6 months or longer for a child under the age of 3 — or for a year or more when a child is aged 3 or older — has the standing to seek custody or visitation.

What is a Psychological Parent?

The psychological parent doctrine in South Carolina operates on the principle that a non-parent can form a parental relationship with a child. This can be tested in four ways. For starters, the non-parent must prove that one or both parents not only consented to the non-parent forming a parental bond with a child but that they also fostered that bond.

In addition, the psychological parent must:

  • Assume obligations of parenthood (i.e., significant responsibility for care, support, education, or development) without financial compensation; and,
  • Perform in a parental role long enough to develop a bonded, parental relationship with the child.

If a non-parent can prove these points to the satisfaction of the court, they can seek custody or visitation rights.

Why Is It So Important to Work with a Family Law Attorney?

Two parents fighting for custody can bring a lot of complex family issues to the table. When a third party enters the picture, a much more complicated custody battle can ensue.

However, if you are the closest thing that a child has to a parent and you can prove that a de facto custodian or psychological parent situation exists, you have the right to make a claim for custody or visitation. You will, however, need the help of a knowledgeable family law attorney.

We can help you to collect the necessary evidence to support your case and guide you through the legal process. When you are looking for suitable attorney options in Charleston, consider Bleecker Family Law. We offer compassionate advocacy, extensive knowledge, and experience in family law. Contact us today at 843-571-2725 to learn more about the ways that we can help you with your child custody case.