How Does a Family Court Determine if a Parent Is Unfit in South Carolina?

How Does a Family Court Determine if a Parent Is Unfit in South Carolina?

The fitness of a parent to raise a child is an obvious issue in child custody conflicts. Family courts often run into his issue during or after an acrimonious divorce. Under South Carolina family law, one legal standard reigns supreme over all others, which is the ”best interests of the child.” 

In extreme cases, a court might even permanently remove parental rights from one parent. As one example, this might happen if a court sentences a parent to life in prison without parole. Continue reading this blog post for additional insight.

Parental Fitness vs. The Best Interests of the Child

The “best interests of the child” means whatever is best for the child. Not necessarily what the cold wants, but what is best for them. A parent is “fit” if they are willing and able to act consistently in the best interests of the child. 

A parent might fail the fitness test for moral reasons—such as substance abuse. They might also fail the test for reasons that are completely unrelated to moral concerns–quadriplegia, to name one example.  

In other words, a finding of parental unfitness is not a punishment imposed upon a bad parent. It is simply a ruling designed to protect the child’s best interests.

10 Factors Courts Apply When Determining Parental Fitness in Child Custody Disputes

Following are a few of the most common factors that courts take into consideration when determining parental fitness. A complete list that includes every factor a court might use could include hundreds of entries. 

Can the Parent Set Age-Appropriate Limits for the Child?

Allowing a six-year-old to walk home from school alone is an example of setting an age-inappropriate limit. Allowing a 12-year-old to walk home alone, by contrast, might be fine, depending on the characteristics of the neighborhood.

Does the Parent Have a History of Child Abuse?

A credible allegation of child abuse is a near-automatic disqualifier in a child custody dispute. The word “credible” is key here, though. Unfortunately, some parents try to weaponize false accusations of child abuse to gain an advantage in child custody proceedings. 

Does the Parent Have a History of Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is another near-automatic disqualifier. Even if the parent has “quit all that stuff,” a court might fear relapse. 

Does the Parent Have a History of Domestic Violence?

A history of domestic violence is also a near-automatic disqualifier. Additionally, “Yes, I have hit my spouse, but I would never touch my child” will not float in child custody proceedings, even if it is true.

Does the Parent Have a Successful Track Record of Caring for Children?

Has the parent ever acted as the child’s (or another child’s) primary caretaker? If so, what were the results?

How Reasonable and Cooperative Has the Parent Been in Family Court?

The last thing you need, for example, is a reputation for vindictiveness towards the other parent. Parental alienation, where the parent seeks to unjustifiably discredit the other parent in the old’s eyes, is also a big no-no.

Does the Parent Have Any Psychiatric Illnesses or Issues?

Is the parent receiving mental health care? Have they ever? 

Does the Parent Have the Ability To Provide the Child With a Safe and Clean Environment?

A homeless parent is automatically unfit, for example, as is a parent who is frequently evicted for non-payment of rent. Even in the absence of eviction, what would the child’s home environment be like?

Social Functioning: Does the Parent Seeking Custody “Work and Play Well With Others”?

Constant conflict with neighbors or co-workers, for example, or a reputation as a recluse, is a red flag to just about any South Carolina family court judge. 

The Child’s Attitudes and Preferences

Does the child have a preference? Although the child’s preference is never absolutely decisive, the older the child is, the more weight a court will give their preference. Does the child appear to be afraid of or antagonistic to the parent seeking custody? This is a big non-verbal red flag.

An Experienced Family Lawyer Can Make All the Difference in a Child Custody Dispute

South Carolina child custody law is complex, subtle, and prone to interpretation. Parental fitness (or lack thereof) can be difficult to prove. Furthermore, child custody fights can generate powerful emotions that act as obstacles to a fair resolution. 

All of these are reasons for you to hire an experienced Rock Hill child custody lawyer to handle your dispute.

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm Minor Law Divorce Lawyers in Rock Hill, SC at (803) 504-0971 or contact us online today.
You can also visit our law firm at 1273 Ebenezer Rd, Suite B, Rock Hill, SC 29732.

We serve throughout York County.