Parents have rights and responsibilities regarding their children in South Carolina. They must provide financial support, but they also have the right to seek visitation or custody. 

However, if a parent abandons their child, they have failed to meet their responsibilities as a parent. The other parent may have the option to seek a termination of parental rights in these cases.

Abandonment Defined

Abandonment is defined in Section 63-7-20(1) as willfully deserting a child or willfully surrounding physical possession of a child without making adequate arrangements for child’s needs or continuing care of the child. 

Child abandonment is one of the grounds that can support a termination of parental rights in South Carolina. There are other grounds, such as a failure to visit the child for a period of at least six months, a failure to provide financial support for a period of at least six months, or cases of child abuse.

If one parent abandons the child and does not visit the child or contribute financially to the child’s upbringing for a period of at least six months, you may have grounds to seek a termination of parental rights. But the court must also determine that the termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child.

The Child’s Best Interests

Even if the grounds for termination are clear, a court may decide not to grant a termination of parental rights. A termination of parental rights is a permanent decision that could impact the child for the rest of their lives.

For example, the abandoning parent may later return and become financially able to support the child. If the court grants the termination of parental rights, they may be depriving the child of this support.

A court may be more likely to grant a termination of parental rights if there is a simultaneous adoption by another party. This is commonly done in stepparent adoptions, where one biological parent must terminate their parental rights before the stepparent can adopt the child.

In these cases, the court is giving legal parental rights to a person who has already shown their commitment to the child. This factor can be weighed against determining the biological parent’s rights when determining the best interests of the child.

Talk to a South Carolina family law attorney before you petition the court for a termination of parental rights or for help proceeding with a stepparent adoption.

The lawyers at King Law can help you through the difficult process of separation, divorce, and child custody. We invite you to come in and talk with one of our family law attorneys during an in-person consultation. Our number is 888-748-KING (5464).

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