A party can petition to become a guardian of a child in South Carolina in Family Court. A guardian is a person who is not a parent but provides care for a child. Typically this care involves having physical and/or legal custody of the child. A guardian has the authority to make decisions about the child’s health, education, maintenance and support.
Becoming a Guardian of a Child
In South Carolina, a minor is defined as a person under 18. An individual who wants to become a guardian of a minor should petition the Family Court in the county where the child currently resides. There is no standard guardian or guardianship form in South Carolina’s list of Family Court forms.
In many other states, statutes provide that a court will appoint a guardian for a minor in circumstances where the child’s parents die or become incapacitated. South Carolina’s Family Code does not contain provisions that clarify the circumstances under which the court will appoint a guardian for a minor. A party that wants to know whether a Family Court is likely to appoint her as a guardian should review her background and the child’s circumstances with a South Carolina-licensed family law attorney.
Read More: How Do I Get My Child Back From a Guardian?
Court Will Determine the Best Interests of the Child
South Carolina’s Family Code requires the court to determine what is in the best interests of the child when awarding custody of the child. A person seeking to be appointed as a guardian must show the court that her providing care for the child would be the best situation for the child. South Carolina encourages kinship care, defined as temporary or permanent informal or formal arrangements in which a relative or nonrelated adult, also known as fictive kin, assumes full-time care of a child whose parents are unable to do so.
A party who is not a relative or fictive kin may be competing with the child’s relatives and fictive kin to be the guardian of the child and have physical or legal custody of the child. When this is true, the party will need to show why it would be to the child’s advantage for the party to be appointed as the child’s guardian.
Requirements for a Guardian
A party can request to be appointed as a temporary guardian or a permanent guardian. The court can remove a guardian if he engages in actions the court finds inappropriate. A guardian ad litem, a court-appointed advocate for the child who investigates the child’s living situation, is usually ordered to determine whether the child needs a guardian.
When a Minor Owns Property
South Carolina does not appoint a guardian for a minor when the child has extraordinary assets, like an inheritance, that need management. A South Carolina Probate Court will appoint a conservator or issue a protective order when this circumstance arises. A Probate Court, not a Family Court, has jurisdiction over the property of a minor if the court determines that the minor owns property that requires management or protection.
Supporting a Child as a Guardian
A guardian who wants to receive payments for child care from the state is required to provide verification to the South Carolina Department of Social Services that the child lives with her, but the parents do not. A guardian can receive food stamps, Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to support the child. A guardian may be expected to provide an explanation of the parents’ whereabouts, if she knows them, to explain why she is responsible for the care of the child. As an alternative, the party can attach a copy of her legal guardianship papers.
- South Carolina Courts: Guardianship in South Carolina, Frequently Asked Questions from a Caregiver or Potential Guardian
- South Carolina Legislature, Title 63: South Carolina Children's Code
- South Carolina Bar: Guardian ad Litem
- South Carolina Bar: Child Custody
- South Carolina Judicial Branch: Self-Help Resources
- South Carolina Judicial Branch: Court Forms
- South Carolina Courts, Self-Help: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in South Carolina Family Courts
- Richland County, South Carolina: Frequently Asked Questions about Guardianships
- South Carolina Department of Social Services: Child Protective Services
- Lancaster County, South Carolina: Family Court
- South Carolina Department of Social Services: Kinship Care
- South Carolina Department of Social Services: Report Child Abuse and Neglect
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau, An Office of the Administration for Children and Families: What does it mean to be a legal guardian; where can I find information?
- South Carolina Bar: Who is a child?
- Florida Courts: Guardianship
- South Carolina, County of Lexington: Guardianship and Conservatorship Procedures
- South Carolina Department of Social Services: SC Voucher Program GUARDIANSHIP/IN LOCO PARENTIS VERIFICATION
- South Carolina Department of Social Services: SC Voucher Program
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.