Adoption

How do I get custody and/ or visitation with 7 year old child when I am not the natural father?

I was asked this question by a young man the other day and I wish I had a simple answer for him. It’s possible, but its difficult, expensive and will take a long time.

In theory, any person can get custody of any other minor child, but unless the person seeking custody of a child is a parent, the burden is very steep. Requests for custody of an unrelated child is permitted under the legal doctrine called the psychological parent.

Under this doctrine, a person can get custody of an unrelated child if the following factors are met:

  1. That the biological or adoptive parent[s] consented to, and fostered, the petitioner’s formation and establishment of a parent-like relationship with the child;
  2. That the petitioner and the child lived together in the same household;
  3. That the petitioner assumed obligations of parenthood by taking significant responsibility for the child’s care, education and development, including contributing towards the child’s support, without expectation of financial compensation; [and]
  4. That the petitioner has been in a parental role for a length of time sufficient to have established with the child a bonded, dependent relationship parental in nature.

The doctrine of the psychological parent is for a person who has helped raise a child for a number of years and a strong bond has been established and, for whatever reason, they are not a biological parent. Situations like this are common where two people have chosen to live together as a married couple and one person has stood in for an absent parent and helped raise a child as their own.

As an interesting aside, should a person prevail in getting visitation with a child unrelated by blood, they will have no obligation to pay child support! It does not seem fair, and perhaps it is not, but South Carolina law only permits a parent to be ordered to pay child support for a child.

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