Tuesday, January 17, 2006
The Supreme Court of South Carolina has held that a Family Court errs in refusing a request for an evidentiary hearing, instead basing its permanency planning order on the file and pleadings, the arguments of counsel, and the GAL’s report. The case involved an infant who had been placed with a non-relative custodian. The custodian had cared for the child for nearly two years and sought to adopt the child. However, the family court ruled that custodian lacked standing to participate in the permanency hearing as she was not related to child, refused her request for an evidentiary hearing, and dismissed Custodian from the action. The Supreme Court noted that non-relatives could indeed have standing in abuse and neglect actions: "While Custodian may not stand on precisely the same footing as a parent or close relative, it is apparent from a reading of various statutes touching on the issue that the Legislature contemplated nonrelatives often may play a crucial and important role in the life and well-being of a child, particularly when parents or relatives turn away from the child.... A nonrelative such as Custodian who has a real, material, or substantial interest in the long-term custody and potential adoption of a child has standing to participate in a family court proceeding addressing those issues. Accordingly, we reject the notion Custodian somehow lacks standing to appear in this case or argue on behalf of Child simply because she is not related to Child by blood or marriage, or because she failed to comply with a treatment and placement plan"
Despite the trial court's error, the court affirmed the order of the family court because Custodian had appealed only the issue of the evidentiary hearing and had failed to appeal the ruling which dismissed her from the case.
Morris v. Monceaux, 2006 S.C. LEXIS 7 (January 9, 2006)
Opinion available on the web (last viisted January 17, 2006 bgf)
Thanks to law firm of Stevens and MacPhail's South Carolina Family Law Blog for highlighting this case.