Abandonment Laws in South Carolina

Abandonment is one of the acceptable grounds for an at-fault divorce in South Carolina and termination of parental rights in the case of child custody. These family law issues can be complex, painful subjects, which means you may need help understanding the law and taking action.

At Sarah Henry Law, we’re here to help. Reach out to your attorney for guidance when South Carolina abandonment laws may impact your case. 

What is Abandonment in South Carolina?

Abandonment can be taken in the context of marriage or child custody. In both cases, you may need a lawyer to help you navigate your case and get a fair agreement. 

Marital abandonment refers to not living with your spouse for more than a year without permission or a valid reason. Additionally, there is no indication you’d like to go back and live again with your spouse. 

Child abandonment, as defined in the South Carolina Code of Laws, is the deliberate neglect of the child or voluntarily giving up physical custody of the child with no clear plan for providing for the child’s needs or continuing care. 

According to the Children’s Bureau, it can also mean any of the following if you are the custodial parent:

  • Deliberate failure to provide the child with sufficient food, clothing, shelter, or medical attention they need
  • Indefinite period of leaving the child with no concrete plan or agreement with the child’s immediate caregiver on when the parent will resume physical custody
  • Failure to make arrangements for the child’s discharge from the hospital within ten days after the need for medical care has ended.  

If you are a non-custodial parent, abandonment is a non-fulfillment of the agreed child custody arrangement for no valid reason. For example, not visiting or communicating with the child or not providing child support are all considered abandonment. 

Applying Abandonment Laws in South Carolina

The state’s abandonment laws can affect your divorce or child custody petition. Whether you’re the respondent or petitioner, you need to know if the petition is valid. Your family lawyer can help you determine this.


You may only file for an at-fault divorce in South Carolina on the grounds of abandonment if your spouse has left for at least one year without your consent. Leaving one’s spouse does not necessarily mean abandonment. A spouse who is compelled to leave the other may do so, provided the separation does not last for one year. 

The difference between the two lies in the decision on alimony, child custody, and separation of assets. Proving your spouse’s abandonment in an at-fault divorce may swing these decisions in your favor. Ask a respected lawyer to help you navigate an at-fault divorce with abandonment as grounds. 

Child Custody

You may file for a termination of parental rights if you can prove that your spouse has abandoned your child for at least six months. The tricky part is that the court must decide if the termination of such rights will benefit the child. 

Since the termination of parental rights is permanent, the court must ensure that the decision will not harm the child. For example, let’s say the deserting parent is going through a financial crisis and can’t pay for child support but recovers later. The child will be deprived of financial and parental support if the decision is made before the parent has a chance to recover.

Get Help from a South Carolina Family Law Attorney 

Using abandonment as grounds for either divorce or child custody can be difficult. Talk to a reputable South Carolina family lawyer at Sarah Henry Law for assistance. Your lawyer is ready to speak with you.

Reach out for a consultation by calling us at 864-478-8324. You may also reach out by completing the following online contact form. 

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