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2012-UP-052 - SCDSS v. James G.

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

South Carolina Department of Social Services, Respondent,

v.

Sandra G., James G., Frederick Y., Defendants,

Of whom James G. is the Appellant.

In the interest of a minor under the age of 18 years.


Appeal From York County
Alex Kinlaw, Jr., Family Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2012-UP-052
Submitted January 2, 2012 – Filed January 25, 2012   


AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED


Thomas F. McDow and Erin K. Urquhart, both of Rock Hill, for Appellant.

Adrienne Woods, of Rock Hill, for Respondent.

Rosalee Hix Davis, of Lancaster, for Guardian ad Litem.

PER CURIAM: James G. (Stepfather) appeals the family court's order finding he abused his wife's (Mother) minor child (Child), ordering that his name be placed on the Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect, and ordering him to pay child support.  Stepfather argues the family court erred in (1) finding he abused Child, (2) ordering that his name be placed on the Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect, (3) ordering him to pay child support for Child, (4) relying on the Guardian ad Litem's (GAL) report when the GAL did not appear at trial or sign the report, and (5) issuing an order that failed to comply with the requirements of Rule 26(a), SCRFC.  We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

1. As to whether the family court erred in finding Stepfather abused Child, we affirm. 

"In appeals from the family court, the appellate court has the authority to find the facts in accordance with its view of the preponderance of the evidence."  Ex parte Morris, 367 S.C. 56, 61, 624 S.E.2d 649, 652 (2006).  "This broad scope of review does not, however, require the appellate court to disregard the findings of the family court."  Id.  "This degree of deference is especially true in cases involving the welfare and best interests of a minor child."  Id. at 62, 624 S.E.2d at 652.

Section 63-7-20(4)(a) of the South Carolina Code (2010) defines child abuse as occurring  

when the parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the child's welfare . . . inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon the child physical or mental injury or engages in acts or omissions which present a substantial risk of physical or mental injury to the child, including injuries sustained as a result of excessive corporal punishment . . . . 

In the instant case, Child stated Stepfather hit him in the chest, slapped him in the face and head, and verbally abused him.  Child claimed Stepfather hit him hard enough in the chest for him "to feel it for a few minutes" and that Stepfather hit him hard enough to leave bruises.  In addition, Child claimed Stepfather challenged him to a fight on numerous occasions.  Further, although he disputed the severity of Child's injuries, Stepfather admitted hitting Child in the chest and head, and Mother also testified that Stepfather had hit Child.  Finally, the DSS caseworker and Child's biological father testified Child had told them Stepfather was abusive.  Based on the foregoing evidence, the family court did not err in determining Stepfather's actions constituted abuse.  Accordingly, we affirm the family court's finding that Stepfather abused Child. 

2. As to whether the family court erred in ordering that Stepfather's name be placed on the Central Registry for Child Abuse and Neglect, we affirm.

Section 63-7-1940 of the South Carolina Code (2010) details the means by which a person is entered in the Central Registry and provides as follows:

At a hearing pursuant to Section 63-7-1650 or 63-7-1660, at which the court orders that a child be taken or retained in custody or finds that the child was abused or neglected, the court:

(1) must order that a person's name be entered in the Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect if the court finds that there is a preponderance of evidence that the person physically or sexually abused or willfully or recklessly neglected the child.  Placement on the Central Registry cannot be waived by any party or by the court. 

Because we find the family court did not err in finding Stepfather physically abused Child, we also find the family court did not err pursuant to section 63-7-1940 in ordering that Stepfather's name be placed on the Central Registry for Child Abuse and Neglect. 

3. As to whether the family court erred in ordering Stepfather to pay child support for Child, we reverse.  Stepfather is not Child's adoptive or biological father.  No South Carolina statutes or cases impose the obligation on third parties to pay child support.  Accordingly, we reverse the family court's order to the extent it imposes an obligation on Stepfather to pay child support and remand for a recalculation of child support based solely on Mother's obligation. 

4. As to whether the family court erred in relying on the GAL's report when the GAL did not sign the report or appear at the hearing, we affirm.  Stepfather's arguments are not preserved for appeal.  Stepfather did not object to the introduction of the GAL's report during the hearing.  See Spreeuw v. Barker, 385 S.C. 45, 70-71, 682 S.E.2d 843, 856 (Ct. App. 2009) (finding a father's challenges to the GAL's report unpreserved when the father failed to object to the report and noting that a contemporaneous objection is required to preserve issues for appellate review).       

5. As to whether the family court's order violated Rule 26(a), SCRFC, we affirm.  Rule 26(a), SCRFC, states that "[a]n order or judgment pursuant to an adjudication in a domestic relations case shall set forth the specific findings of fact and conclusions of law to support the court's decision."  Because the family court's order in the instant case made specific findings of fact regarding the pertinent issues involved, we find the family court's order in the instant case sufficiently complied with the requirements of Rule 26(a).  

AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.

FEW, C.J., and THOMAS and KONDUROS, JJ., concur.