March 14, 2018
From Spartanburg County Monét S. Pincus, Family Court
Melinda Inman Butler, of The Butler Law Firm, of Union, for
Brandt, III, of Henderson Brandt & Vieth, PA, of
Spartanburg, for Respondents Karl and Lisa Jobst; and Robert
C. Rhoden, III, of Spartanburg, for Respondent South Carolina
Department of Social Services.
Martin (Mother) appeals an order awarding custody of her
minor child (Child) to Karl (Grandfather) and Lisa Jobst
(Grandmother, collectively Grandparents). On appeal, Mother
argues the family court erred in (1) finding Grandparents had
standing to seek custody, (2) dismissing the South Carolina
Department of Social Services (DSS) from the action, and (3)
holding Mother in contempt for failing to attend mediation.
was born in 2013. Mother and Brian Jobst (Father) are
Child's parents, and Grandparents are Child's
paternal grandparents. On June 5, 2015, Mother was arrested
for driving under the influence (DUI), possession of
marijuana, and child endangerment because Child was in the
car with Mother at the time of her arrest. The following day
Mother and Father signed a Safety Plan with DSS agreeing
Father would act as Child's protector and not allow
Mother to have unsupervised contact with Child during
DSS's investigation. Because of Father's work
schedule, Mother and Father asked Grandmother, who lived in
Texas, to come to South Carolina and care for Child.
Grandmother came to South Carolina, and on June 11, 2015,
Grandparents filed this action alleging Mother and Father
were unfit, Grandparents were Child's de facto custodians
or psychological parents, and custody with Grandparents was
in Child's best interest. On June 15, 2015, the family
court issued an order granting Grandparents temporary custody
of Child and requiring them to remain in South Carolina. On
August 17, 2015, the family court issued a second order
granting Grandparents temporary custody of Child and allowing
Child to move to Texas, where Grandparents lived.
October 4, 2016, the family court held a final hearing.
Grandmother testified Mother and Father previously lived with
Grandparents in South Carolina while Mother was pregnant, and
Mother, Father, and Child lived with Grandparents until Child
was about one year old. She stated everyone got along well
during that time and testified, "We took care of the
baby. [Father] took care of the baby. [Mother] at times took
care of the baby." However, she believed Mother was not
always attentive to Child. She explained, "[Mother]
would get up at two o'clock [p.m.] and take a shower,
smoke a couple of cigarettes[, ] and get dressed and go off
to work, and we wouldn't see her until two, three, four
in the morning, whenever she came home . . . ."
Grandmother added "Sometimes she would do the two
o'clock feeding before she went to work and sometimes she
wouldn't. She didn't say much. She just went on her
stated Father worked full-time and attended school, and he
"was a little disappointed that [Mother] wasn't . .
. doing more with [Child]." She stated she and
Grandfather were able to help care for Child in part because
Grandmother worked two days per week and Grandfather had been
laid off from his job. Grandmother testified she and
Grandfather moved to Texas in July 2014.
Grandmother arrived in South Carolina following Mother's
arrest, the DSS caseworker told her "if Father and
Mother did not pass their drug test, that either
[Grandmother] could get custody of [Child] or she would go to
a foster home, . . . and that if [Grandmother] wanted
[custody], [she] needed to get an attorney."
testified Father visited Child "every night after
work" when she lived in South Carolina with Child under
the temporary custody order. She testified, "[Child] was
happy to see him, glad to see him." Grandmother
testified Mother had scheduled visitation on Wednesdays,
Saturdays, and Sundays and "[s]ometimes she would come
for the visitation. Sometimes she wouldn't."
Grandmother described Mother's behavior during that time
as "weird." She stated Mother had "[j]erking
movements, tremors. She had facial expressions. Sometimes . .
. her pupils were really dilated." Grandmother stated
she asked Mother whether she had entered drug treatment or
done anything required by the court; Mother replied,
"[W]hat are you talking about? No one told me I had to
testified the modified temporary order allowing Grandparents
to take Child to Texas required Grandparents to pay
Mother's travel expenses for monthly visits. The order
also required Mother to pay child support, which she
generally failed to do with the exception of August of 2015
and January 2016.
Mother's visits to Texas, Grandmother testified Mother
generally acted bizarre-exhibiting tremors, making odd facial
expressions, staying up late, and going outside frequently.
Grandmother further testified Mother had limited engagement
with Child, argued with Child on several occasions over
trivial matters, like tea sets, water guns, and coloring.
Grandmother estimated Mother spent about twenty to forty
minutes with Child during visits and the visits were largely
unproductive. She stated Mother "call[ed Child] here and
there, not on a regular basis, " but Child "usually
didn't want to talk to her."
testified Child attended preschool, did not have special
needs or concerns, and was thriving in Grandparents'
custody. She stated Father had moved to Texas to live with
them and helped pay household expenses. She further stated
Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) visited their home
monthly at DSS's request, she was not aware of any
negative reports, and CPS's last visit was in June 2016.
Grandmother testified she and Grandfather had driven to South
Carolina for court-ordered mediation with Mother, but Mother
did not attend. Grandmother stated she spent $400 for the
mediator, $300 per hour for her attorney, and around $1, 000
in travel expenses. She requested Mother be held in contempt
for not appearing at mediation or paying child support.
cross-examination, Grandmother acknowledged the visits
between Child and Mother had "gotten a little bit
better" but maintained the visits were still "not
good." Grandmother stated Child did not appear upset
when Mother left, and Mother's ability to interact with
Child had not improved. Grandmother also acknowledged DSS
planned to file a removal action against Mother and Father in
2014 after Father failed a drug test, but tesitifed DSS
allowed Father to have unsupervised contact with Child after
he passed a drug test in May 2016. She stated DSS "was
still directing this case" at that time.
testified he was married to Grandmother and earned $120, 000
per year in Texas. He described Child as "a great joy,
" believed Child was doing "wonderful[ly], "
and believed it would be in Child's best interest to
remain in Grandparents' custody. Grandfather stated he
and Grandmother tried to encourage a relationship between
Mother and Child during visits. He stated he never saw any
indication Mother had stopped using drugs; however, he
"was quite convinced [Father] stopped using them."
Grandfather noted Father's job required a drug test.
Lyles, a human services specialist for DSS, testified she
became involved with this family when DSS received a report
on June 5, 2015, that Child may have been abused or
neglected. She testified Mother and Child were living with
Angela Ivey, Mother's mother. Lyles visited them at
Ivey's house on June 6. Lyles stated DSS determined Child
"would need a kinship caregiver, " but Ivey could
not "serve in that position because she was listed in
the central registry, and her husband Ronald . . . was the
perpetrator on a past indicated child abuse and neglect
case." Lyles indicated DSS agreed to a safety plan
"allowing [Father] to be the protector of [Child] and
[providing] he would supervise all contact between Child [and
Mother]." She testified DSS requested Father submit to a
drug screen; while they were awaiting the results of that
test, DSS learned "[Grandmother] was flying in and that
she wanted to be the protector of [Child] because [Father]
was working." Lyles clarified she "didn't place
[C]hild with [Grandparents]. [She] placed ...