Chandler v. Merrell, 22663

Decision Date10 December 1986
Docket NumberNo. 22663,22663
Citation291 S.C. 227,353 S.E.2d 135
PartiesJames Leon CHANDLER and Mary L. Chandler, Appellants, v. Chris MERRELL and Lucille Merrell, Respondents. In re BABY BOY CHANDLER, Bobbie Joe Chandler and Billie Joe Chandler, Minors under the age of Fourteen (14) years. and Terry CHANDLER, Cross-Petitioner, v. Chris and Lucille MERRELL, Respondents. . Heard
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court

Jean L. Awde, Seneca, for appellants.

Jesse M. Ray, Greenville, for respondents.

A.D. Orander, Jr., Easley, for cross-petitioner.

H. Morris Cox, Clemson, Guardian ad Litem.

GREGORY, Justice:

Appellants (James and Mary Chandler) commenced this proceeding to adopt three minor children, twin girls and an infant boy. Respondents (Chris and Lucille Merrell) contested the adoption and counterclaimed for custody of the children. The Family Court denied the Chandlers' adoption petition and awarded custody of the children to the Merrells. We affirm.

The Chandlers are the grandparents of the twin girls who were born during their deceased son's marriage to Corrine Chandler. The infant boy was born to Corrine during her subsequent marriage to David Gaines. Corrine and David Gaines were killed in an automobile accident shortly after the infant's birth. The Merrells are the maternal grandparents of all three of the children and have had custody of them since Corrine's death.

The Chandlers contend the Family Court erred in denying their adoption petition and awarding custody to the Merrells based on the evidence presented. The Family Court may enter a final decree of adoption after a hearing on the application only if it is satisfied that the adoption is for the best interest of the child. S.C.Code Ann. § 20-7-1760 (1985). The child's best interest is the controlling factor in any custody controversy. Cook v. Cobb, 271 S.C. 136, 245 S.E.2d 612 (1978). A party seeking to upset custody must prove a change of conditions which substantially affects the child's welfare. Id.; see also Rodgers v. Gray, 285 S.C. 111, 328 S.E.2d 478 (1985).

The evidence presented indicates that both the Chandlers and the Merrells have loving relationships with the twin girls although the Chandlers have not had the opportunity to establish any relation with the infant boy. The Chandlers admitted that it is in the children's best interest to remain together and that the Merrells have made a good effort in raising the three children to this point in time. In our view, the Family Court correctly ruled that the Chandlers failed to show it was in the children's best interests to grant the adoption.

Moreover, the burden is on the party seeking to upset custody to show a change of conditions affecting the child's welfare. Cook v. Cobb, supra. The Merrells have had custody of the children since their mother's death. The burden therefore is on the Chandlers to show a change of conditions. Absent this...

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9 cases
  • S.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Smith
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • May 9, 2018
    ...or nonrelative." In an adoption proceeding, the best interest of the child is the paramount consideration. Chandler v. Merrell , 291 S.C. 227, 228, 353 S.E.2d 135, 136 (1987). In McCutcheon v. Charleston County Department of Social Services , 302 S.C. 338, 339, 396 S.E.2d 115, 116 (Ct. App.......
  • Anderson v. Buonforte
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • June 13, 2005
    ...must conform to the pleadings and be in accordance with the theory of action upon which the case was tried." Chandler v. Merrell, 291 S.C. 227, 228, 353 S.E.2d 135, 136 (1987). However, "[w]hen issues not raised by the pleadings are tried by express or implied consent of the parties, they s......
  • Palm v. General Painting Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • April 19, 1988
    ...Mills, Inc., 286 S.C. 378, 335 S.E.2d 91 (Ct.App.1985). A child born in lawful wedlock is presumed to be legitimate. Chandler v. Merrell, 291 S.C. 227, 353 S.E.2d 135 (1987); Barr's Next of Kin v. Cherokee, Inc., supra. "The presumption of legitimacy arising from birth in wedlock supports t......
  • Anderson v. Buonforte
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • April 19, 2004
    ... ... with the theory of action upon which the case was ... tried.” Chandler v. Merrel, 291 S.C. 227, 228, ... 353 S.E.2d 135, 136 (1987). However, [w]hen issues not ... ...
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