Marquez v. Caudill, No. 26421.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtMoore
Citation656 S.E.2d 737,376 S.C. 229
PartiesMyriam Therese MARQUEZ, Appellant/Respondent, v. David L. CAUDILL, John Doe, David Storm, and the South Carolina Department of Social Services, Defendants, of whom David L. Caudill is Respondent/Appellant, and John Doe and David Storm are Respondents.
Docket NumberNo. 26421.
Decision Date22 January 2008
656 S.E.2d 737
376 S.C. 229
Myriam Therese MARQUEZ, Appellant/Respondent,
v.
David L. CAUDILL, John Doe, David Storm, and the South Carolina Department of Social Services, Defendants,
of whom David L. Caudill is Respondent/Appellant, and John Doe and David Storm are Respondents.
No. 26421.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Heard November 14, 2007.
Decided January 22, 2008.

[656 S.E.2d 739]

Anita Ruth Floyd, of Conway, for appellant-respondent.

Randall K. Mullins, of North Myrtle Beach, for respondent-appellant.

Charles Richard Rhodes, Jr., of Conway, and Melissa Meyers Frazier, of North Myrtle Beach, Guardians Ad Litem.

Justice MOORE.


This is a case involving custody and visitation issues. Amy Caudill gave birth to Jason in October 1992. Jason's biological father is David Storm; however, he has never been involved in Jason's life. When Jason was a toddler, Amy married respondent/appellant (hereinafter referred to as Stepfather)1 in February 1994. Amy gave birth to Kathryn (Katie) Caudill in December 1999. Katie's father is Stepfather.

Amy committed suicide in September 2003. A few months later, appellant/respondent (hereinafter referred to as Grandmother), who is Jason and Katie's biological maternal grandmother, filed actions seeking custody of Jason and visitation of Katie. Jason's biological father elected not to participate in the proceedings and he presented the court an affidavit of relinquishment of his parental rights and consent for adoption. The family court ruled that Stepfather would retain custody of Jason and that he could adopt Jason. Jason's biological father's parental rights were terminated. The family court also ruled that, pursuant to S.C.Code Ann. § 20-7-420(33) (Supp.2006), Grandmother would be allowed visitation with both Jason and Katie. The court further ruled that Grandmother must pay $25,000 in attorney's fees to Stepfather's attorney. Finally, the court ruled that both Grandmother and Stepfather would equally divide the fees of the guardians ad litem. We certified these appeals from the Court of Appeals. We now affirm.

FACTS

Stepfather met Amy while she was pregnant with Jason. He moved in with Amy a few months after Jason's birth and they subsequently married. They had a rocky relationship and separated three times. Amy filed for divorce shortly after Katie's birth. At that time, there was an agreement for custody wherein Katie lived with Stepfather and Jason lived with Amy. They reconciled and then separated again in 2003. Stepfather left on Amy's request and filed for divorce and custody of the children. At that time, there was an agreement for joint custody. While that order was in effect, Amy committed Suicide.

Grandmother

Grandmother has a history of depression. She married her first husband at age 18 and had Amy and another daughter, Jessica, within two years. She had a miscarriage during this first marriage. She divorced her first husband and married her second husband who adopted Amy and Jessica. She then gave birth to Gina and, later, another daughter. Therefore, in six years, she had five pregnancies, four of which resulted in live births. After her youngest child was born in 1971, she became depressed and attempted suicide. She has periodically taken antidepressants. She claims she has not been depressed since 1989 until the death of her daughter in 2003.

During her second marriage, Grandmother left her children in Florida in the custody of her husband while she attended college and law school in Maryland. For three of those years, her children were also in Maryland. She saw and talked to her children often while she was in school. After school, all of her children moved back in with her.

Grandmother worked as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and later entered into private

656 S.E.2d 740

practice. She married twice more, with her last divorce occurring in 1996. In 1999, she moved to the state of Washington. While in private practice, she started an Internet company that failed. She had to file for bankruptcy in 2001 and discharged $150,000 in liabilities.

Immediately before the family court hearing in 2005, Grandmother bought a single-family home in anticipation of gaining custody of Jason. She wanted to be near her family for support and chose the home because it was in an excellent school district. Grandmother has a net yearly income of $45,600 and testified she could financially take care of Jason.

Stepfather

Stepfather was in the Air Force for over eleven years and was honorably discharged due to anxiety. He had one suicide attempt; however, he maintains that it was only an attempt to attract attention during a divorce. At the time of the hearing, Stepfather was taking medication for anxiety. He has previously taken other medications and, at times, would carry medicine to assist him in the event he had a panic attack.

Stepfather testified that the only time he did not take his anxiety medicine was when it was lost in the mail and he suffered withdrawal. He then remained off the medicine for two years because he felt fine. He alleged his doctor was aware of his failure to take the medicine.

Several years prior to meeting Amy, Stepfather had a child of whom he relinquished custody. He has maintained contact with this child, who is now an adult.

Prior to his separation from Amy in 2003, Stepfather met another woman, Kim Darling, on an adult website. Within three or four months after Amy's suicide, Stepfather moved Jason and Katie into his girlfriend's house. The girlfriend has twin boys that also live with them in the five bedroom home. Jason and Katie call the girlfriend Kim, although there were allegations Stepfather was attempting to have the children call her Mom. Stepfather and Kim have since married. This is his fourth marriage. Stepfather testified that he felt it was appropriate to move in with Kim because Kim helped Jason by giving him stability. He admitted the move could have been a mistake but that it has worked out.

At the time of the hearing, Stepfather was working as a driver for Coca-Cola. His financial statement indicates that his net monthly income is $2,952.

Jason

Jason has consistently had behavioral problems. He was first taken to counseling at the age of four as a result of being expelled from four daycare's in one year. His issues included kicking, biting, and hitting. His behavior was allegedly the result of his mother and Stepfather arguing in front of him.

Jason was admitted to counseling again around age six for extreme behavior problems at school. He underwent school-based counseling and Jason indicated he had to get between Amy and Stepfather when they fought.

Jason's third admission to counseling occurred at seven years of age and, continued until 2002 when he was about ten years of age. This service was again initiated by Amy. Jason was in trouble at school for choking one child and pushing other children. Jason was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and placed on medication. He was discharged from counseling.

Jason's fourth admission to counseling was initiated by Stepfather after Amy's death. This counseling occurred between October 2003 and March 2005. Jason was accused of destroying property and acting in a threatening manner toward others. He also had suicidal thoughts. From the questionnaire, it appeared Stepfather did not know a lot about Jason's school life. During the fourth counseling session, the Department of Social Services was called by Jason's school in March 2004 because Jason had been wearing the same clothes to school for a week.2

656 S.E.2d 741

In October 2004, a therapist, met with Stepfather. The therapist stated Jason had made great progress, had less anger, and was taking Strattera for ADHD. At this time, Jason was living with Stepfather, Katie, and Kim and her two children. In March 2005, counseling for Jason ended because he was doing well but also mainly because he was resistant to participating in counseling sessions.

At one point, Jason was off his ADHD medication after Christmas 2004. He had twelve incidents at school while he was off the medication.

Throughout the fourth counseling session, Jason vacillated between wanting to live with Grandmother and wanting to live with Stepfather. Jason indicated that he loved both of them and wanted to be with both of them and that it was a hard decision for him. He indicated that he enjoyed living with Kim and her children. Jason refers to Stepfather as "Dad" and Stepfather is the only father figure Jason has ever known. Grandmother admits Stepfather is a fit parent to both Jason and Katie and that Jason and Stepfather have emotionally bonded as father and son. Amy's sister and other witnesses testified that the relationship of Stepfather and Jason is as father and son and that Stepfather loves both Jason and Katie. The Guardians ad litem both testified that Stepfather is a fit parent.

Stepfather testified that he did not earlier seek to adopt Jason because, initially, Amy was receiving child support from the biological father and she did not want that support to stop. When the support did stop, he testified they simply did not discuss it anymore.

A couple of months before the hearing, Jason was in trouble at school for choking another child. He had also indicated he was having suicidal thoughts again. Jason's school records for 2005 indicated he was making C's, D's, and F's, and had 11 disturbing school infractions and one physical altercation (the choking incident). Stepfather testified he would seek more counseling for Jason.3 He testified, however, that he was told by the counselor that Jason would have to be ready to receive counseling or it would not help him.

There was evidence that Stepfather favored Katie over Jason. One witness testified Stepfather and Jason's relationship was very reserved and cold on Stepfather's part. This witness felt Jason attempted to get Stepfather's attention. A...

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55 practice notes
  • Kpetigo v. Kpetigo, No. 2122, Sept. Term, 2017
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 30 August 2018
    ...(Alaska 2002) (affirming shared-custody award to father and stepmother, who was the child's psychological parent); Marquez v. Caudill , 376 S.C. 229, 656 S.E.2d 737, 745 (2008) (holding that stepfather was the psychological parent of his non-biological child and it was in child's best inter......
  • Ferrand v. Ferrand, NO. 16–CA–7
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • 31 August 2016
    ...the child's well-being, while concomitantly limiting a non-parent's eligibility for psychological parent status. See Marquez v. Caudill , 376 S.C. 229, 656 S.E.2d 737 (S.C. 2008) ; Mason v. Dwinnell , 190 N.C.App. 209, 660 S.E.2d 58, 71 (2008) ; Griffith v. Pell , supra .The doctrine of de ......
  • Conover v. Conover, No. 79
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 7 July 2016
    ...(“We reiterate that the focus should be on what, if any, bond has formed between the child and the nonparent.”); Marquez v. Caudill , 376 S.C. 229, 656 S.E.2d 737, 743 (2008) (“Because Stepfather is [child's] psychological parent and is, in fact, the only father he has ever known, we find t......
  • E.N. v. T.R., No. 44, Sept. Term, 2020
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 12 July 2021
    ...with the child." Conover, 450 Md. at 74, 146 A.3d at 447 (cleaned up). Additionally, we recognized that, in Marquez v. Caudill, 376 S.C. 229, 656 S.E.2d 737, 744 (2008), the Supreme Court of South Carolina concluded that the first factor is not only critical because it makes a legal pa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
55 cases
  • Kpetigo v. Kpetigo, No. 2122, Sept. Term, 2017
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 30 August 2018
    ...(Alaska 2002) (affirming shared-custody award to father and stepmother, who was the child's psychological parent); Marquez v. Caudill , 376 S.C. 229, 656 S.E.2d 737, 745 (2008) (holding that stepfather was the psychological parent of his non-biological child and it was in child's best inter......
  • Ferrand v. Ferrand, NO. 16–CA–7
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • 31 August 2016
    ...the child's well-being, while concomitantly limiting a non-parent's eligibility for psychological parent status. See Marquez v. Caudill , 376 S.C. 229, 656 S.E.2d 737 (S.C. 2008) ; Mason v. Dwinnell , 190 N.C.App. 209, 660 S.E.2d 58, 71 (2008) ; Griffith v. Pell , supra .The doctrine of de ......
  • Conover v. Conover, No. 79
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 7 July 2016
    ...(“We reiterate that the focus should be on what, if any, bond has formed between the child and the nonparent.”); Marquez v. Caudill , 376 S.C. 229, 656 S.E.2d 737, 743 (2008) (“Because Stepfather is [child's] psychological parent and is, in fact, the only father he has ever known, we find t......
  • E.N. v. T.R., No. 44, Sept. Term, 2020
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 12 July 2021
    ...with the child." Conover, 450 Md. at 74, 146 A.3d at 447 (cleaned up). Additionally, we recognized that, in Marquez v. Caudill, 376 S.C. 229, 656 S.E.2d 737, 744 (2008), the Supreme Court of South Carolina concluded that the first factor is not only critical because it makes a legal pa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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