2020 South Carolina Code of Laws
Title 63 - South Carolina Children's Code
Chapter 7 - Child Protection And Permanency
Section 63-7-710. Probable cause hearing.

Universal Citation: SC Code § 63-7-710 (2020)

(A) The family court shall schedule a probable cause hearing to be held within seventy-two hours of the time the child was taken into emergency protective custody. If the third day falls upon a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, the probable cause hearing must be held no later than the next working day. If there is no term of court in the county when the probable cause hearing must be held, the hearing must be held in another county in the circuit. If there is no term of family court in another county in the circuit, the probable cause hearing may be heard in another court in an adjoining circuit.

(B) The probable cause hearing may be conducted by video conference at the discretion of the judge.

(C) At the probable cause hearing, the family court shall undertake to fulfill the requirements of Section 63-7-1620 and shall determine whether there was probable cause for taking emergency protective custody and for the department to assume legal custody of the child and shall determine whether probable cause to retain legal custody of the child remains at the time of the hearing.

(D) At the probable cause hearing, the respondents may submit affidavits as to facts which are alleged to form the basis of the removal and to cross-examine the department's witnesses as to whether there existed probable cause to effect emergency removal.

(E) The hearing on the merits to determine whether removal of custody is needed, pursuant to Section 63-7-1660, must be held within thirty-five days of the date of receipt of the removal petition. At the probable cause hearing, the court shall set the time and date for the hearing on the merits. A party may request a continuance that would result in the hearing being held more than thirty-five days after the petition was filed, and the court may grant the request for continuance only if exceptional circumstances exist. If a continuance is granted, the hearing on the merits must be completed within sixty-five days following receipt of the removal petition. The court may continue the hearing on the merits beyond sixty-five days without returning the child to the home only if the court issues a written order with findings of fact supporting a determination that the following conditions are satisfied, regardless of whether the parties have agreed to a continuance:

(1) the court finds that the child should remain in the custody of the department because there is probable cause to believe that returning the child to the home would seriously endanger the child's physical safety or emotional well-being;

(2) the court schedules the case for trial on a date and time certain which is not more than thirty days after the date the hearing was scheduled to be held; and

(3) the court finds that exceptional circumstances support the continuance or the parties and the guardian ad litem agree to a continuance.

(F) The court may continue the case past the date and time certain set forth in subsection (E) only if the court issues a new order as required in subsection (E).

(G) The court may continue the case because a witness is unavailable only if the court enters a finding of fact that the court cannot decide the case without the testimony of the witness. The court shall consider and rule on whether the hearing can begin and then recess to have the witness' testimony taken at a later date or by deposition. The court shall rule on whether the party offering the witness has exercised due diligence to secure the presence of the witness or to preserve the witness' testimony.

(H) This section does not prevent the court from conducting a pendente lite hearing on motion of any party and issuing an order granting other appropriate relief pending a hearing on the merits.

(I) If the child is returned to the home pending the merits hearing, the court may impose such terms and conditions as it determines appropriate to protect the child from harm, including measures to protect the child as a witness.

(J) When a continuance is granted pursuant to this section, the family court shall ensure that the hearing is rescheduled within the time limits provided in this section and give the hearing priority over other matters pending before the court except a probable cause hearing held pursuant to this section, a detention hearing held pursuant to Section 63-19-830, or a hearing held pursuant to Section 63-19-1030 or 63-19-1210 concerning a child who is in state custody pursuant to Chapter 19. An exception also may be made for child custody hearings if the court, in its discretion, makes a written finding stating compelling reasons, relating to the welfare of the child, for giving priority to the custody hearing.

HISTORY: 2008 Act No. 361, Section 2.

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