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      Grandparents fight for custody rights

      About ten grandmothers and grandfathers from across the state gathered outside the Government and Justice Center in Conway Monday to fight for their rights when it comes to the custody of their grandchildren in legal situations.

      John Schafer of Easley lost his battle for custody of his grandchildren in 2010.

      Schafer is the Director of the Grandparents Rights Association of South Carolina and is pushing the passage of two bills in the state legislature, one in the House and one in the Senate.

      The bills ask for three things: to encourage courts to place children with relatives including grandparents, set up criteria to do so, and once that happens, give grandparents a role in the legal proceedings.

      "My ultimate goal is to get legislation passed to improve the rights of grandparents in South Carolina and in family court," said Schafer.

      Schafer's grandchildren were taken away from him by the Department of Social Services in 2010 because he and his wife were deemed unfit due to their age and personal medical problems, even though they had raised their grandchildren from almost birth.

      "The grandparent's don't really have any rights. A family court judge can tell a grandparent- 'you just sit in the hall, because you don't have the rights."

      Schafer states that although it's too late to get his grandchildren back, he hopes to make life easier for grandparents in similar situations.

      "Making it that where the same thing that happened to us couldn't happen to other people. That would be the ultimate goal. It would be fantastic," Schafer said.

      Schafer explained that the state of Tennessee has passed a similar law, and that he has been working with other state grandparent associations country-wide.