When you divorce, child support and custody issues are some of the most painful aspects of the split. They can put your child through extremely difficult and traumatic situations and even further strain the relationship between formerly loving couples. Understanding the custody laws in South Carolina can greatly reduce the strain and problems a couple can encounter when dealing with visitation, support and other issues that arise regarding your children as you complete your divorce.
Basic Custody Laws
In the state of South Carolina, each parent has equal rights, duties, responsibilities and power regarding child custody. Divorce, however, can very much alter the state of affairs. Custody refers to the determination of which parent has primary control over childcare and decisions relating to your children. It involves where the child will live, their daily activities such as school, doctor and church, and other aspects of primary care.
Automatic Custody Rights
Neither parent in South Carolina has an automatic custody right. Parents are generally encouraged to step back and carefully review their situation to decide together what is best for their offspring.
Who will be best able to provide for the children? Who has the better living conditions, available time and resources to account for a child’s needs? If the parents cannot decide this for themselves, the courts will decide the issue, but it should no longer be assumed that the mother has a presumption of custody rights.
If the child has a reasonable preference for which parent they should live with, the courts will hear the child’s thoughts on the issue. The age, maturity, experience, judgment and ability to express their thoughts, opinions and judgment will be taken into account when the final decision for custody is made.
Issues that can affect the court’s decision are related to the well-being of the child. These can include situations of physical, mental or sexual abuse, evidence of the primary aggressor in abuse situations, or the presence of the primary abuser in the life of the child.
When parents attempt to work out an arrangement for custody, visitation is a vital part of the decision. The agreement must involve when the other parent will get visitation rights, for how long, and how often. Will the parents share custody equally? If so, how will schools and education be handled? Will one parent get visitation rights on weekends, in the summer, or on holidays? How will transportation be handled, and how flexible are the times involved?
Most South Carolina courts will be generous with visitation rights unless the child’s safety is at risk. The feeling is that it is always best for the child to have ongoing relationships with both parents, so a judge is unlikely to restrict any visitation rights. This is the case even when child support is not indicated; visitation will often still be allowed.
If one parent has been adjudicated to have perpetrated domestic violence, this does not automatically invalidate visitation rights. However, a parent who is seen as a potential risk to the child may only be permitted visitation under the requirement that they attend treatment for their problems, and visitation will likely be under supervision from a court official and after adequate provisions have been made for the child’s safety during visitation.
Child support is a major aspect in visitation and custody in South Carolina. Both parents in our state are equally responsible on a financial level when it comes to caring for their children. The amount of child support the non-custodial parent has to provide will be determined based on detailed guidelines regarding the income of each parent.
The formula for determining this support will take into account all aspects of childcare, including clothing, food, medical costs, insurance and other applicable issues related to keeping the child mentally and physically healthy and well. The state offers a calculator for estimating support online.
After it is finalized, payments could be made to a clerk of the court, which can include a collection fee. This will ensure that payments are made and tracked so that the custodial spouse cannot claim failure to pay. In addition, employers may offer for payments to be automatically deducted from each paycheck, which can be an easy and convenient way of handling the issue.
As time goes on, if the status of one or both ex-spouses change, child support and custody arrangements can change. This usually requires proof in court that the substantial alteration in situation has occurred, and a judge will need to approve and sign off on the new or modified custody order.
Mt. Pleasant Attorneys
If you are dealing with issues of child support, visitation or custody, a qualified Mt. Pleasant divorce attorney can help. Your divorce lawyer can be a valued friend and ally in your fight to ensure that your children get the attention and care they deserve. For more information, give us a call today.