Stuck in the middle. Used as leverage. Crying. Confused. Feeling guilty. When proceedings in the Family Court involve the most vulnerable in our society, extra care must be taken. From top to bottom, each and every member of the team at The LaMantia Law Firm have children. Rest assured that your children will be looked after as though they were our own — from the moment you become part of our family, to long after the last legal document is signed and stamped by the Court.
In South Carolina, both parents share equally a duty and obligation to support their children from birth to the moment the child is deemed emancipated. Certain circumstances, however, may necessitate that one parent bears a greater burden than the other.
The South Carolina Child Support Guidelines
Unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties the amount of child support to be paid by one parent to the others is governed and determined by the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines.
Click HERE to visit the South Carolina Child Support Calculator, but please be aware that this calculator is to be used only as a guideline — to understand all of the circumstances involved in calculating support, consult with one of the attorneys at The LaMantia Law Firm.
Even with the formulaic aspects of child support awards in South Carolina, the Family Court may deviate from a presumptive amount, but not without sufficient justification and reason
Deviation from the Child Support Guidelines
Generally, departure from the presumptive amount of support as set forth by the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines is the exception, not the rule. South Carolina law states that the trial court has no discretion about whether or not to apply the guidelines — but the court does have discretion to deviate from the presumptive amount of support.
In considering whether to deviate from the presumptive amount of child support as provided by the guidelines, the Court will look at fourteen different factors:
- The educational expenses for the children or spouse, to include those expenses for private, parochial or trade schools, other secondary schools, or higher education where there is tuition and other related costs
- The equitable distribution of property
- The extent of consumer debts, if any, owed by both parties
- Whether or not the family has more than six children
- Unreimbursed extraordinary medical or dental expenses for the noncustodial or custodial parent
- Mandatory deduction of retirement pensions and union fees
- Support obligations for other dependents living with the noncustodial parent
- Child-related unreimbursed extraordinary medical expenses
- Monthly fixed payments imposed by a court or operation of law
- Significant available income of the child or children (think “child actor”)
- Substantial disparity of income, in which the noncustodial parent’s income is significantly less than the custodial parent’s income, making it financially impracticable to pay what the Guidelines indicate the noncustodial parent should pay
- Agreements reached between the parties — the Court retains authority to review such agreements and either approve or overrule
- Non-court-ordered child support from another relationship
The Court will also need to deviate from the guidelines in cases in which combined parental income exceeds $180,000 yearly. In such cases, child support amounts will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Duration of Child Support Obligation
Absent an agreement that says otherwise, the supporting parent’s duty to provide child support to the child ceases when that child is “emancipated.” In short, “emancipation” comes about when the child is legally deemed self-sufficient.
Generally, a child is emancipated when he or she reaches eighteen (18) years of age or graduates high school, whichever is later. A child may also be considered emancipated when he or she is married or otherwise becomes self-supporting, unless the child is disabled or some other exceptional circumstance exists. In those cases, the duty to provide child support continues until the disability or extenuating circumstance ceases.
College Tuition & Expenses
In South Carolina, the Family Court has the authority to include, in a child support order, the expense of higher education. In reality, however, there is little likelihood that a court will order payment of support past high school absent an agreement between the parties that says otherwise.
The Court, however, may be more likely than usual to order child support for higher education if the child’s characteristics indicate that the child will uniquely benefit from higher education, child demonstrates an ability to do well or at least make satisfactory grades, the child cannot otherwise attend school, and the supporting parent has the financial ability to assist with payment.
Modification of a Child Support Award
Child support obligations are modifiable, and may be modified by the appropriate Family Court upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances or a substantial change in the financial ability of either party. The burden of proving that change in circumstances falls upon the party seeking modification of the award.
Generally, the Court looks at three factors when determining whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances sufficient to warrant a modification of a child support award. Those factors:
- Changes in the parents’ finances
- Remarriage, insofar as remarriage terminates some forms of alimony and may be considered in assessing the parties’ relative economic positions
- Changes in the child’s needs
Still, please be aware that the law on child support modification in South Carolina is evolving. The 2009 decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in Floyd v. Morgan, for example, laid out new and more specific guidelines for the modification, due to increasing and decreasing parental incomes, of a child support obligation originally based upon a prior settlement agreement. For that reason, and because child support in South Carolina is so much more than a simple formula or calculator, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced attorney with regard to such matters.
Here at The LaMantia Law Firm, we deal with complex child support issues every day. We know you have questions, and we have answers. We understand, and we are here to help.