Is Child Custody Handled By Family Courts in South Carolina?

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For many years now, Elliott Frazier law firm has been working with child custody cases in Greenville, South Carolina.  Our South Carolina family law attorneys have a great understanding of child custody laws and factors dealing with custody cases.  It is important to know all that goes into the family court’s decision when working through these custody battles.  Below our legal staff has produced an article on the information you and child will need to help you understand the custody case process of South Carolina family and divorce law.  How you present yourself in family court, and how you choose to deal with the custody dispute could make a big difference in the court’s final custody decision.

There are two types of child custody arrangements in South Carolina.  Sole custody, is when a parent “has permanent or temporary custody of a child, which includes the rights to decide major decisions concerning the child.  For example, education, medical, dental and religious training and extracurricular activities can be decided for the child by the parent with sole custody.  The other type of South Carolina custody is that of joint custody.  Joint custody means both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for the important decisions concerning the child.  Under South Carolina law, it is required that the family court must consider all custody options in contested custody cases.  

When the family court makes their final order concerning custody, the court has to explain their reasons for awarding custody, joint custody, or not awarding custody to an individual.  When the family court is looking at custody cases they may consider many different factors:

  1. The disposition and capacity of the parents to be able to meet the child’s needs
  2. The temperamental and development needs of the child
  3. The wishes of each parent as to the custody of the child
  4. The preference of parent of each child
  5. The current and past interaction and relationship of the child with both parents, the child’s siblings, other individuals such as other family members that affect the best interest of the child
  6. The manipulative behavior of the parents to involve the child within the custody dispute
  7. The efforts of one parent to disaparge the other parent while in front of the child
  8. The abilities of each parent to be an active part of the child’s life
  9. The adjustment of the child to their home, school, or community
  10. The actions of each parent to encourage the parent child relationship between the child and the opposing parent.  This includes the other parent’s compliance with court orders
  11. The stability of the child’s home now and of new proposed residences
  12. The child’s spiritual or cultural background
  13. Whether or not the child or sibling of the child has been abused or involved in domestic violence.  Or if the child has witnessed the parent’s domestic violence episodes
  14. The mental and physical health of all those involved, both parents and the children
  15. Whether one of the parents has relocated multiple times or more than 100 miles from the child’s permanent residence within the past year.  However, if the relocation was for safety reasons the court will keep consideration for this special circumstance.
  16. Other factors such as the court may use the opinions of others like social service agencies, doctors, psychologists, or psychiatrists.
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If you need help understanding your rights under family law for child custody, talk to Elliott Frazier Law today!

The family court judge is required to consider the child’s preference for custody.  There is no specific age when the child may decide where they should live.  However, the older, and greater the child’s experience, maturity, and judgment can have an impact of the family court’s decision.  Years ago, family court would generally lean towards giving the mother’s custody of their young children.  Since 1995, South Carolina has ceased to use the “Ten Years Doctrine”, which was that which favored the mother of the young child.  Now, both the mother and father are considered to be equally capable of caring for a young child or infant.  Regarding the child’s health, the court may consider whether the child has special needs in which one parent may be more suitable to care for the child.  

If you are attempting to gain custody of your child in South Carolina, it is important to know that the family court’s decision will rest of what is in the best interest of the child.  In deciding who should be awarded custody or if joint custody is possible, the family court will carefully scrutinize each parent’s behaviors both before and during the separation period.  Basically, if you are seeking custody of your child in South Carolina, you will need to convince the family court of your strengths as a parent and in certain cases, the other parent’s weaknesses.

The family court looks at each parent’s behavior and their parenting strengths.  Strengths that speak to the family court the strongest are that of the primary caregiver, parenting skills,  financial resources, religious training, the ability of parenting time, stable home environments, and extended family resources for the child.  The court will consider which parent has traditionally been the primary caregiver to the child.  Good parenting skills that the court will look for include consistency and fairness, setting good examples, establishing family routines, teaching respect of others, showing love and affection, providing medical care, an importance of education, good nutrition and many more.  The greater financial ability to take care of the child will be assessed by the family court.  The family court can also consider which parent supports and fosters a religious upbringing for the child.  A big factor considered by the family court is that of time, how much time does each parent have to spend with the child and is it quality time.  A stable home environment is necessary for the family court to feel comfortable with awarding custody of the child.  Lastly, the court may look at additional, extended family that may be available to help one parent care for the child.  This can also go the other direction, if the relatives are bad influences or the child will be spending too much time away from the parent, the court may be less likely to award custody.

If by chance you are involved in a custody dispute where you need to show the other parent’s weaknesses, there are a few major factors the court will examine.  The parent’s unfitness to care for child.  To show unfitness many times this is drug or alcohol related, the parent may be emotionally unstable, or if the parent displays immoral conduct.  Parental alienation is used to describe when one parent actively makes attempts to damage the other parent’s character to further hurt the child’s perception and relationship with that parent.  These attempts usually involve negative comments to the child about the other parent or if they interfere with the child’s ability to communicate with the other parent.  Under South Carolina law, the family court may consider the evidence of domestic violence when deciding on which parent should be awarded custody.

If you are going through a divorce, custody battle, or need to speak to someone about your case and legal options, please call our law office today for a consultation.  Our South Carolina family law and divorce attorneys are here to help you navigate through this complex and stressful legal process.  The Elliott Frazier law firm always takes a personalized approach for each and everyone of our clients.  We will help you work through these custody battles, and the entire divorce process.  We are compassionate to your family’s needs and are dedicated to helping our clients and their children receive the best legal care available.

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