When looking at child custody in South Carolina, most custody agreements fall into two categories: sole and joint care.
Sole custody is when one parent has either temporary or permanent custody of a child.
Sole custody isn’t as typical as it used to be. A parent with sole custody has the right to make all decisions about the child’s welfare. These decisions include:
The child lives with the custodial parent full time in sole custody
Joint custody is an ideal situation for the child. The courts today support both parents have shared custody of the child or children. Both parents must share in the decision-making process regarding education, religion, activities, and medical decisions.
Often parents will choose to split up the duties and responsibilities. An example of this is when one parent takes the lead with educational decisions, and the other handles any medical needs that might arise.
Legal Custody and Physical Custody
Most states recognize a difference between legal and physical custody of minor children. When you create a custody order, the judge will determine with whom the child will reside. Residence is the basis for physical custody. One parent will receive sole custody or both parents can share custody with a joint physical custody agreement.
Legal custody is different from physical custody, but often the two are connected. Legal custody helps to determine which parent has the authority to make crucial decisions on behalf of the child.
A court can assign four areas of legal custody to the parents. These areas include:
- Medical Care
- Extracurricular Activities
Depending on the type of custody awarded in the custody order, one parent might have control of all four areas, or they might be split between the parents.
How Child Custody Is Decided
In South Carolina, judges will always try to determine custody orders with the best interests of the child in mind. Courts will consider a variety of factors when making their determination. These factors include:
- Which parent is the primary caretaker
- The character of each parent
- The ability of each parent to provide a healthy environment
- Domestic violence
- Any instances of physical or sexual abuse
- Conduct from either parent that might be harmful to the children
- The religion of both parents and the children
Are Mothers Favored over Fathers in Custody Hearings?
In the 1970’s a mother was typically given custody of the children have long since passed. A qualified Greenville family law attorney understands that neither parent should be given preferential consideration based on gender.
South Carolina has legislation, Code 63-5-30, that ensures that each parent will have equal consideration under the law. The law states that both the mother and father have equal responsibility for the care and welfare of their children.
The law further states that:
“Neither parent has any right paramount to the right of the other concerning the custody of the minor or the control of the services or the earnings of the minor or any other matter affecting the minor.”
The law is in place to ensure each parent has equal access to educational and medical records, and the right to be part of all school-related functions. The only time these rights would be prohibited is if it is part of the court order.
Are Children Allowed to Decide which Parent has Physical Custody?
The courts in South Carolina will listen to the preferences of the children. The older the child, the more weight their preference will carry. However, just because a child states their preference of one parent over the other, that doesn’t mean the court will grant their choice.
It is the goal of the courts to provide each parent with equal access to the children. The judge will consider the opinions of the children, but will ultimately make a ruling that is in the best interests of the children.
For children younger than 12, their preference is not typically given much consideration.
Children under 12 are not seen as mature or responsible enough to make such a decision. The courts also feel that young children can be easily manipulated by a parent who might be using custody to hurt the other parent.
Visitation Laws in South Carolina
The age of the children can alter the custody order and parents’ visitation rights. For older kids, splitting time between parents can work just fine. For example, the children live with the mother for a week and the father for a week.
Many experts look at younger children differently. Experts agree that splitting time can be damaging to the development of children who are not yet in elementary school. In the case of younger children, the courts will recommend that those children not move between homes. They feel that one stable home environment is best for their early development. As the children grow up, the custody agreement can be modified.
A qualified Greenville family law attorney understands the nuances of child custody and will work on your behalf to help you and your children get a custody agreement that is in everyone’s best interests.
Child Support Orders
Child support can be difficult for many people to understand. Who has to pay? How much is the monthly support amount? What if I can’t afford the payments?
It is the responsibility of both parents to support the children financially. In South Carolina, the courts see the custodial parent as bearing the financial burden in the children’s daily lives. This leaves the non-custodial parent in the position to have to pay child support to the custodial parent.
The amount of child support is calculated using a formula that takes into account the income of both parents, expenses for the children, and percentage of custody.
The total amount is split between the parents based on the custody order. For example, if the mother has the children 75 percent of the time, then she would only need to pay for approximately 25 percent of the total amount. The remaining amount would be the responsibility of the father.
Child support can be modified in South Carolina. It is the responsibility of the requesting party to convince the judge that there is sufficient reason to change the order. There has to be something substantial like a marriage, proof of abuse or neglect, or a pending out of state move.
Call Elliott Frazier Law Firm, LLC today for your consultation with one of the best Greenville child custody attorneys in the area.