In the state of South Carolina, either parent of a child can file a custody case provided both live in the state. If one parent has recently moved to the state, the child must have lived in South Carolina for six months prior to the case being filed here. Under local laws, parents are not required to prove that the other parent is not fit to receive custody, but the judge must place priority on the child’s best interest.
Factors When Deciding A Custody Case in Greenville, S.C.
When a judge decides what is in the best interest of a child in a custody case, they take a range of considerations into account that could influence the child’s life, for example:
- Parent’s health and age
- Parent’s education and income
- Parent style
- The family’s religion
- Work schedule of both parents
- Whether or not there are live-in romantic relationships
- Whether there is evidence of neglect, domestic violence, or alcohol or drug abuse
- The child’s gender and age
- The child’s relationship with both parents
- The child’s mental and physical health
- The child’s adjustment to school, home, and the community in which they reside
To gather the above information, the court usually employs the services of a lawyer known as a guardian ad litem who will only represent the child and not the parents. He or she will investigate the above issues by interviewing the parents, the child, and other relevant people and report his or her findings to the court.
Filing for Child Custody – A Step-by-Step Process
A parent in Greenville, S.C. may file for custody of a child either as part of a divorce proceeding or, if not married, as part of the paternity proceeding. The custody part of the proceeding is similar and requires a petition that requests custody and gives reasons to grant the request. If the other parent does not agree with the petition, the family court will order both parents to attempt to reach an agreement in terms of support, visitation, and custody. Failure to agree will result in the court making the decision.
Petitioning for Custody in a Child Custody Case
Step One – the petition
The first step is to draft a custody portion of the paternity or divorce petition. The contact information and names of both parents and the child must be listed, along with the child’s age. In the petition, the parent must ask for sole or joint custody and briefly explain why the court should grant the request. A request for child support and visitation schedule can be included.
Step Two – filing the petition
The petition must be filed with the family law court in the county in which you reside, and you will need to pay the filing fee and deliver a copy of the petition to the sheriff’s office where the other parent resides. Once the other parent receives your petition, according to South Carolina law, he or she has 30 days from which to file a counterclaim or answer.
Step Three – temporary hearing
Once the response time ends, a temporary hearing can be scheduled by calling the court’s family law clerk or the judicial assistant to the judge assigned to the case. The assistant or clerk will then issue a notice to both parents detailing the time and date of the hearing.
Step Four – mediation
Attend the hearing. If the other parent objects to the custody request, the court will likely order mediation. During mediation, a mediator will meet with both parents and attempt to negotiate a mutually agreeable custody, support, and visitation agreement. If an agreement is reached, both parties and the mediator will sign it, and it will be filed with the court. Thereafter, another hearing is scheduled, and only one parent needs to appear to present the agreement to the judge.
Step Five – trial
If no agreement is reached, it’s time to prepare for trial. The other parent must be sent a South Carolina standard interrogatories for family law and request to produce evidence during the custody proceedings. The information must be sent within 30 days of receipt. Further, any witnesses and documents that will help convince the court to grant the petition and deny a counterclaim can be subpoenaed. Useful documents may include medical and income records, documentation of unfit parenting, and documents of an unsafe lifestyle or physical or substance abuse that would prove detrimental to the child.
Step Six – judge’s decision
Attend the trial and present your case by presenting your documents and calling witnesses. The judge will not make a decision at trial but will issue an order deciding support, custody, and visitation, shortly at the case has ended.
A Counterclaim for a Custody Case
Step One – counterclaim
If you are the parent receiving the petition for custody and you wish to request a different arrangement, you can draft a counterclaim with the names and information of both parents and the child. In the counterclaim, you can request sole or joint custody and briefly explain why your request should be granted by the court. Remember to include a request for your choice of child support and visitation schedule.
Step Two – filing the counterclaim
The counterclaim can be filed under the same case number as the original petition within 30 days of you receiving the petition, and you can arrange for service of the counterclaim. The other parent is allowed to contact the court for a hearing date and time.
Step Three – the hearing
Attend the hearing. Unless both you and the other parent want the same support and visitation schedule and custody, you will likely be ordered to meditation.
Step Four – preparing for trial
In no agreement is reached during the mediation proceedings, prepare for trial in the same way in which the original petitioner will prepare. Prepare your evidence and witnesses to help you counter the claims that were made in the petition.
Step Five – the trial
Once the petitioning parent has presented his or her case, you can present yours by presenting documents and calling witnesses. Answer any questions the judge may ask. The judge’s decision will be filed in the form of an order a few days after the hearing.
Do You Need a Custody Attorney?
The state’s courts use the best interests of your child as the standard in custody decisions. Court procedures, however, can be complex. Hiring a qualified and experienced attorney from Elliot Frazier can assist you with drafting and filing your petition or counterclaim and ensure your compliance with court guidelines. Talk to a lawyer today to determine your case for custody.
Angela Elliot Frazier is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years now. Angela Frazier believes in helping you through one of the most stressful times of your life. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.