We are Passionate About Helping Our Clients Help Their Children.
Depending on your goals, and your situation, we will fight for you to protect your children, to get a child custody order in place that allows you to remain with your children, or to ensure a fair and reasonable visitation schedule with your children.
Understanding Child Custody in South Carolina
The Best Interest of the Child
South Carolina law requires the Court to determine what the best interest of the child is, and this is the overriding principle when the Court makes child custody decisions.
This means that you should be prepared to prove that it is in the child’s best interest for you to have primary custody and that the statutory factors considered by the Court weigh in favor of the child remaining in (or being transferred to) your custody.
Sole or Joint Custody
Physical custody can be sole custody or joint custody.
Sole custody is when the child lives primarily with one parent while the other parent has visitation rights. In most cases when one parent has sole physical custody they will also have legal custody and the ability to make important decisions regarding their child.
Joint custody is where the child splits his or her time between the two parents. It could be a week on and a week off, or it could be any arrangement that works for the parents and is in the child’s best interest.
Physical Custody or Legal Custody
There are two types of child custody – physical and legal.
Physical custody refers to which home the child will primarily live in and which parent will be physically present with the child. Physical custody can be sole or joint custody.
Legal custody refers to which parent makes important decisions related to the child, including the child’s education, religion, medical care, and extracurricular activities.
When one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent will usually have visitation rights. Although the traditional every other weekend, alternating holidays schedule is the most common, visitation can be negotiated in any format that works for the parents and is in the child’s best interests.
Visitation can be enforced through the court if the custodial parent is not allowing visitation or interfering with visits.
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Four (4) Steps To Take If You’re Fighting for Child Custody in South Carolina
1. Gather All Records
It is very important for your attorney to have a good idea of the whole picture. You need to collect and preserve all records regarding the child, including records of medical visits, school records, and anything that will tend to show that you are a fit parent, that your former spouse is not a fit parent, or that it is in the child’s best interest to live with you in your home.
2. Document Your Interactions with the Children
If you are fighting for child custody in South Carolina, you will need to prove to the court that it is in the child’s best interest for you to have custody.
Document your interactions with your children like the time you spend with them, doctor’s visits, school activities, and after-school activities. Consider who can serve as witnesses to your interactions with the child and who can provide truthful affidavits would persuade the court you are the better parent and the child should live in your home.
3. Document Your Spouse’s Interactions with the Children
Just as it is important to show the court you are a good parent and it is in the child’s best interest to live with you, you must also prove to the court that your former spouse is not as good of a good parent and it is not in the child’s best interest to live with them.
Document your former spouse’s interactions with the child, like the time they spend with the child, doctor’s visits, school activities, and after-school activities.
Consider who can serve as witnesses to your spouse’s interactions with the child and who can provide truthful affidavits that would persuade the court that your spouse’s home is not the best environment for the child, that the child does not get what they need while living at your former spouse’s home, and that the children should live in your home.
4. Monitor Your Behavior
Child custody proceedings are difficult for everyone involved. They are emotionally charged and fear of being separated from your children can certainly bring out the worst in people.
Try to watch your behavior and always act in a civil manner. Be cautious about who you spend your time with or let into your home and make sure to not expose your children to drug use, alcohol use, or criminal activity.
In court or out of court, stay calm and keep your cool. You don’t want to do something in the heat of the moment you may end up later regretting. The judge will be making the final determination in your case, so don’t do something that will make you appear to be uncooperative or a troublemaker.
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Common Questions About Child Custody in South Carolina
What Factors Does the Court Consider When Determining Child Custody?
South Carolina Code Section 63-15-240 lists the factors the Court should consider in determining the best interest of the child, including:
- The child’s developmental needs and each parent’s ability to help the child with those needs,
- The parent’s wishes,
- The child’s relationship with other members of each parent’s household,
- Whether each parent is supportive of the other parent or disparages them in front of the child,
- How involved each parent is with the child,
- Whether either parent has mental or physical problems that could be a danger to the child,
- The religion of the child and of the parents,
- Whether there has been abuse, neglect, or domestic violence,
- The child’s preference, and
- Any other factor the court thinks may be relevant.
Are Mothers More Likely to Get Custody of the Children?
The “Tender Years Doctrine,” which preferred the placement of younger children with the mother, has been abolished by statute in South Carolina.
Although it may be more likely for a mother to have full custody of a child if the mother stays at home, it is also possible that the father is in a better position to care for the child. It is no longer presumed the mother will be given custody of a young child.
Can the Child Choose Who Gets Custody?
Although the child does not get to choose where they will live, the child’s preference is an important factor the Court must consider when determining the best interest of the child.
South Carolina Code Section 63-15-30 says “the court must consider the child’s reasonable preference for custody,” and “[t]he court shall place weight upon the preference based upon the child’s age, experience, maturity, judgment, and ability to express a preference.”