South Carolina South Carolina

Child Custody Law

Child Custody General Information - What Is Child Custody?

Child custody is defined as the guardianship over a child, which covers both physical custody and legal custody. In a child custody dispute the court may award joint custody to both parents or sole custody to a single parent.

Child custody cases in South Carolina can be either contested and resolved by court order, or noncontested and defined in a child custody agreement between the parents. A custody agreement or order will legally determine, at minimum, the following things:

  • Where the child lives (physical custody)
  • Who is involved in making parenting decisions (legal custody)
  • How the visitation schedule with non-custodial parents or relatives is arranged

This page describes how a contested child custody case is handled in the South Carolina court system, and what factors are used to determine which parent gets custody.

South Carolina Child Custody Law Summary

After a breakup or divorce in South Carolina, couples with children must come to a child custody agreement that describes which parent the children will live with, how visitation will be scheduled, and how the non-custodial parent will pay child support.

Some of the factors considered by South Carolina in child custody cases include the child's wishes and any history of domestic violence.

What Factors are Considered in a Custody Case?

S]ome custody orders may have either spouse or any other party to the following:

  • to stay away from the home or from the other or either spouse or children

  • to permit either spouse to visit the children at certain periods of time

  • to abstain from offensive conduct against the other spouse or either of them, or against the children

  • to bring attention to care for the home

  • to refrain from acts that would make the home not a proper place for any household member

  • to grant custody of the children, to either spouse, or to any other person or institution

  • to determine the plan in how sums ordered paid for support shall be paid and applied

  • to require a person ordered to support another to give security by a written undertaking that he will pay the sums ordered by the court for such support and, upon the failure of any person to give such security by a written undertaking when required by order of the court, to punish such person for contempt and, when appropriate, to discharge such undertaking

  • in lieu of requiring an undertaking, to suspend sentence and place on probation a person who has failed to support another as required by law, and to determine the conditions of such probation and require them to be observed; to revoke such suspension of sentence and probation, where circumstances warrant it; and to discharge a respondent from probation

  • to release on probation prior to the expiration of the full term a person committed to jail for failure to obey an order of the court, where the court is satisfied that the best interest of the family and the community will be served thereby

  • to modify or vacate any order issued by the court

  • to order either before, during or after a hearing a mental, physical and psychiatric examination as circumstances warrant

  • to exclude the public from the courtroom in a proper case

  • to send processes or any other mandates in any matter in which it has jurisdiction into any county of the State for service or execution in like manner and with the same force and effect as similar processes or mandates of the circuit courts, as provided by law

  • to compel the attendance of witnesses

  • to enforce any order necessary, to determine any questions of support, custody, separation, or any other matter where the court has authority

to require spouse to furnish support or to be liable for nonsupport, as provided above, if, at the time of the filing of the petition for supports:

  • he is residing or domiciled in the county or when such area is the matrimonial domicile of the parties

  • he is not residing or domiciled in the area referred to in subsection (A), but is found therein at such time, provided the petitioner is so residing or domiciled at such time

  • he is neither residing or domiciled nor found in such area but, prior to such time and while so residing or domiciled, he shall have failed to furnish such support, or shall have abandoned his spouse or child and thereafter shall have failed to furnish such support, provided that the petitioner is so residing or domiciled at that time

to order visitation for the grandparent of a minor child where either or both parents of the minor child is or are deceased, or are divorced, or are living separate and apart in different habitats, if the court finds that:

  • the child's parents or guardians are unreasonably depriving the grandparent of the opportunity to visit with the child, including denying visitation of the minor child to the grandparent for a period exceeding ninety days

  • awarding grandparent visitation would not interfere with the parent-child relationship; and the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the child's parents or guardians are unfit; or the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that there are compelling circumstances to overcome that the parental decision is in the child's best interest.

The family court has exclusive jurisdiction:

  • to determine matters which come within the provisions of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

  • to determine actions for divorce, separate support, separation, and any other marital litigation between parties involved

  • to determine actions related to the adoption of children and adults

  • to determine actions for termination of parental rights

  • to determine the plan for the annulment of marriage

  • to determine the plan for changing names

  • to plan out actions in the correction of birth records

  • to consent to the enlistment of a minor in the military service or the employment of a minor

  • to hear and determine proceedings within the county to compel the support of a spouse or child, whether legitimate or illegitimate

  • for the protection of neglected or dependent minors in cases brought before in the subject of support

  • in all cases where one is charged with failure to obey an order of the court

  • to order support of a spouse and/or a child

  • to include requirements of an order to support the providing of proper and reasonable care

  • to require persons legally chargeable with the support of a spouse or child, a fair and reasonable sum for such support

  • To make all orders for support run until further order of the court, except for when the child becomes self-supporting, reaches a certain age, gets married, and other such circumstances.

The Division of Child Support Enforcement of the State Department of Social Services also has jurisdiction to order joint or divided custody where the court finds it is in the best interests of the child:

  • to enforce an administrative subpoena or subpoena duces tecum issued by the Department of Social Services and to enforce fines assessed by the department

  • to order sibling visitation where the court finds it to be in the best interest of the children

  • to hear and determine actions concerning control of the person of a minor, including guardianship of the minor

  • to order custody of a minor child to the de facto custodian under the circumstances.

South Carolina Child Custody Factors - How Is Child Custody Decided In South Carolina?

If the parents are on amicable terms they may agree to custody terms in a parenting agreement between themselves, or via a mediator. If child custody is disputed, however, they will have to receive a child custody order from a South Carolina judge, who will attempt to make a custody decision that is in the "best interests of the child".

In the state of South Carolina, a number of factors are taken into account by the courts when determining who gets child custody. This section describes South Carolina's custody factors, considerations, and presumptions when evaluating a custody order.

Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating child custody in the state of South Carolina?

South Carolina does not have a defined list of factors for the court to consider when determing a custody order. This means that judges have significant flexibility on a case-by-case basis when determining a custody arrangement between two parents.

Do judges in the state of South Carolina favor joint custody?

Judges in South Carolina are authorized to order either joint or single-parent custody of a child subject to a custody dispute.

Courts in South Carolina do not have a presumption in favor joint custody orders when evaluating child custody. The judge will evaluate the specifics of the custody dispute to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

Do South Carolina courts encourage parents to cooperate together to raise the child?

It is not particularly encouraged that the parents cooperative together to raise the child.

Are the child's wishes considered when determining custody in the state of South Carolina?

In South Carolina, the court does consider the child's reasonable wishes when determining which parent wins custody. The judge may take the child's age, maturity, and judgement into consideration when considering the child's custody preference.

Do South Carolina courts consider domestic violence when determining custody?

South Carolina has laws that explicitly permit the consideration of domestic violence in conjunction with child custody. This may mean that domestic violence is a statutory factor in custody determinations, that the court has a presumption against custody for abusers, or that special procedural considerations are imposed in cases involving domestic violence.

Do the courts in the state of South Carolina have the right to hire an attorney or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child?

South Carolina has statutory authority for appointment of a guardian ad litem or attorney specifically to represent the child in a custody case. This person advocates for the best interest of the child, and is tasked with investigating the family situation and advising the court what custody situation would be in the best interests of the child.

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