Child Custody in South Carolina: How to Protect Your Interest
Nothing is more important to you than your children and making sure they are well cared for during a very stressful divorce is likely your biggest concern. In fact, couples often stay together longer than they would otherwise want to do when they have young children in the home. Custody decisions made in court in the beginning of a divorce can often have long reaching effects. Making sure you are armed with all of the facts and that you are well prepared to present your case to a Judge is critical in a custody action. Do not risk going into family court without someone to advocate on your behalf. Our South Carolina Divorce Attorneys will ensure that your future is protected. Give us a call today to schedule a consultation.
What are the different types of Child Custody in South Carolina?
There are two different types of custody for the court to decide – physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody is the actual possession and care of the child. Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. In making child custody decisions, the court can decide to grant sole custody or joint custody. If one parent is granted sole custody, the court is still likely to grant visitation to the noncustodial parent, unless it would be harmful or dangerous to the child. Courts can also order that visitation be supervised if it is in the best interest of the child.
Sole Custody vs. Joint Custody
Sole Custody is where one parent has the sole ability to make major decisions concerning the child. These types of decisions include the child’s education, medical and dental care, extracurricular activities and religious affiliation. Sometimes the parent may be required to consult or discuss certain issues with the other parent prior to deciding those issues for the child.
Joint Custody refers to a situation where both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions. However, S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-210(2) states that a judge may “designate one parent to have sole authority to make specific, identified decisions while both parents retain equal rights and responsibilities for all other decisions.” In both Sole and Joint Custody arrangements, both parents have equal access to obtain all educational and medical records of their minor children, unless it would be prohibited by a Court Order or State law.
Physical Custody and Visitation
South Carolina family law allows parents to determine child custody and visitation by agreement and without court intervention if the parents so decide. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement, the court will consider many factors based on the best interest of the child. Some of those factors are:
- Which parent will be most likely to allow the other parent to develop and maintain a relationship with the child; Circumstances of the spouses;
- Religious faith of the parents and child; and
- Welfare of the child.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is no magic age at which a child can choose to live with one or the other parent. The Family Court is required to consider the child’s preference at all ages, along with the reasons for the specific preference. Many judges weigh the preferences of 11, 12, and 13 year-olds, provided their choice is clear and the preference is given for a legitimate reason.
When one parent is awarded custody, the other parent will generally be awarded a set visitation schedule (absent some concern for safety of the child if left with the visiting parent). The amount of visitation that the non-custodial parent is awarded depends on a totality of the parties’ circumstances. This often involves a look at geographic distance, the nature of the relationship between the parents and the child, the parent’s work schedule or availability and the interaction between the two parents. Custodial parents are never allowed to restrict a non-custodial parent’s visitation rights on the basis that the non-custodial parent has not paid or kept current his/her child support obligation.
Supervised or Restricted Visitation
Only in rare cases where the visiting parent poses a threat or endangers the child’s health, safety, or welfare, will there be supervised or restricted visitation. The threat must be legitimate, not presumed or imaginary, and the burden is on the parent requesting the supervision or restrictions to prove the necessity.
The court will evaluate both the father’s and the mother’s rights equally, weighing each person’s ability to provide a stable and safe home environment for the child. Different Judges have written standard schedules which set forth visitation times for the non-custodial parent along with guidelines. A good example is the “Standard Visitation, Guidelines, and Restraining Orders” written by retired Judge Timothy L. Brown.
The Strom Law Firm will guide you through the Divorce process
The Strom Law Firm, LLC Divorce Attorneys have helped countless of individuals in your situation pursue a favorable child custody resolution. If you are concerned about being denied custody and/or visitation with your child, we will work closely with you throughout the entire divorce process. It is important that you have a Divorce Attorney on your side to defend your ability to care for your child’s best interest and to improve your chances of obtaining custody. Give us a call today at 803.252.4800.
Give us a call today to discuss your concerns regarding child custody in South Carolina.