Guide to Child Custody Laws in South Carolina
If you are a South Carolina parent who is involved in a child custody dispute, you may want to educate yourself before beginning to negotiate. Child custody laws in South Carolina are somewhat different from those elsewhere in the nation, so making sure that you understand the basic terminology and laws will set your mind at ease as you begin your case. This guide is intended to provide you with a basic overview of the child custody laws in South Carolina as a starting point for further research and in order to facilitate your negotiations.
Parenting Plans and Mediation
Generally, the courts view it as in a child's best interest for parents to agree on custody arrangements. If both parents can agree to a parenting plan, the judge is likely to grant it unless it does not seem to be in the best interest of the child. Parents who are having a difficult time agreeing about one or more aspects of dividing their parenting responsibilities may be ordered by the court to attend sessions of mediation.
Mediation occurs when a trained third-party mediator helps parents to work out their own agreement as to the division of their parental responsibilities. Mediators can help parents keep their dialogue constructive as they negotiate aspects of child custody.
Legal custody refers to which parent is able to make decisions on the child's behalf legally, including choices about schooling, healthcare, and religion. If the parents and court agree that the parents are capable of making these decisions for their child jointly, child custody laws in South Carolina allow them to have joint legal custody. Sole legal custody is given when judges feel that having both parents agree on decisions would be too difficult.
Unlike laws in many other states, child custody laws in South Carolina have an explicit preference against shared physical custody, in which a child spends half of his or her time with one parent and half with the other. In general, this kind of shared custody is approved only under “exceptional circumstances.” Typically, a family may be able to show they have exceptional circumstances if the parents' separation is highly amicable and the parents show a high level of cooperation and live near to each other.
More typically, child custody laws in South Carolina will place a child with one parent who will have primary physical custody. This may be either the mother or father, and the court will make the determination based on many factors, including both parents' ability to care for the child, their wishes, their child's wishes, the relationship of the child with each parent, and the moral character of the parents.
Visitation rights will almost always be granted to any non-custodial parent who requests them. If the court feels the parent poses any danger to their child, they may request that the visitation be supervised by a social worker or other third party trusted by the court and both parents.