Child Custody

There are three types of child custody in South Carolina: Sole, Joint, and Divided. The courts tend to favor one over the others. This blog will explain the types and what you should expect when seeking custody in South Carolina.

Custody Types

“Sole” custody is the most common custody arrangement. One parent (the custodial parent) is granted physical custody of the child, and the other parent (the noncustodial parent) has visitation with the child, usually on various holidays, select weeks during the summer, when school is not in session, and alternating weekends.

“Joint” custody is the sharing of the child’s home care. It typically provides both parents more time than the typical visitation schedule awarded to the noncustodial parent in sole custody arrangements. Joint custody is often referred to as “co-parenting” due to the often, yet not necessarily, 50/50 responsibility split between the parents.

“Divided” or “split” custody is a variation of sole custody that occurs when there is more than one child, and sole custody of one or more children is awarded to one parent, and sole custody of the remaining child or children is awarded to the other parent.

Both joint custody and divided custody arrangements are generally disfavored by South Carolina judges. Why?

What to Expect in Court?

Cooperation between parents is necessary for a successful joint custody arrangement; however, many divorced parents do not get along well enough to make joint physical custody a reasonable solution. In addition, joint custody arrangements can sometimes be disruptive to the stability of the children’s lives. Nonetheless, if joint physical custody is awarded, it cannot consist of brief alternating periods of day-to-day or even week-to-week due to the strain such frequent custody changes put on a child’s environmental stability.

Divided custody is disfavored because it separates siblings by giving each parent physical custody of at least one child. It is only granted in extreme circumstances, such as if one parent is incapable of caring for all of the children or there is a high degree of hostility between the children. Forced separation from loved ones can have a traumatic impact on children whose lives are already upset by the divorce experience.

However, when it is requested by both parents, and the family court is convinced that the parents are capable of cooperating sufficiently to make it work, South Carolina family court judges will award a joint custody arrangement. On the other hand, if one parent would rather have sole custody and the other parent would prefer joint custody, the family court judge may still grant joint physical custody when they believe, due to exceptional circumstances, it would be better for children than awarding sole custody to one parent.

6 Steps to Get Full Custody in South Carolina

When filing for sole custody in South Carolina, a parent may file as part of a divorce or paternity proceeding. Both of these options require a petition that requests full custody of the child and gives reasons to grant the request.

If the other parent is not amiable to the petition, the court will order the parents to attempt to reach an agreement in terms of support, visitation rights, and custody. If an agreement cannot be reached, the court will have to make the decision.

The following are the six steps to getting full custody in South Carolina:

1.    Petition

The first step to getting full custody in South Carolina is to draft a portion of the divorce or paternity petition. The following information must be included:

  • The contact information of both parents
  • The names of both parents and the child
  • The child’s age

In the petition, it is imperative to include the type of custody you are requesting, in this case, sole custody, and why the court should grant this request.

2.    Filing the Petition Paperwork

When the petition is filed, it must be submitted to the family court in the county where you live, pay any filing fees associated with the paperwork and deliver a copy of the petition to the sheriff’s office in the county where the other parent lives. Once the petition is received by the other parent, by law, they must respond in 30 days with a counterclaim or answer.

3.    Temporary Hearing

After the 30-day response time, a temporary hearing may be scheduled by calling the law clerk at the family court or the judicial assistant assigned to the case. They will then give notice to both parents detailing the time and date of the future hearing.

4.    Mediation

The court will likely order mediation if the other parent rejects the custody requests at the hearing. During mediation, an objective mediator will meet with both parents and try to negotiate mutually agreeable custody, support, and visitation agreement. If an agreement is achieved, both parents and the mediator will sign it, and it will be officially filed with the court. Afterward, another hearing is scheduled, and only one parent must attend to present the agreement to the judge.

5.    Trial

You must get ready to go to trial if an agreement is not reached and the other parent refuses to grant sole custody,

The other parent must be sent standard interrogatories for family law and order to produce evidence during the custody proceedings, which must be sent within 30 days. Additionally, any witness statements and documents that may help persuade the court to grant the full custody petition and deny a counterclaim can be subpoenaed at this time.

Useful records may include medical records, income records, documentation of unfit parenting, and documents of an unsafe lifestyle or substance abuse of any kind that would prove detrimental to the child.

The case of who has been the child’s primary caretaker has a major part in deciding custody but

other aspects taken into consideration by the judge include:

  • Age and gender of the child
  • If the child is old enough to decide who they favor living with
  • The necessity to be in a stable home
  • Support from other family members
  • The physical and mental well-being of both parents
  • Parental substance abuse, domestic violence, or child abuse
  • If the child requires special needs and how qualified a parent is in meeting those needs
  • Parenting skills
  • Whether there are other children whose custody concerns the child’s custody agreement
  • The relationship and interaction between child and parent
  • A guardian ad litem recommendation

Custody proceedings may be long, expensive, and frustrating, depending on the circumstance. You may need a skilled South Carolina family law lawyer for experienced legal guidance surrounding your custody request. One parent may opt to authorize full custody and get visitation rights, but it may not always be that simple. In cases of unmarried couples, the court typically issues full custody to the mother.

6.    Judge’s Decision

Once the petitioning parent has presented their case, you may introduce yours by proposing evidence and summoning witnesses on your behalf. The judge’s decision will be filed in the form of an order following the hearing.

How King Law Can Help You

If you are involved in a child custody matter and need representation or simply have general questions, call King Law today. Most of our team members are parents, and we understand what you are going through. You don’t have to navigate this journey in the dark or alone. Call 866-318-6086 (KING) or complete a consultation request form on our website. For more information on child custody, visit our child custody blog section or family law page.

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