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South Carolina child support, custody, visitation, and wage garnishment rules

Use this South Carolina child support law to learn about your child support rights and responsibilites.

How is South Carolina child support determined?

In South Carolina, both parents have a joint responsibility to provide child support. There are official South Carolina Child Support guidelines, based on notarized financial declaration and designed to be in the best interests of the child, that the courts use to help determine the correct amount of child support. These guidelines will be followed, unless one of the following factors would make them unjust:

  • educational expenses for the child or for a spouse
  • the equitable distribution of property
  • any consumer debts
  • if the family has more than 6 children
  • extraordinary medical or dental expenses for the child or either parent that isn’t reimbursed
  • mandatory retirement deductions of either parent
  • support obligations for other dependents
  • other court ordered payments
  • any available income of the child
  • a substantial disparity in income of the parents, making it impractical for the non-custodial parent to pay the guideline amount
  • the effect of alimony on the circumstances
  • any agreements between the spouses, if found to be in the best interests of the child

At what age does child support payments end?

Generally, the obligation ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. A child will also automatically be ineligible for child support if that child is removed from disability status by a court order.

South Carolina's custody guidelines:

Generally, the parents agree upon decisions about parenting and custody. If there is no agreement between the parents, then the courts will make these decisions.

In all child custody cases, the mother and father are held responsible for the welfare and education of the minor children in question. The non-custodial parent and the custodial parent have the same right to access of educational records and medical records as well as the same right to participate in the child's school activities. Access remains equal unless otherwise mandated by a court order.

Joint or sole custody may be awarded based on the following factors:

  • which parent is primary caretaker
  • the mental and physical fitness of both parents
  • the religious faith of the parents and the child
  • immoral conduct of either parent if it affects the child
  • the child’s welfare
  • the child's preference
  • and the best spiritual and other interests of the child

South Carolina's medical insurance guidelines:

Generally, the decision as to which parent is going to provide medical insurance coverage for the child and how medical bills will be paid is set out in the marital settlement agreement. Usually, if a reasonable medical insurance plan is available through one of the parent’s employment, they are required to cover their child on it.

In order to be enforceable, a court order mandating medical insurance coverage must include the following:

  • the name, social security number and last known mailing address of the parent as well as the name, social security number, date of birth and mailing address of each child covered by the order
  • a description of the type of coverage that will be provided by the plan
  • the period to which the order applies
  • each plan to which the order applies

Generally, the court will not require that benefits, which are not ordinarily provided under the plan, be provided.

How permanent are the provisions for South Carolina child support and custody ?

Court orders providing for support and custody of children are subject to change or modification to reflect a "substantial change" in circumstances or financial ability of either party and/or living arrangements of the children.

While all orders concerning the children are modifiable in the future, we encourage you to not enter into an agreement based on the idea that it can always be changed or modified later.

Wage garnishment for child support payments:

Most states, including South Carolina, have a provision for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent who has been ordered to provide support. In some cases, the courts may require withholding income in order to guarantee the child support payments are made. The payments are withheld much like income tax is withheld from earnings payments.

This way of paying and receiving child support is generally easier for both parties and considered a very dependable solution. The way it typically works is, once the support is withheld, it is then sent to the state agency authorized to receive and disburse payments. Once it has been verified that the support was paid, it is then sent to the parent designated to receive the support.

If a non-custodial parent can show that they are providing more than 50 percent of the support for dependents not included in the court order from a second marriage, and is not in arrears, no more than 50% of their disposable income can be attached if they cannot pay the full court-ordered amount of both orders.

That number goes to 55% if the non-custodial parent is in arrears, 60 percent for a person only providing support to dependents under the current order, and 65% for a person who is in arrears and paying only on the current order.

How does joint custody work?

Joint custody is now widely recognized by parents, courts and state legislatures as the preferred parenting plan in much of the nation.

Specifically, joint custody is a form of custody of minor children that requires both parents to share the responsibilities of the children, and for both parents to approve all major decisions related to the children.

While joint custody is a 50-50 sharing of responsibilities and major decisions affecting the children, it rarely works out to be a 50-50 sharing of time with the children. Often one parent is named as the primary joint custodian and the other parent is granted visitation. The primary joint custodian typically retains the decision making power to determine the child’s primary residence and school and to designate things such as the child’s primary physician.

How South Carolina determines child visitation:

Generally, parents are free to visit with their children at all times that are mutually agreed to by both parents. However, when parents cannot agree to exactly when visitation will occur, the standard visitation schedule accepted most everywhere in the nation is:

  • every other weekend
  • four to six (4-6) weeks during the summer
  • alternating holidays
  • Father's Day with the father
  • Mother's Day with the mother
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