Divorce can be a complex and emotionally challenging process, especially when children are involved. As parents going through a divorce in South Carolina, it’s natural to have questions about child custody and how it relates to state laws.

Our Ellis Law attorneys have answered some frequently asked questions to provide you with a better understanding of child custody matters and are here to offer you guidance.

1. What is the difference between legal and physical custody?

Legal custody refers to the authority to make important decisions for the child, such as education and healthcare, which is often shared by both parents. However, it’s essential to note that even in cases of joint custody, where legal custodial decisions are shared, one parent often retains primary decision-making authority in the vast majority of situations.

Physical custody, on the other hand, determines where the child will primarily reside, and it can vary from sole custody with one parent to shared custody arrangements.

2. Does an unmarried mother need to file for custody?

In South Carolina, it’s important to understand that while an unmarried mother is automatically granted sole legal and physical custody of an infant at birth, many cases involve establishing paternity and seeking custodial rights and visitation simultaneously within a single legal action.

3. How do courts determine child custody?

Family courts prioritize the best interests of the child when making custody decisions. Factors that are taken into consideration when determining child custody are:

  • The home environment
  • The proximity of parents’ residences
  • Parental ability to care for the child
  • Cooperation between parents
  • Financial circumstances
  • Employment status
  • The child’s preferences may also be given some consideration

4. Do I need a child custody lawyer?

​​While not always required, having a knowledgeable family law or child custody lawyer can greatly assist you, especially when dealing with custody matters. Whether the other parent is seeking full custody or attempting to unfairly minimize your involvement, a skilled attorney can present your case effectively and work to ensure that your rights as a parent are protected and that your child’s best interests are served, regardless of the specific custody arrangement being pursued.

5. If I have custody, will I receive child support?

Child support is determined by the court based on the child’s needs and their specific circumstances. In most cases, the parent with primary physical custody receives child support payments from the other parent to ensure the child’s financial well-being.

6. Can I refuse visitation if my ex-spouse doesn’t pay child support?

No, visitation rights are separate from child support obligations. It is not legally permissible to deny visitation based on unpaid child support. However, you can seek legal recourse through the court to enforce child support payments.

7. Can my child decide which parent to live with?

In South Carolina, a child’s preferences regarding custody may be considered by the court, although there is no specific age at which this comes into play. The weight given to a child’s opinion varies with their age and maturity. However, it’s important to understand that the child’s preference is just one factor among many that the court takes into account when determining custody in the child’s best interests. The court considers various factors, and the ultimate determining factor is always the best interest of the child, which encompasses a broader range of considerations.

8. What is a parenting plan and do I need one?

A parenting plan is a document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each parent regarding their child. It often outlines information such as custody schedules, parental decision-making authority, education, healthcare, and child support.

Developing a parenting plan can be helpful for a smooth and efficient divorce or family court process.

Consult with a Family Law attorney in Greenville, SC.

Navigating child custody matters during a divorce can be challenging, but understanding the laws and seeking the guidance of experienced family law attorneys can alleviate some of the stress.

At Ellis Law Firm, we have a team of compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys in Greenville and Spartanburg, SC dedicated to protecting the rights and best interests of families. Contact us today for a case consultation and let us assist you through this difficult process.