We know going through separation or divorce can be hard. Trying to split one household into two while creating an equitable distribution of assets, it can be tough to manage the emotional strain of dissolving a relationship.  If you and your partner share children everything gets exponentially harder.

When parents separate, they must consider issues like child custody, visitation, and child support. What you might not know is that even though you pay child support, you may not have the right to custody or visitation.

Before you go into the process, we recommend that you consult with a qualified family law lawyer so you understand your rights and have the legal advice and support necessary to secure your custody or visitation rights.

Only Marriage Imparts Legal Rights

In South Carolina, married parents share equal rights and responsibilities when it comes to their children. That is not the case for unmarried parents. In South Carolina, if the parents are not married, the mother has sole custody of any children the couple may have.

In a divorce, however, neither parent is automatically assigned custodial rights.  Mothers are not automatically assumed to be the primary custodial parent, and one parent does not have to prove that the other is unfit in order to gain custody.

Types of Custody

Child custody in South Carolina is broken into two categories: Physical and legal custody. Physical custody pertains to the place where a child lives the majority of the time, while legal custody has to do with making major decisions about the child’s life. Additionally, these custody roles may be assigned jointly — to be shared equally by both parents —or on a sole basis, in which case one parent is granted legal and/or physical custody.

The courts are tasked with acting in the best interests of the child when determining custody. Ideally, parents can work together to co-parent their children, sharing joint physical and legal custody, but this does not always work out.

Parents who have trouble reaching an agreement concerning custody may need the help of an experienced family court mediator to resolve their differences.  If mediation fails, then a Family Court Judge will determine how physical and legal custody are assigned.


When one parent has sole custody, the non-custodial parent will be granted visitation rights, so that they can continue to have a relationship with their children (unless the non-custodial parent poses a threat to the children’s health or safety, or there are other compelling circumstances to make visitation problematic).

However, child support and visitation are separate issues in South Carolina. Just because you pay child support does not mean you will automatically receive visitation. Just because a non-custodial parent fails to pay child support does not mean their visitation rights can be denied.

We Can Help

If you are seeking child custody, visitation, or child support, or if you want to alter a previous custody arrangement, you need the guidance and support of a qualified family law attorney. Custody issues are tough enough to navigate without trying to do everything on your own.

At Bleecker Family Law, we are skilled and compassionate professionals ready to help. Contact us today at 843-571-2725 or contact us to schedule a consultation to learn more about our family law services.