When a couple is going through divorce proceedings that involve children, it is important to know how South Carolina law addresses custody issues. 

Many factors are important to a Court in determining who has custody of a child, but the controlling factor is always the best interest of the child.  

How is child custody decided?

In any custody proceeding in South Carolina, a child’s needs, not the parent’s wishes, are central to the decision-making process. Parents may agree to their own custody arrangements provided that the terms serve the child’s best interests. 

There are times when a couple may use the help of a mediator, a neutral third party, to facilitate the negotiation of a custody agreement. When parents have reached an agreement, the Court will determine whether it adequately meets the needs of the child.  

How is child custody defined in South Carolina?

South Carolina law recognizes two types of custody. Physical custody and legal custody. The parent who has physical custody is typically the sole custodian or the primary parent.  Parents may share legal custody of a child through a joint custodial arrangement.  There must always be a final decision maker in any custodial arrangement, so even when parents have joint custody of a child, one of them must be designated as the final decision-maker.

Can custody arrangements be changed?

Child custody orders in South Carolina remain in effect until the child turns 18 and graduates high school or is otherwise emancipated. A parent seeking to modify the terms of a custody and visitation order must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the entry of the order, which affects the best interest of the child.  

Either a parent’s remarriage or a parent’s moving across town may not be a sufficient reason to modify a custody agreement. A major life event, however, such as a health crisis or a child’s failure in school, may be a valid reason to modify a custody agreement. 

Laws surrounding child custody issues can be complex, and having a family court attorney on your side can reduce the stress of navigating the challenging custody arrangement process. Contact us today to speak with one of our dedicated team members, or visit our website to learn more about how we can help.