Child custody and visitation issues most commonly arise when parents are seeking a divorce. However, these issues arise in other situations as well. When custody issues are part of a divorce action, this usually becomes the most important and the most contested issue. In child custody cases, it is important to have a strong advocate who can obtain and present necessary evidence to the Court to enable the Court to make the right decision.
The Court has a great deal of discretion when making decisions about children. In all cases, the Court is concerned with the best interests of the child. The Court has the ability to grant sole custody to one parent, or the Court can grant joint custody to both parents. Joint custody could be “true joint custody,” where parents spend equal time with their children, or one parent could be given primary legal or physical custody. Unless there are concerns about the safety of a child, the Court will grant visitation rights to a noncustodial parent. In deciding the best interests of the child, the Court can consider numerous factors, some of which include:
- Special needs of a child
- Ability of parents to provide proper care and meet the child’s needs
- Child’s preference
- Prior actions of parents that show fitness to provide for the child
- Actions of a parent to encourage or discourage a relationship with the other parent
- Stability for the child
- Physical and mental health issues
Parents have a duty to provide financial support for their children. There are situations where the payment of child support becomes a highly contested issue. Generally speaking, child support will be set pursuant to the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines. However, the Court can deviate from the Guidelines. Additionally, disputes can arise on the figures to be used when running the Guidelines.