Child Custody and Visitation in South Carolina
When a divorcing couple has children together, the issue of child custody and visitation is often the most important matter to be determined in the divorce. It is also often the most contentious and emotional issue in the divorce. At The Cate Law Firm in Spartanburg, we devote our practice to helping our clients get through emotional periods and make difficult decisions that will be the most beneficial for themselves and their children for the present and future.
Types of Custody to be Determined
In making child custody decisions, the court can decide to grant sole custody to one parent alone, or the parents can share custody when the court makes an order of joint custody. Although rare, if there are multiple children, it is also possible that the court may make a split custody decision, with each parent having custody over some of the children. If custody is granted solely or primarily to one parent, the court is still likely to grant visitation to the noncustodial parent, unless to do so would be harmful or dangerous to the child. Courts can order that visitation be supervised if necessary as well.
It is important to understand that there are two different types of custody to be decided – physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the actual possession and care of the child, while legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as educational, medical, extracurricular and religious decisions. In deciding child custody, the court can grant sole or joint physical and legal custody, and the two do not have to match. In other words, the court could grant joint legal custody and sole physical custody, or vice versa.
It’s worth pointing out that although the law says fathers’ rights are equal to mothers’ rights, fathers tend to have more of an uphill battle proving their equality as a parent.
Child Custody is Based on the Child’s Best Interests
The primary consideration guiding the court’s decision in child custody is to make the decision which is in the best interests of the child. This is obviously a highly subjective area, and you will want to make sure you are well-represented by an experienced family law attorney who can help make sure the judge reaches the right decision.
In deciding what type of custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest, the judge can consider a long list of factors, including any or all of the following:
- The needs of the child and the ability of the parents to understand and meet those needs
- The preference of the child
- The wishes of the parents
- The past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, as well as siblings, grandparents and other persons whose relationship may be impacted by the custody decision
- The actions of each parent to encourage an ongoing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent
- Any manipulation or coercive behavior of the parents
- Any effort made by one parent to disparage the other parent in front of the child
- The ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child
- The child’s adjustment to home, school and community
- The stability of the child’s existing and proposed residences
- The mental and physical health of the parents and children
- The child’s cultural and spiritual background
- Whether the child or a sibling has been abused or neglected
- Whether one parent has committed domestic violence or child abuse
- Whether one parent has relocated more than one hundred miles from the child’s primary residence in the past year, unless the parent relocated for safety reasons
- Any other factors the court deems necessary
Help is Available in South Carolina Child Custody Disputes
Child custody matters can be decided in a divorce or in a separate, stand-alone proceeding. It doesn’t matter if the parents are legally married or not. If they have a child together, each parent has a right to custody or visitation that will be determined by the family court if the parents are not living together and raising the child together. At The Cate Law Firm in Spartanburg, we can help you prepare and present a powerful, persuasive case that considers your interests and your child’s best interests in child custody matters. Give us a call at (864) 585-4226, or contact us online to arrange a consultation with one of our caring and dedicated family law attorneys.