How Is Child Support Calculated in South Carolina?

how is child support calculated

Making sure that all children are provided for is one of the primary goals of the family courts throughout South Carolina. That means that when parents divorce, child support is almost always part of the divorce settlement; both parents have a legal obligation to provide for their child financially.

If you are not the parent who is awarded sole or primary custody of your child, you will likely be ordered to pay child support.  As such, understanding how child support is calculated and how much you may be liable for is important. Here’s an overview of what you need to know.

The Calculation Process

Child support is calculated based on South Carolina’s child support guidelines. These guidelines look at the number of children, the income of both parents, the amount of time the child spends with each parent, health insurance and daycare costs (if applicable), and any extraordinary circumstances or factors.  Although in the majority of instances a standard calculation is used, there are several reasons why a family court may deviate from child support guidelines when issuing a child support order. For example, the following factors are listed by South Carolina Child Support Guidelines as potential reasons for deviation:

  • Educational expenses for the child;
  • Educational expenses for a parent;
  • Distribution of property;
  • Debts;
  • Large number of children (more than six);
  • Extraordinary medical expenses for a child;
  • Child income;
  • Large disparity in parents’ incomes;
  • Spousal maintenance payments;
  • Other court-ordered payments;
  • Retirement pension and union fee deductions; and
  • Parties reaching an agreement regarding a child support amount outside of court.

When Custody Is Shared

When one parent has sole custody of a child, computing the other parent’s support obligation can be relatively straightforward.  However, when custody is shared – either partially or fully -computing child support can be more complicated.

If custody is shared, which means the child spends at least 110 overnights with each parent per year, then both parents are considered to be contributing to the child’s expenses. Accordingly when this is the case, child support will be calculated using a separate worksheet (worksheet C).  This worksheet runs the calculation differently, acknowledging that when a child spends that much time with each parent (even if the time is not equal), then even the parent with lesser time is still contributing more to the child’s daily expenses when compared with a parent who has a minimal or basic visitation schedule.  The final number under a schedule C calculation does still take into account the same factors as the standard calculation, however—each party’s income, credits for daycare and health insurance, and number of overnights per year each parent has with the child.  The result is just a different number depending on whether the noncustodial (or secondary custodial) parent has less or more than 110 overnights per year.

Still find this confusing?  Understandable.  The formula can be complicated to navigate, which is one of the primary reasons that working with a skilled South Carolina child custody attorney is a must.

Can a Child Support Amount Ever Be Changed?

Once a child support amount has been calculated and an order has been issued by the family court, a parent is responsible for making that child support payment on time and in full without exception. This means that even if something arises that makes making a payment difficult, such as a medical emergency or losing one’s job, the child support order is still due.

However, a child support order can be modified when circumstances warrant such a modification. Indeed, if someone who is obligated to pay child support loses their job or has a medical emergency (or undergoes another profound change of circumstances), modification can be sought.  A petition for modification must be filed with the court to do this, and the payor must show a substantial change in circumstances to justify the modification.  Because child support is due until a court says it’s not, if you owe a child support obligation and have experienced a substantial change, it’s important to seek modification of your order sooner rather than later to avoid racking up arrearages, or overdue amounts, in your payments.

How Our Attorneys at The Cate Law Firm, P.A. Can Help

At The Cate Law Firm, P.A., our attorneys can help you to understand whether or not you will likely be obligated to pay child support, and if so, how much that support order may be. We can also help you to enforce a support order or modify an existing order if necessary.

Our attorneys have been representing parents involved in sensitive family law issues for years, and know how to handle your case both delicately and aggressively. To schedule an initial consultation with our lawyers, please contact us today at 864-585-4226, or send us an email through our website. You can also visit our Spartanburg office in person at your convenience.

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