The stakes in child custody decisions could not be higher. The stress of the situation can also take an enormous emotional toll on both the parents and children involved. At Ayers Family Law, LLC, our child custody attorneys believe it is in the best interests of all parties involved, especially the children, to settle custody disputes out of court through an agreement or parenting plan. However, when parents cannot reach an agreement on their own, a court will make the child custody determination. In making this determination, the courts in South Carolina, like many other states, will use the best-interests-of-the-child standard. Based on the best interest of the child, the court can award joint custody to either both parents or sole custody to one parent.
South Carolina Custody Determination: Best Interests of the Child
Courts in South Carolina weigh many different factors when deciding the best interests of the child for a child custody determination. One of the factors is the child’s preference for one parent over the other. The court considers the child’s age, experience, maturity, judgment and ability to express an opinion when examining a child’s preference. This means that an older, more mature child’s preference (16-year-old junior in high school) will be given more weight than a younger, less mature child (6-year-old first grader in elementary school); however, in any case, a child’s preference is not controlling. Other factors include the wishes of each parent, the ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child, the stability of the child’s existing and proposed residences, and whether a parent has a history of domestic violence or child abuse.
The final factor is a catch-all and allows the court to consider any other factor the court finds necessary. Child custody determinations are extremely individualized since each situation presents myriad different facts and circumstances. Judges must be given this latitude to truly evaluate the best interests of the child. However, we believe that this decision is best made by the parents themselves, not a judge, and prefer to find an amicable solution out of court. If agreement cannot be reached outside of court, we will be zealous advocates of your interests in court.
Types of Child Custody in South Carolina
It is important to realize that there are different types of custody that the court will award in its child custody determination: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as those pertaining to education, religion, and medical care. Physical custody refers to the actual physical care and supervision of the child.
For both legal and physical custody, one or both parents may be given rights and responsibilities. When one parent has the rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, that parent is said to have sole legal custody of the child. However, when both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, then the parents have joint legal custody of the child. If both parents share physical custody, then the parents have joint physical custody. If one parent retains physical custody and the other parent has only visitation rights, then that parent has sole physical custody. The parent with visitation rights is the non-custodial parent. In South Carolina, there is a strong preference for both physical and legal joint custody.
Contact a Charleston Family Law Attorney Today
If you or someone that you know is in need of family law or child custody advice in the greater Charleston area, let the attorneys at Ayers Family Law, LLC help. We have experience obtaining child custody terms that work best for you and your child. Call or contact the office today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.