Laws regarding child custody can be found in Title 63 - South Carolina Children's Code. The information below will direct you to sections within the Code for more information.
General consideration in custody proceeding of parent's military service (S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-512)
Custody actions can be filed independently or as part of a divorce action in South Carolina. The standard applied in all custody actions is "the best interests of the child." The courts consider many factors in determining the best interests of a child including the physical, psychological, spiritual, educational, familial, emotional, and recreational aspects of the child's life. The courts will also assess each parent's character, fitness, and attitude as they impact the child; consider the child's preference for custody; and weigh any domestic violence. See S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-10 - § 63-15-40 (2010); Patel v. Patel, 347 S.C. 281, 555 S.E.2d 386 (2001). A court cannot consider a parent's past deployment or possible future deployment "in itself" in determining the best interest of the child, but a court may consider any significant impact past or future deployment has on the best interest of the child.
Definition of "Custody" (S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-210)
Courts can order many different types of custody arrangements. In general, there are two types of custody arrangements: "joint custody" and "sole custody." Joint custody means both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child. Sole custody means one parent has the right and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child.
Parenting Plans (S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-220)
Parents must submit parenting plans to the court in custody proceedings reflecting the parental preferences as to how much time the child will spend with each parent and which parent will make major decisions for the child, including the child's education, medical and dental care, extracurricular activities, and religious training.
The most common parenting arrangement is where one parent serves as the primary caretaker of the child, and that the other parent has visitation with the child. The primary caretaker is responsible for the child most days of the year, with the other parent having visitation every other weekend, on some holidays, and during some summer weeks. The parent having visitation almost always is required to pay child support to the parent who is serving as the primary caretaker.
Also, many courts are now encouraging parents to use Our Family Wizard to schedule and track parenting time, share important information, and communicate effectively.
Guardians ad Litem (S.C. Code Ann. § 63-3-810 (2010); S.C. Code Ann. 63-3-830 (2010))
When a custody action is initiated, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem. Guardians ad litem are independent people who interview parents, children, family members, friends, school personnel, and other people involved in the family's life, as well as collect evidence regarding the children, to make a recommendation to the court as to the best custody arrangement for the child.
A custody action or a divorce action in which custody is contested must be filed by an attorney. When custody is contested, both parties to the action must participate in mediation.
Indian children (S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-306)
The information provided does not apply to a child custody proceeding that pertains to an Indian child as defined in the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. § 1901, et. seq. (2013).
This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.