Knowledgeable Fort Mill and Rock Hill Child Custody Attorney
Serving families throughout York, Lancaster, and Chester Counties
Going through a divorce is stressful enough when only finances are involved; when you have children, however, even the smallest hills become mountains. Nothing is more important than protecting them, and so nothing causes more stress than deciding how you and your spouse will parent them in the days to come.
Because multiple factors are considered during child custody matters, having an experienced child custody lawyer will alleviate some of your stress. As a single dad and a child custody attorney, I am uniquely positioned to understand your fears and anxieties, and to help you through them as you plan for your children’s cutures. Call Holland Law in Rock Hill or Fort Mill today, and let my team help you take the next steps forward.
Legal custody and physical custody in South Carolina
There are two “types” of custody in South Carolina under SC Code § 63-15-210 (2019):
- “Joint custody" means both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, including the child's education, medical and dental care, extracurricular activities, and religious training; however, a judge may designate one parent to have sole authority to make specific, identified decisions while both parents retain equal rights and responsibilities for all other decisions.
- "Sole custody" means a person, including, but not limited to, a parent who has temporary or permanent custody of a child and, unless otherwise provided for by court order, the rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, including the child's education, medical and dental care, extracurricular activities, and religious training.
All decisions, whether agreed to by both parents in a parenting plan, or ordered by a Court, must consider the “best interests” of the children.
Parents can share joint legal custody, meaning they both participate in the decision making about their children, or joint legal custody with one parent designated as primary parent regarding health, education, extracurricular activities, and religion. One parent may be granted sole legal custody of the child, which means that parent is awarded all decision-making powers. Joint legal custody is preferable, as it allows both parents to actively engage in the parenting of the children.
Physical custody refers to which parent the child is going to live with the majority of the year:
- Sole physical custody. The parent who is awarded this level of custody has the child on a full-time basis. The non-custodial parent may be offered periodic visitation by the court, which depending upon the circumstances may be conditioned upon being supervised by a neutral, third-party for the safety of the child.
- Joint physical custody. When the court awards this custody, both parents receive equal time with the child. Joint physical custody is sometimes referred to as shared custody. There are different ways this can be arranged, and parenting plans can incorporate less traditional custody schedules that work better for the children.
In South Carolina, joint legal or shared custody will normally only be awarded by judges in extraordinary circumstances, or if both parties agree.
What does the “best interest of the child” mean?
The law in South Carolina follows the “best interest of the child” standard when it comes to making important decisions on behalf of your children. This means that the court is required to consider numerous statutory factors including, but not limited to:
- Temperament and developmental needs of the child
- Capacity and disposition of the parents to understand and meet the child’s needs
- Preferences of each child, age permitting
- Wishes of the parents as to custody
- Past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the best interest of the child
- Actions of each parent to encourage the continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, including compliance with court orders
- Manipulation by parents, or coercive behavior of the parents, in order to involve the child in their dispute
- Effort by one parent to disparage the other in front of the child
- Ability of each parent to be actively involved in the child’s life
- Child's adjustment to home, school, and community environments
- Stability of the child's existing and proposed residences
- Mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except as to disability of a proposed custodial parent or other party, which must not be determinative of custody unless it’s not in the child’s best interest
- Child's cultural and spiritual background
- Whether the child or his or her sibling has been abused or neglected
- Whether one parent has engaged in any domestic violence or child abuse, or such abuse has had an effect on the child
- Whether one parent has relocated more than 100 miles from the child's primary residence in the past year, unless the parent relocated for safety reasons
The court will weigh all of these factors, and any other factors they deem relevant, in deciding what will be best for your children to give them the optimal chance of succeeding in having a healthy, safe childhood.
Custody hurdles for military parents around Fort Mill and Rock Hill
Depending upon your job in the military, you may face long hours, changes of duty stations, or be ready for deployment at a moment’s notice. Under S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-512, any of these scenarios can present challenges in obtaining custody of your children, but that doesn’t mean you cannot effectively parent your children. There are state and federal laws in place to help you obtain or retain custody of your children, even when you are on active duty.
Creating a Family Care Plan is the first step to showing how you intend to place the best interest of your children first. These plans are intended to provide instructions for caring for your children when you are required to be away fulfilling your military obligations. These plans include legal documents giving authority to trusted individuals to step into your shoes to follow your instructions and make necessary care decisions for your children in your absence.
Modifying custody orders
While custody orders are legally binding, they can be modified if there has been a change in circumstances for you, you spouse, or your children. A court will view any request for modification with an eye toward the best interest of the child. Therefore, if the modification request will unnecessarily interrupt the child's way of life, it is unlikely to be approved.
What if I want to relocate with our child?
People’s lives change all the time. They get new jobs, remarry, or find themselves caring for an aging parent. Any of these scenarios could prompt a parent to move. If the move will prevent the current custody order from being followed, you should attempt to reach an agreement with the other parent. If that is not possible, you will need to petition the court for a modification of the current child custody order. You must present evidence to show why the move is necessary, and why your children should remain in your care.
A judge will look at the reasons behind the move and render a decision based on that information. He or she may decide that the custody order must be modified in a way that protects your children’s best interests, even if contrary to your best interests.
That is where I come in. My role as your child custody lawyer is to prove to the court that your children’s best interests are YOUR best interests, and that your wish to relocate falls squarely in that framework.
It is important to address relocation before you actually relocate. Judges will often require your children to be returned to South Carolina, at least on a temporary basis, until the issue of relocation can be litigated.
A compassionate child custody advocate serving Fort Mill, Rock Hill, and beyond
Child custody is a complex issue. Let me be your guide through the process. To reserve a consultation at my Fort Mill office on Gold Hill Road, or in my Rock Hill office on Oakland Avenue, please call 803-288-3885 or fill out my contact form. Holland Law proudly serves clients throughout York, Lancaster, and Chester Counties.