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Child Custody Lawyers in Bluffton, SC
Protecting Your Family in South Carolina
One of the most contentious in many divorces is the matter of child custody. Many parents feel that they deserve to have complete physical and legal custody and will attempt to punitively shut another parent out of raising their child. In other situations, a parent can pose a danger to a child, and assigning full physical and legal custody to a single parent may be the only solution that adequately serves the family’s needs.
No matter your situation, our Bluffton child custody lawyers at Horton & Associates, LLCare prepared to fight to protect your and your family’s interests. Our accomplished team has over 15 years of legal experience and understands how South Carolina adjudicates child custody cases. We can assist you with all elements of your divorce and matters involving family law, including visitation rights, child custody, and alimony. We offer our legal services in English and Spanish.
What is the Difference Between Physical Custody and Legal Custody in South Carolina?
Physical custody refers to where the child primarily lives.
- A parent with primary physical custody is responsible for day-to-day decisions about the child’s safety and upbringing.
- The parent without primary physical custody will typically be required to pay child support to the custodial parent.
- Joint physical custody involves both parents having frequent access to the child – that is, the child routinely lives at both parents’ respective homes – and equally sharing decision-making abilities for day-to-day affairs.
Legal custody confers decision-making abilities about major life decisions involving a child’s education, religious upbringing, and medical care.
- Legal custody is often shared between parents, even if one parent has primary physical custody. However, parents with primary physical custody generally have the final say when there are unresolvable disagreements.
Unless a parent is determined to be dangerous, the parent without primary physical custody is guaranteed visitation rights. Parents with primary physical custody must comply with visitation requirements and allow the noncustodial parent access to the child.
Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody in South Carolina
In addition to physical and legal custody, child custody orders can be divided into joint and sole custody as well.
- Joint custody is the most common type of custody arrangment because the court recognizes the importance of having both parents involved in their child's life. In most cases, both physical and legal custody will be shared between the two parents, with one parent usually having primary physical custody.
- Sole custody is more rare and essential means that all decision making power goes to one parent while the other parent may be allowed limited visitation. Sole custody is usually only ordered in cases where one parent is considered a danger to the child, maybe because of their living situation, violent behavior, or an addiction problem.
How is Child Custody Determined?
Broadly, a South Caroline family court will make decisions involving child custody on what it perceives to be in the best interests of the child. Parents can generally reach their own custody agreements so long as they are determined by the court to be in the best interests of the child. When disputes occur, a family court judge will decide which parent is awarded legal and/or physical custody.
A South Carolina family court will evaluate a variety of factors when deciding matters of child custody, including:
- The developmental needs of the child and each parent’s ability to meet those needs
- The preferences of the child
- The preferences of each parent
- The past and current relationships that the child has with each parent as well as any other relevant family members
- The perceived willingness of each parent to comply with court orders and facilitate a meaningful relationship with the parent that is not awarded custody
- Any manipulative behavior that improperly involved the child in the parental dispute, including disparagements of the other parent
- The availability of each parent to be actively involved in the child’s life
- How each custody scenario might impact the child’s adjustment to their home, school, and community
- The child’s cultural and spiritual background
- Whether the child has ever been abused or neglected
- Whether any parent has ever had a history of violence
- Whether a parent plans to move a substantial distance away from the child’s current primary residence
Once a custody decision has been reached, it will remain in effect until the child becomes a legal adult by turning 18.
Can a Custody Order Be Changed?
In some cases, child custody can be modified. Modification requests must demonstrate that there has been a “material change in circumstances” and that the sought change will be in the best interest of the child.
For example, a parent who was not awarded custody because of an addiction may be able to request joint custody orat lease increase their visitation rights if they can demonstrate that they have taken significant steps to recovery.
On the opposite side, a parent with joint custody may ask the court to award them sole custody if they have proof that their co-parent is putting their child in potentially dangerous situations.
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Our Bluffton child custody attorneys can help you seek custody requests and address other custody issues, including denials of guaranteed visitation. We understand what constitutes a material change in circumstances in the eyes of the court and can assist you in seeking the access that you need and deserve.