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South Carolina Child Custody Laws

When a couple splits up, the responsibility to care for any children of both parties is usually shared between them. In South Carolina, the judge decides child custody matters based on the “best interests of the child.” This is the most common standard for determining child custody. The factors the judge must consider include:

  • The needs and preferences of the child
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, or community and the stability at existing or proposed residences, including if a parent moved more than 100 miles from the child’s primary residence (unless relocated for safety reasons)
  • The parents’ ability to understand and meet those needs and be actively involved in the child’s life
  • The parents’ desire to have custody
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  • Past and current relationship of the child with each parent, sibling, grandparent, etc. who could significantly affect the best interests of the child
  • How each parent has encouraged a continuing parent-child relationship with the other parent
  • Manipulative or coercive behavior by a parent to involve a child in the parents’ dispute or disparaging the other parent in front of the child
  • Whether a child or sibling of a child has been abused or neglected by one or both of the parents
  • Whether a parent has abused the other parent or another person and the affect of the domestic violence on the child
  • Other factors the court considers necessary

The following table outlines more of the South Carolina child custody laws.

Code Section South Carolina Code Title 63: Children’s Code, Chapter 15: Child Custody & Visitation
Year Uniform Child Custody Act Adopted South Carolina adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act in 1981. This act was updated by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act in 1997, which South Carolina also adopted.
Joint Custody South Carolina does permit joint custody, where both parents share in the custody and care of the child. The joint custody law was enacted in 2012, so is still relatively new to the state.
Grandparent Visitation Rights Recognized Yes, grandparents can have visitation rights in South Carolina. Generally, visitation is only when the grandparent’s child has visitation or custody of the grandchild. However, the grandparent may have custody rights as the psychological parent or de facto custodian of the child.

Grandparent’s rights to a child sometimes happen when a person drops his or her child off to his or her parent (the grandparent) as a baby and the grandparent raises the child. Then several years later when the child has a parent-like bond with the grandparent, the parent comes back to take the child. If you’re in this situation, you should speak with a lawyer to determine if you have rights under the South Carolina law. These are fact-specific court determinations.
Child’s Wishes Not Considered In South Carolina, as in many states, when a child is sufficiently old enough or mature enough, the judge will ask the child where he or she would like to live. Very young children or children with disabilities may be unable to adequately express their preferences. Although not determinative, the child’s wishes are a factor the judge must consider in custody decisions.

As an example, if the child wants to live with her mom because she lets her party all night, while at dad’s house she has a curfew and has to do chores, the judge would likely still decide on dad for primary custody despite the child’s preference.

If you need to develop or modify a child custody parenting plan, you may want to consult with an experienced South Carolina child custody lawyer.

Note: As state laws change all the time, it’s important to verify the laws you’re researching by either conducting your own research or contacting a knowledgeable attorney.

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