In domestic litigation, children are often stuck in the middle between parents, used as leverage by one parent as he or she tries to negotiate with or somehow punish the other.
From Attorney Jeff Schreiber:
I am blessed to be the parent of two wonderful children. Long before I ever became a parent, however, I was a child of divorce. I have been in the spot your children are in now. It is for that reason that I am of the opinion that, when proceedings in the Family Court involve the most vulnerable in our society, extra care must be taken to ensure that their most material needs are consistently met.
Here at Lowcountry Divorce & Family Law, to the extent possible under the law, we will look after your children as though they were our own.
Here in the Palmetto State, as far as the support of children are concerned, both parents share equally a duty and obligation to support their children from birth to the moment the child is deemed emancipated upon turning 18 years of age or graduating high school, whichever comes later. Certain circumstances, however, may necessitate that one parent bears a greater burden than the other.
How is Child Support Calculated?
Unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties, the amount of child support to be paid by one parent to the other is governed and determined by the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines as formulated by the Department of Social Services.
Click HERE to visit the South Carolina Child Support Calculator. Plug in your numbers and play around with it a bit. However, please be aware that this calculator is to be used only as a guideline; to understand all of the circumstances involved in calculating support, please give us a call. We would be happy to discuss it with you.
Even with the formulaic aspects of child support awards in South Carolina, the Family Court may deviate from a presumptive amount, but not without sufficient justification and reason.
When Will the Court Deviate from the Guidelines?
Generally, if the courts deviate from the presumptive amount of support as set forth by the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines, it is the exception and not the rule. Here in the Palmetto State, by operation of law the trial court has no discretion about whether or not to apply the guidelines; however, the court does indeed have discretion to deviate from the presumptive amount of support.
In considering whether to deviate from the presumptive amount of child support as provided by the guidelines, the Court will look at fourteen different factors:
- Whether or not the family has more than six children
- Unreimbursed extraordinary medical or dental expenses for the noncustodial or custodial parent
- Substantial disparity of income, in which the noncustodial parent’s income is significantly less than the custodial parent’s income, making it financially impracticable to pay what the Guidelines indicate the noncustodial parent should pay
- Agreements reached between the parties — the Court retains authority to review such agreements and either approve or overrule
- Non-court-ordered child support from another relationship
- The educational expenses for the children or spouse, to include those expenses for private, parochial or trade schools, other secondary schools, or higher education where there is tuition and other related costs
- The equitable distribution of property
- The extent of consumer debts, if any, owed by both parties
- Mandatory deduction of retirement pensions and union fees
- Support obligations for other dependents living with the noncustodial parent
- Child-related unreimbursed extraordinary medical expenses
- Monthly fixed payments imposed by a court or operation of law
- Significant available income of the child or children (think “my child was in the last Harry Potter movie”)
Further, because the Child Support Guidelines only support a certain amount of income, in cases in which combined parental yearly income is more than $240,000, the Court will have to deviate from the Guidelines and decide child support on an individual, case-by-case basis.
How Long is Child Support Paid?
Unless the parents have executed a formal agreement that says otherwise, the parent paying support must continue to pay support until the child is “emancipated.”
When is a child “emancipated?” Though some changes have been made to the law, this generally occurs when the child reaches eighteen (18) years of age or graduates high school, whichever comes later. In certain other cases, a child may also be considered “emancipated” when he or she is married or otherwise is able to support him- or herself, with the exception of cases in which the child is disabled or some other exceptional circumstance exists; in those specific cases, the duty of the supporting parent to provide child support continues until the disability or extenuating circumstance is no longer an issue.
Can a Child Support Order be Changed?
Here in South Carolina, child support obligations are indeed modifiable, and such awards may be modified by the appropriate Family Court upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances or a substantial change in the financial ability of either party. The parent seeking modification of the award bears the burden of proving that change.
So, what constitutes a “change” as required by the Court? Well, in most cases, the Court will examine three particular factors when determining whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances sufficient to justify the modification of a child support award. Those three factors:
- Remarriage, but only inasmuch as remarriage ends some forms of alimony and, with the termination of alimony, may cause the change in the parties’ relative economic positions
- Changes in the parents’ finances
- Changes in the child’s needs
Please be aware, however, that the law on child support modification in South Carolina is continuously evolving. Specific criteria and factors and guidelines are set by the courts only to be overturned by subsequent decisions. For that reason, and because child support in South Carolina is so much more than a simple formula or calculator, come talk to us. We are happy to help.
Does My Child’s Mother/Father Have to Pay College Tuition & Expenses?
Here in the Palmetto State, the likelihood is slim, absent an agreement signed by the parents which expressly states otherwise. The Family Court does have the authority to do so unilaterally, however, and it may more likely do so in cases in which the child will uniquely benefit from higher education, or if the child could not otherwise attend school at that level, and the supporting parent has the resources to pay or assist with payment. Again, though, changes in the law are perpetually afoot.
As was said before, child support issues are much more than a formula. Give us a call for a consultation.