Family Law, Divorce and Child Custody Attorney

Under South Carolina law, both natural parents are the presumed natural custodians of their children. The law does not favor either the mother or father. The law looks at the “best interest” of the child standard when deciding on child custody and visitation either in a divorce petition, when the parents are married, or a family court petition, when the parents are not married. Since the legal parents of the child are favored by the court during custody hearings, it can be difficult for others, such as grandparents, who may desire to seek custody. Every family law situation is unique, and as such, the judge will consider the unique factors of every case, while always adhering to the “best interest” of the child standard, when deciding custody issues.

Custody and visitation arrangements, contrary to popular belief, are never permanent. As situations change, a parent can always petition the court to modify a court order. Not just any life change warrants a request for a child custody modification, but if one parent has undergone a material change in circumstances, such as losing a job or needing to relocate for work, he or she can petition the court to have the custody agreement updated. Modification requests are never simple, however, and they require proof that a parent’s circumstances have changed significantly, which is why it is best to have an experienced family law attorney on your side.

Types of Custody

Either of the separated parents may petition the court for custody of a child. If the parties cannot agree about who should have custody, the court will grant custody either solely to one of the parents or shared between parents. Joint custody can be further broken down into three categories — joint legal, shared physical, or a combination of the two.
  • Joint legal custody is when the parents share decision-making responsibility for the upbringing of the child, even if the child has only one primary residence. One parent may be given “tie-breaking” authority (the final word in cases of disagreement), or each parent may have certain areas of decision-making authority.
  • Shared physical custody refers to where the child spends his or her time. In shared custody arrangements, the child splits time equally between parents’ residences.

family lawyer Greenville SCAs stated above, the Divorce or Family Law Judge, applies the “best interests of the child” standard, in determining which parent should have physical custody of the child. Physical custody means the parent the child predominantly lives with. No single factor is determinative but rather a whole host of factors are considered by the court. For example, the court will examine which of the parents is the primary caregiver, the fitness of the parent – psychological or physical if one of the parents suffers from a disability, the character and reputation of the parents, any agreement between the parents, the ability to get along or maintain a cordial relationship, and the financial ability of the parents to support the child.

Many individuals fear that the child can determine with which parent to live. The reality is that while the judge may consider the child’s wishes in custody determinations, it is but one factor in the analysis. Children’s needs change as they grow and mature. It is not unusual for a child to have spent significant time with both parents prior to reaching the age of 18 because of life and preferences.

What to do if You Agree With Your Ex About Child Custody

To be enforceable, all family law and divorce agreements with provisions for child custody should be in writing and adopted by the relevant court. If you and the other parent have already made an agreement that addresses custody and the right of the non-custodial parent to receive visitation or parenting time, this agreement should be written as a consent order or stipulation. A stipulation is a statement describing the agreement that you have reached. A consent order is a draft for the judge to sign if he or she decides to accept your agreement. Without a court order, no court is able to enforce a custody agreement.

What to do if You do Not Agree With Your Ex About Child Custody

A good settlement will leave both parents disappointed, feeling they did not get everything that they wanted, when they determined how they will parent together post-divorce or break-up. This feeling, however, is the correct feeling, because the child must be shared between the parents. If you and your spouse are having trouble reaching an agreement, you should consider mediation. A mediator specializes in helping people reach an agreement that is fair and will last. The sessions are also confidential. A mediator’s role may be limited to custody or it can be expanded to consider other issues in your divorce like child support, and distribution of marital assets in divorce cases. The mediator’s role is not to take sides, but to bring the two sides together. If mediation does not work, then the dispute would be resolved by the judge.

Do I Need a Child Custody Lawyer?

Child custody matters are the most significant aspects of a divorce or relationship breakup. A child custody lawyer can help you negotiate custody, either by agreement or in court. Do not go at it alone, especially if your split from your ex is contentious. It is really important to not place your child at the center of your dispute. The child must get along with both of you and forcing them to choose between the partners leaves lasting negative implications to your relationship with your child. Call the office or contact us today at the law office of Hunter W. Morris to schedule a free, confidential consultation with our expert child custody lawyer in Greenville about your claims now.