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Introduction to Charleston Child Custody Law

Parent and child involved in a child custody battleYou didn’t want a divorce. You did everything you could to save your marriage.

Now, reality has hit – a divorce is in your future.

Divorce is a serious matter. If you’re losing your marriage, you don’t want to lose your child too.

Your thoughts may have turned to how your Charleston divorce will affect your child. How will you maintain your role in the life of your child? What lies ahead for you and your child?

You have probably heard many family law and child custody phrases thrown around – such as legal custody, physical custody, sole custody, joint custody, and split custody. You may be confused by these child custody law terms. South Carolina divorce and child custody law can be difficult to understand.

If you have come here looking for help from an experienced divorce and child custody lawyer in Charleston, you have come to the right place.

Let’s start by helping you understand what these South Carolina child custody law phrases mean and how they may be applied in your divorce case in Charleston.

What is “child custody” in a Charleston divorce?

Child custody is often the most hotly contested part of a Charleston divorce. As a parent, you know why. Your child means everything to you.

Generally speaking, the phrase “child custody” refers to:

(a)   who will make decisions for your child; and

(b)   how much time your child will reside with you and how much time your child will reside with your spouse after your divorce becomes final.

If your spouse and you cannot agree on child custody, your Charleston divorce judge will make the child custody decisions as part of your divorce case.

Divorce is a serious matter. If you’re losing your marriage, you don’t want to lose your child too.

What is “legal child custody” in a Charleston divorce?

You also want to know who will be making the major decisions for your child after you are divorced. You probably want to be the parent who decides the “what, why, and how” for your child. If your divorce judge rules in your favor, you will have “legal custody” of your child. Alternatively, your judge could decide that you and your spouse will have joint decision making responsibility for your child.

The “major decisions” for your child will concern education, health care, religion, and similar matters. Decisions regarding minor daily activities such as what to wear, what to eat, and when to go to bed will typically be made by the parent with whom your child may be on a given day.

What is “physical child custody” in a Charleston divorce?

Custody battle for your kidsOne of the first questions asked by many divorce clients is: Will my child be living with my spouse or me after our divorce? If you are asking that question, you are talking about what Charleston divorce lawyers call “physical child custody.”

South Carolina child custody law gives divorce judges substantial discretion in deciding which parent will have physical custody of a child. As part of your divorce, your family court judge will decide whether your child will reside primarily with you, your spouse, or split time between the two of you. The judge’s decision on the child’s residence will be identified in your divorce decree as the physical custody of the child.

What is “sole child custody” in a Charleston divorce?

Sole child custody is the most common form of child custody ordered in Charleston divorces. If your divorce judge enters an order for sole child custody, it means that either:

(a)   your wife or you will make all major decisions for your child (i.e., sole legal child custody);

(b)    your child will reside exclusively with your spouse or you, except for periods of child visitation (i.e., sole physical child custody); or

(c)   both.

If your divorce judge awards sole child custody to your spouse, you will have less time with your child and your spouse will control all major decisions for your child.

What is “joint child custody” in a Charleston divorce?

Father Holding Daughter's HandJoint child custody is a broad divorce law term. It can refer to:

(a) decision making for your child (i.e., joint legal child custody);

(b) how much time your child will reside with each parent after your divorce (i.e., joint physical child custody);  or

(c) both.

If your Charleston divorce judge enters an order for “joint legal child custody,” your spouse and you will jointly make all major decisions for your child. Similarly, if your Charleston divorce judge enters an order for “joint physical child custody,” your child will reside roughly half of the time with your spouse and half of the time with you after your divorce becomes final.

What is “split child custody” in a Charleston divorce?

South Carolina has a specific law  [S.C. Code § 63-3-530(42)] regarding what is known as “divided child custody” or “split child custody.” If your spouse and you have had more than one child together, your Charleston divorce judge can use this law to divide or split custody of your children between your spouse and you.

For example, your divorce judge might award the physical child custody of your daughter to her mother and the physical child custody of your son to his father (i.e., split physical child custody).  Of course, your Charleston divorce judge could also divide the physical child custody of your children on the basis of age or other factors. Your divorce judge could enter a similar split child custody order regarding who will make major decisions for each of your children (i.e., split legal child custody).

Conclusion

If you are facing a divorce or legal separation with child custody issues, it is best to get the help you need now. As an experienced Charleston divorce and child custody attorney, I want to help you. Please call me now at 843-631-7117 or use the contact form to ask me questions.

Working together, we will build a better future for you and child in Awendaw, Charleston, Daniel Island, Goose Creek, Isle of Palms, James Island, Johns Island, Kiawah, Mt. Pleasant, North Charleston, Sullivan’s Island, Summerville, or West Ashley.

 Recommendations for Additional Reading

Can I Move from Charleston with My Child After My Charleston Divorce?

How Will The Judge Decide Your Charleston Child Custody Case?

Will My Child Get To Choose Where She Will Live?

The South Carolina Child Custody Law

Charleston Child Custody Myths – Part 1

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