Your divorce judge will use the South Carolina child support guidelines to calculate temporary child support during your divorce proceedings and permanent child support after your divorce becomes final. If you negotiate a divorce settlement with your spouse, your divorce judge will use the same child support guidelines to determine if you have stipulated to the correct amount of child support.
As part of the child support calculation in your case, your divorce judge must answer six questions. Those questions are:
(1) How many children are affected by the child support order?
(2) How many nights will the child spend with each parent during a calendar year?
(3) What is the annual income of each parent?
(4) If a parent is not fully employed, what income should be imputed to that parent?
(5) Who pays for the child’s health insurance and how much does it cost each month?
(6) Who pays how much for work-related child care costs?
The answers to these questions will determine how much child support will be paid in your divorce case.
Does the Amount of Child Support Depend on the Number of Children?
When your family law judge decides the amount of child support to be paid in your divorce, one of the more important factors will be the number of children involved. The amount of child support will depend in large part on: (a) the number of children that your spouse and you had together; and (b) the number of other adopted or natural children living in the home. The amount of child support to be paid will increase with each additional child in your house up to six children.
As part of the South Carolina child support formula, your divorce judge will give a credit equal 0.75 of a child for each adopted or natural child living in the home. Your judge will not give you credit for any stepchild or foster child who lives in your home.
What Are “Overnight” Visits and Why Are Overnights Important?
The South Carolina child support law divides child support into two categories. The distinction is made on the basis of the number of nights (a/k/a “overnights”) that your child will spend with each parent during a calendar year. If your child spends 110 nights (30% of a calendar year) or more with both parents, the South Carolina child support guidelines consider the parenting arrangement to be “shared custody” and the amount of child support is reduced. Conversely, if your child has fewer than 110 overnights with your spouse or you, the arrangement will be called “sole custody” and the amount of child support will be larger.
As part of your divorce, you will be required to submit a proposed parenting plan. You should be careful to calculate the number of overnights that your child will spend with your former spouse and you. The amount of child support to be paid will change significantly if both of you enjoy at least 110 overnights with your child. Since your parenting plan will determine so much about the future of your child and you, it is important that you use an experienced Mt. Pleasant divorce lawyer to guide you through the child custody and child support process.
How Is Income Determined for Child Support Purposes?
The South Carolina child support guidelines are based primarily on the “gross income,” not the net taxable income of your spouse and you. You may be inclined to think that determining the respective gross incomes of your spouse and you is relatively easy to determine. However, in practice, this is sometimes the most litigated part of a divorce case. The disputes over gross income could intensify in your divorce if your spouse or you seeks alimony or child support.
For calculating child support, your gross income will include your income from any source, except court ordered child support or alimony from a prior relationship, Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI), Food Stamps, and General Assistance. In addition to your wages, salaries, and commissions, gross income for child support calculation purposes in your divorce will include your severance pay, free housing, royalties, bonuses, net rental income, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, a company car, income from assets and investments, and veterans’ benefits. Your gross income also includes the alimony that you will receive from your divorce in this case.
The list of items, which might be included as part of your gross income, extends well beyond these simple illustrations. You may also need accounting and legal advice on various tax matters (such as tax credits, depreciation, and FICA) to determine the gross income of your spouse or you for child support purposes. Your divorce judge may or may not include such items as part of your gross income in calculating child support as part of your divorce.
Gross income is the engine that drives child support, alimony, and the division of marital property. Since a mistake in the understatement or overstatement of gross income can affect so much about your future, you should hire an experienced South Carolina attorney to represent you if your divorce involves alimony, child custody, child support, or high value assets, such as a home or a business.
What Is “Imputed” Income and How Does It Affect Child Support?
Frequently in marriages, a wife or husband works full-time while the other spouse works part-time or not at all. In other cases, a spouse will quit a job or take a lower paying job in attempt to reduce his or her gross income. If you find your spouse or yourself in any of these situations, imputed income could become very important in calculating alimony, child support, and the marital property division in your divorce.
If your spouse is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, your family law judge may determine that your spouse could be earning more money from his or her employment. If that occurs, your judge could assign or impute to your spouse a higher gross income number in the calculation of child support.
You may encounter difficulty in proving that your spouse is underemployed or deliberately unemployed. Since the calculation of child support in your divorce will depend to a great degree on the ratio between the gross incomes of your spouse and you, it is important that you have the help of a vocational expert and a skilled South Carolina divorce lawyer. You want to be sure that your divorce judge gives your spouse full credit for what he or she could be earning.
What Role Does Health Insurance Play in the Calculation of Child Support?
In calculating child support in your divorce case, your judge will give credit to the parent, who pays for your child’s health insurance. Typically, this is a routine part of the child support calculation. If you are paying for your child’s health insurance, your divorce judge should give you full credit for that expense.
Are Child Care Costs Included in the Calculation of Child Support?
This is a frequently asked question where children are involved in a divorce. The answer is that your divorce judge will include in the child support calculation what you pay for employment-related child care for your child, minus the amount of your Federal child care income tax credit.
What Formula Will Your Divorce Judge Use to Calculate Child Support?
After your divorce judge has heard the evidence in your divorce case, your judge will enter a child support order. The amount of child support will be primarily determined by using the South Carolina child support calculator. You can do a preliminary calculation of child support for your divorce by plugging into the formula your answers to the questions that I discuss above. Armed with that information, you will then be in a good position to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your child support position with an experienced Mt. Pleasant divorce lawyer.
What Should You Do About Child Support?
In many divorces, child support is one of the more significant financial issues. As this general discussion of child support reveals, the South Carolina child support law has many complex issues. If you live in Mount Pleasant, Charleston, Goose Creek, Isle of Palms, James Island, North Charleston, Summerville, West Ashley, or another Low Country community, please call me now. I will be glad to answer any questions that you may have about South Carolina child support law.