Joint Custody in South Carolina

A parent may file for child custody as part of the divorce proceeding. But what if your ex also wants custody? Your best option may be a shared, or joint, custody agreement, based on the best interests of the child. 

Having an experienced attorney helping you understand your custody options can make all the difference. . At Sarah Henry Law, we understand custody agreements can be tough, but your lawyer is here to make things easier. 

What Is Joint Custody?

True joint custody is when both parents share in the responsibilities and key decisions regarding the child equally. In South Carolina, joint custody allows both parents to share equal responsibilities in raising the child and making decisions for that child. Remember that custody is separate from a visitation schedule, and does not necessarily control the amount of time each party has with the children. 

Joint custody with primary placement to one parent is a common custody arrangement in South Carolina. With this type of joint custody both parents still share custody, but one parent is the primary parent or the ‘ultimate decision maker’ in matters related to the children where the parties cannot reach an agreement. Usually, but certainly not always, the parent with primary placement also has primary physical custody/visitation. 

That means the child lives with them the majority of the time. The parent with primary placement also usually bears the majority of the costs and responsibility for the child’s daily needs, such as clothing, education, food, medical care, and safety. 

The non-primary parent may pay child support and still share legal custody of the child. They can express their concerns and preferences on matters concerning medical care, education, religious decisions, and more. If parents can’t agree on matters involving the child, the custodial parent shall have the final say on the matter. 

Factors to Consider in Custody Case Decisions

When preparing a custody case, you may need your lawyer to show in court that  you’re prepared to be the primary parent. They may also seek out a more visitation time or more custodial control over certain issues related to your children on your behalf.  The court usually  decides on a custody arrangement based on the best interest of the child  including but not limited to the following factors:

  • The child’s relationship with parents
  • Parents ability to meet the needs of the child 
  • Children’s preferences (depending on the child’s age and maturity) 
  • The past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child’s siblings, and any other person, including a grandparent, 
  • Compliance with court orders 
  • Which parent(s) encourage the parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent 
  • Any parental alienation or disparagement of one parent by another in front of the child 
  • Parent’s ability to be actively involved in the life of the child
  • Parents’ stability

Filing for Joint Custody in South Carolina

When seeking joint custody, you and your ex may have come to some agreement, but you’ll still need to go through the legal process. Your lawyer can  help you petition for joint custody, as the process can be complex. While these steps don’t cover the full scope of filing joint custody, here’s a brief look at the process you’ll be facing:

    • Draft the Complaint  – The complaint must include specific information related to any children involved and the parties particularly the  jurisdictional information. In the Complaint your attorney will identify the major issues you want addressed by the court including custody, visitation, child support, and any other special circumstances particular to your case.  
    • File the Petition and Serve  – Your attorney will file the complaint  with the family court  clerk of court in the appropriate jurisdiction. . There is usually a filing and motions fee required to begin any family court action.  Next your attorney will arrange for the Complaint and any motions and discovery requests to be personally served on the Defendant in your case. The other party then has 30 days to file an answer and counterclaim.  Depending on the issues in your case your attorney might also draft and file a motion for a temporary, emergency or expedited hearing in conjunction with the filing of the Complaint. If this happens a hearing date will be set. 
    • Attend the Temporary Hearing – If you have requested a temporary hearing your attorney will schedule that with the family court clerk of court. Your attorney will notify you and the other party about the details of the hearing, and provide notice to the other party and the guardian ad litem, if one is appointed at this time. 
  • Mediate – Mediation is mandatory in most family law case in South Carolina prior to requesting a final hearing. If you and your spouse are not in full agreement on all if your issues , mediation is meant to resolve these differences before your case goes to trial.  Your attorney will set-up mediation for you, coordinating with the other party and their attorney. Your attorney will walk you through mediation preparation, the mediation process, and mediation day negotiations. 
  • Attend the Trial and Receive Final Decision – If you were able to reach an agreement in mediation, congratulations! You’ll usually have one more short court hearing to present the agreement the court for approval. This is usually a very quick process and saves both parties a lot of hassle and funds. If you were unable to reach an agreement then your attorney will request that your case be set for trial. Your attorney will prepare your testimony, send subpoenas, interview and prepare your witnesses and experts for your trial. 

This can be a long and complex process, which is tough when you’re seeking time with your children. The good news is that Sarah Henry Law is here to help you achieve the results you want for yourself and your children. 

Talk to Your South Carolina Custody Attorney

The process of seeking custody can be stressful if you do everything on your own. Why take on the stress and frustration alone  when a seasoned lawyer can help you with the process? 

Reach out to Sarah Henry Law for the guidance you need in the courtroom. For a consultation with a lawyer, call 864-478-8324 or complete the following online contact form to get the help you need with joint custody in South Carolina.

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