When divorcing or separating parents cannot agree on which parent should have custody of their children, the Family Court must decide.
Neither parent automatically has a superior legal right to custody. One parent does not have to show the other unfit in order to obtain custody. The Court will consider the children's best interests in deciding custody and the judge will consider several factors including: the children's relationship with each other and with their parents; the children's adjustment to home, school, and community; the mental and physical health of all children and their parents; and, in certain circumstances, the wishes of the child or children.
In gathering information to assist in making a decision, a judge may use investigative agencies, psychologists and others. The Judge may also appoint a lawyer to represent the interest of a child or children.
Non-custodial parents can be awarded periods of specified visitation with their children. Many parents are able to agree on times for visiting or to have "reasonable" visitation working out flexible schedules among themselves.
If relevant circumstances surrounding custody and the child's best interests change substantially, the family courts can order a change in custody or visitation.
Joint custody or divided custody is also possible in South Carolina.
This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.