Generally, anything that has to do with children in South Carolina family court must be determined in the best interest of the child. The primary guide for the presiding judge is the best interest test, which includes numerous factors that affect the child, including every aspect of the child’s life: recreational, emotional, family, medical, educational, spiritual and environmental.
Another thing to take into account would be the historical primary caretaker. In Rock Hill, we have abolished any kind of presumption that the mother is the best caretaker. However, whoever has given the most hands-on, day-to-day care is taken into account. Furthermore, if the parties were unmarried, there can often be a presumption that the Mother has custody until the court issues an initial custody determination. If the child is old enough, the preference of the child can be taken into account, as well; if there is a guardian ad litem that represents the child and the child has a preference, the child’s guardian can make a recommendation.
Any kind of immoral conduct by any parent, whether drug or alcohol use and/or criminal history, can result in a detrimental factor against that parent if it affects the child. Religion is also taken into account, but it’s probably a little bit less common. The child’s best interest is a complete, well-rounded look at everything that affects the child and balances those factors to determine what action in the child’s best interest. It’s all balanced in a general sense and family court judges are given a very broad standard to make a decision in the best interest of the child.
Factors of the Child’s Preferences
Obviously, the older the child is, the more weight is given to the child’s preference. The child’s preference would come into a case where a guardian ad litem is appointed to represent the child. The guardian ad litem, throughout his or her investigation, would discuss things with the child, and the child could relay their thoughts to the guardian. Generally, the preteen to early teenage years would when the preference of the child would typically begin to have weight. This doesn’t necessarily mean that their preference will be taken into account, and it definitely would be weighed against any factors. It’s important to note that the presiding judge would have very broad discretion on what, if any, weight to assign to the preferences of a child.
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Specific Schedules in Rock Hill Custody Arrangements
If there is an agreement, I tell clients that the sky is the limit. Any agreement has to be approved by the court, and the court has to still determine that the agreement is in the best interest of the child and then approve it. However, if the parents manage to reach an agreement, as long as there are no extenuating or odd circumstances, those would generally be approved by the judge because the court would like for parties to be able to reach agreements on their own in order to preserve the ability to co-parent effectively.
I believe that the court, in general, also believes that the parents are best able to make decisions for their children and for themselves. If there is no agreement, the court has a standard parenting schedule and guidelines, which many people known as “standard visitation,” which is usually every other weekend or alternate weekends. Finally, in the majority of cases, even if there is joint legal custody, one parent is going to be the primary physical custodian and will have the child for more time than the other parent. However, again, if there is an agreement, then parties can come up with the schedule and details of a custody and visitation arrangement that works best for them and their family.