All About Child Support in South Carolina

As child support lawyers in Charleston, South Carolina, we are frequently asked how child support is calculated. In this article you will learn what child support is in SC, how child support is calculated, and circumstances when the family court may order more or less than the child support guidelines.

What is Child Support in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, parents have a legal obligation the duty to support their minor children financially until they turn eighteen, become emancipated, or graduate from high school otherwise known as “child support.” Child support is paid by a non-custodial parent for the support of his or her children. Court-ordered child support is set based on South Carolina’s child support guidelines that take into account the income of both parents. Child support is not spousal support or alimony.

How is Child Support Calculated in South Carolina?

Child support is calculated based on formulas and tables created by the South Carolina Department of Social Services, which are called the “Child Support Guidelines.” The support calculation is based on several factors:

  1. Prior support obligation
  2. The number of children being supported
  3. The income (or earning capacities) of both parents
  4. The percentage of combined income each parent has
  5. The number of other children each parent has living in their own home
  6. The work-related daycare expenses either party has for the children
  7. The health insurance expenses either party has for the child or children

After consideration of these factors, the total child support obligation is divided between the parents in proportion to their income. When both parents have custody of one or more of their children, the “split custody” guidelines apply. In cases where a parent has the children at least 109 overnights, the “shared custody” guidelines may be applied.

What Happens if I Don’t Pay My Child Support On Time in South Carolina?

If the supporting parent doesn’t pay child support on time, then the family court can order that parent to pay via wage withholding and/or through the family court. If payment is made through the family court, then an “administrative” charge is tacked on. At present, the administrative fee is 5%. Also, if paid through the court, then the clerk of the family court keeps a payment record and will seek judicial enforcement if the parent misses a payment. To view the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines, CLICK HERE. The South Carolina Department of Social Services has an online child support calculator that provides a very close estimate of any child support obligation. CLICK HERE to view the calculator.

Can a South Carolina Family Court Judge Deviate from the Child Support Guidelines?

Under certain circumstances, the family court can set child support at an amount that is different from the Child Support Guidelines. Deviation from the Guidelines is the exception and not the norm. Here are the factors a family court considers in deciding whether to deviate from the Guidelines:

  1. The educational expenses for the children or spouse including private, parochial or trade schools, other secondary schools, or higher education
  2. The equitable distribution of property
  3. The parties’ consumer debts
  4. Whether the family has more than six children
  5. Unreimbursed extraordinary medical expenses for either parent
  6. Unreimbursed extraordinary medical expenses for the children
  7. Mandatory deduction of retirement pensions and union fees
  8. Support obligations for other dependent children living with the noncustodial parent
  9. Monthly fixed payments imposed by a court or operation of law
  10. Whether the child has significant income
  11. Whether the noncustodial parent’s income is significantly less than the custodial parent’s income, making it financially impracticable to pay what the Guidelines require
  12. Whether a parent pays alimony
  13. Non-court-ordered child support from another relationship

The family court has the discretion to consider other factors not listed here. For example, if the custodial parent relocates to another state, and the non-custodial parent will have substantial costs in traveling and lodging to spend time with the children, then the family court may reduce the non-custodial parent’s child support payment.

Can You Modify Child Support Payments in South Carolina?

The family court has the power to modify child support at any time if a parent proves that there has been “a substantial change in circumstances” or “a substantial change in the financial ability of either party.” Overall, there are three factors the family court considers in deciding whether there has been a change in circumstances:

  1. Changes in the parents’ finances
  2. Remarriage that results in a termination of alimony
  3. Changes in the child’s needs

For example, if the child becomes disabled, the additional cost of medical treatment may be considered a substantial change in circumstances. As another example, if a parent is involuntarily laid off from work, or they become disabled and are no longer able to work, that may be considered a substantial change in the parent’s financial abilities.

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