How Does Joint Custody Work in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, child custody between divorcing parents is split into two forms: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody determines which parent the child lives and spends their time with. Legal custody determines which parent makes major life decisions for the child.

Physical custody can be awarded jointly, meaning both parents have frequent time with their children. It does not necessarily mean that both parents have an equal amount of time even if it is awarded jointly. It can also be split into primary physical custody and visitation, meaning that the child primarily lives with one parent and gets to visit the other.

Legal custody sets which parent gets the final say on any and all major decisions relating to the child. This includes decisions about the child’s education, extra-curricular activities, healthcare, religion, sports activity, diet, schedule, and general lifestyle. Making this decision in the divorce process helps prevent parental disagreements down the road.

Legal custody can be awarded jointly or solely to one parent. If there are no extenuating circumstances surrounding the parenting ability of one of the parents, it will generally be awarded jointly. When joint legal custody is awarded, the court will still pick one of the parents to maintain “primary legal custody.”

One parent having primary legal custody does not grant them permission to do whatever they want. It is stipulated in the agreement that the primary parent must consider the other parent’s side on any arguments in good faith before making their final decision. They always have the final say, but not the only say.

Similarly, the other parent is not powerless when it comes to decision making. They can still make decisions relating to the child, but they will not be legally binding. The child’s school and doctors will know which parent has primary legal custody, and will not make any major decisions without them present.

Legal custody is typically decided on a temporary basis at the start of the divorce process in the temporary hearing, and decided permanently at the final hearing. The primary legal custody is typically awarded to whichever parent has already been holding most of that responsibility. Who is taking the child to the doctors, signing them up for sports, and attending parent/teacher conferences and school events?

The primary parent lasts all the way until the child is eighteen years old, unless the other parent files a motion against them that they have been doing a poor job. These cases do happen and can result in changes, but you have to prove that the primary parent has been doing terribly and does not have the child’s best interests at heart.

At Cate & Brough, we have experience navigating all aspects of legal custody. For help with your divorce or changing your finalized order, contact Cate & Brough today! It all starts with a conversation.

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Cate & Brough, P.A.

At Cate & Brough, we all have personal experience with family law and family court. We know more than just what the law says about your issue – we know what you are going through.

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