When parents are separating in South Carolina, they need to reach an agreement about the custody of any shared children before a court will grant a divorce. But rather than just one parent having custody and the other having the option for visitation, there are various options for child custody in South Carolina. For example, there are two kinds of custody (physical and legal) and two types of each of those (sole and joint).

As you navigate the custody of your child during a divorce, turn to our experienced family lawyers at McKinney, Tucker & Lemel LLC for the guidance and support you need.

What Is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?

There are two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. The differences are straightforward:

Legal custody refers to legal decision-making power related to the child, such as the power to make decisions about where the child goes to school, the religion that the child is raised, the child’s extracurricular activities, etc.

Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to which parent is responsible for actually providing for the child physically, such as providing housing, food, clothing, etc. Physical custody is the type of custody that most parents first think of, as it is a reference to where a child lives.

What Does the ‘Best Interest of the Child’ Mean in a Custody Case?

When parents are divorcing or planning to not live together, they will need to make a determination about the custody of any shared children they have. Parents do have the right to make this decision outside of court by working together to create a parenting plan. The parenting plan should address:

  • Physical and legal custody
  • How the child will be transported from one house to the other
  • Where the child will spend summer vacation and other holidays
  • How decisions about the child’s life will be made
  • Who will pay for transportation costs of the child
  • How disputes will be resolved

Of course, coming to an agreement can prove difficult, and in some cases, a pair may find it impossible. When parents are unable to reach an agreement about child custody, they must turn to the court for intervention. If the court gets involved and is tasked with making a determination, the court will act in the best interest of the child. As found in South Carolina law, the court will consider many factors in determining the child’s best interest, including the physical and mental needs of the child, each parent’s character and fitness, the recreational aspects of a child’s life, the child’s preferences, and more.

Can a Child Choose Which Parent They Want to Live With?

In some cases, a court may consider a child’s preferences in determining the best interest of the child and making a determination about physical custody. A child is not always asked what his or her preference is, nor is the preference of a child always considered when making a determination.

The judge will consider the child’s age, maturity, experience, and the ability of the child to actually articulate an opinion. If a child is of a proper age and level of maturity, then the judge may indeed consider his or her opinion in making a child custody determination. However, all of the other factors listed above will also be considered.

What Are the Different Types of Custody Agreements?

Within physical and legal custody child custody, there are also two types of custody arrangements: sole and joint. These arrangements are exactly what they sound like:

If a parent has sole custody, this means that he or she is the sole parent who has been awarded the right to spend time with the child, the right to make decisions about the child’s life, or both.

If custody is joint, then it means that both parents have a right to make decisions regarding the child and be responsible for the child’s physical needs.

In South Carolina, a common custody arrangement is one in which one parent has sole physical custody of the child but the parents share legal custody. If parents live close together and are able to maintain a positive relationship, then a child custody arrangement that is purely joint may be in the child’s best interest.

Does South Carolina Recognize the Right of First Refusal?

The Right of First Refusal refers to a stipulation within a parenting agreement that states that the parent who has custody of a child and who needs a babysitter or child care for whatever reason must first ask the other parent if he or she is available before hiring a third-party for such services. In other words, the non-custodial parent has the right to refuse to watch the child first before the custodial parent can seek child care services elsewhere.

Although this may be something positive when parents maintain a great working relationship, it can be a nightmarish situation when parents do not. If a right to first refusal clause is within your parenting plan and is part of your final court order, then the court will indeed recognize it. However, be careful about including this, as both you and your ex may ultimately regret the decision.

Let Our Child Custody Lawyer Help You

If you have questions about child custody in South Carolina, it is strongly recommended that you consult with an experienced child custody attorney from our firm who can:

  • Guide you through the law
  • Help you make sense of your options
  • Represent you during conversations with your ex and negotiations
  • Advocate for the case outcome you want

Child custody cases can be emotional and logistically complex, so having an attorney on your side who understands the law can make a huge difference in your case outcome. To learn more, please call our South Carolina child custody lawyers at McKinney, Tucker & Lemel LLC today for a confidential consultation.

After he graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1987, Jim Tucker joined the law firm of McKinney, Givens & Millar in Rock Hill. He has remained with successor firms at the same location ever since while focusing his practice in the areas of family law and personal injury law. Jim is licensed in South Carolina and North Carolina, and he represents clients in both states at the trial and appellate levels. Jim is also a certified mediator and a highly active member of several state and local legal organizations who once served as President of the York County Bar Association.