If you have children, the process of going through a divorce can be challenging. After all, parents want to be with their children and have a voice in major decisions about their children’s welfare. For this reason, trying to agree on a parenting plan with your soon-to-be former spouse may quickly get contentious. You should speak as early as possible with a knowledgeable child custody attorney in Rock Hill.

At McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LLC, we have years of experience with handling challenging family law issues, including child custody disputes in South Carolina. If you are a parent who is getting a divorce, we will help you to serve your child’s best interests and protect your rights and interests as a parent. We know how important your relationship with your child is to you. Contact us today to discuss your case in a confidential consultation.

Understanding the Child Custody Process in South Carolina

Child custody concerns more than determining where the child will live, or physical custody. The other consideration is which parent will make important decisions about the child’s education, medical care and other critical aspects in the child’s upbringing. This is called legal custody.

Generally, in South Carolina, there are two types of custody arrangements — sole and joint. Sole custody means that one parent has the exclusive right and responsibility for making any major decisions that affect the child’s life. Joint custody means both parents share in the decision-making process. In some situations, a court may give one parent the sole authority to make specific decisions and require the parents to make other decisions jointly.

When parents go through a divorce in South Carolina, they can work with each other and arrive at a parenting plan to submit to a court for approval. This plan will spell out all aspects of raising their children, including how much time each parent spends with the child (physical custody) and who makes decisions (legal custody).

If one parent serves as the child’s primary caretaker, then the other parent may receive visitation rights. The parenting plan should detail how the arrangement will work. For instance, will the parent have visitation every other weekend or once a month? How will holidays and vacations work? Will the parent drop off the child at the other parent’s house, or will they have a neutral meeting place?

If either parent challenges custody, a court will order the parents to go through mediation in order to reach a parenting plan. If mediation fails to lead to an agreement, then the court will ultimately decide. Typically, a court will appoint a guardian ad litem to investigate and make a recommendation to the court on which custody arrangement would serve the child’s “best interests” – the guiding standard in all child custody cases in South Carolina.

How Will a Court Determine the Best Interests of the Child?

When a court in South Carolina reviews a parenting plan or makes a child custody decision, the court will consider a number of factors in order to determine what custody arrangement serves the best interests of the child. Those factors include:

  • Who is currently the primary caregiver?
  • Are there any allegations of drug abuse by either side? The court may require parents undergo drug tests.
  • Depending on the age of the child, what are the child’s wishes on where he or she would like to live?
  • What is the child’s current home environment like?
  • What are the parents’ employment situations? Does one parent often travel for work? Is there reliable child care available?
  • How do the parents behave? Is there anything questionable in either of their backgrounds such as abuse, prior criminal convictions or allegations of domestic violence?
  • Who normally makes all the health care decisions and arrangements for the child?
  • What is each parent’s current relationship with the child?
  • What are the skills and education level of the parents?
  • Who is the primary wage earner?

As you go through a divorce and/or child custody dispute, you should keep those factors in mind. They may help you to agree on a parenting plan with the other parent or shape how you present your side of the argument in mediation sessions or court hearings. At McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LLC, we will go over all of those details with you as we work with your spouse to reach a mutually acceptable custody arrangement or, if necessary, seek a court order determining custody.

Things to Look for in Choosing a Child Custody Lawyer in Rock Hill

When it comes to choosing a child custody lawyer in Rock Hill, you want representation you can trust. You need an attorney who is aggressive enough to stand up to the other side but also compassionate enough to understand how difficult this entire process can be.

You should ask questions and understand how much experience a prospective attorney has with handling these types of matters. You want an attorney who will listen to you and respond to your needs and goals. If you want one thing to happen, and your attorney ignores your wishes, it could lead to a frustrating if not heartbreaking outcome.

An attorney who handles child custody matters should also be experienced in divorce, child support, property division, alimony and domestic violence matters as well. This experience could be important if your case involves other legal issues beyond child custody.

Get Help from Our Rock Hill Child Custody Attorneys Today

At McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LLC, we have more than four decades of experience with representing clients in Rock Hill and surrounding areas in South Carolina in child custody and divorce matters. Our team of  attorneys will help you to devise a strategy and prepare you for the challenges that lie ahead. It is important to understand how the negotiation phase of child custody arrangements works. We can walk you through each and every step so you are comfortable with the process. At the same time, we will work tirelessly to try to achieve all of your goals.

Our team of attorneys has deep ties to the local community. We have dedicated ourselves to pursuing the best results for our clients. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation.