Child Support Modifications in South Carolina: 6 Things You Might Not Know

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If you are a parent living in South Carolina and you are separated or divorced from your child’s other parent, one of you will pay the other child support. The amount of the support obligation and who must pay it is usually decided as part of the divorce or initial custody hearing. However, these determinations are not static, and child support modifications can change the initial determinations.

Here are six things to know about child support modifications in South Carolina:

1. The Process of Child Support Modification

Child support modifications are normally addressed when there is a substantial change of circumstances, primarily in the respective incomes of the parties, but sometimes because the children’s parenting plan has changed or one of multiple children has emancipated and a modification is warranted.

A modification is initiated by the party seeking an increase or reduction in the child support the party receives or pays, by filing a new Family Court. The Court will require that both parents provide updated financial information, usually in the form of an updated Financial Declaration.

This information can help the Court determine whether any modification of the amount is warranted. Either party can object to the proposed modification if they believe there was an error in calculating the new amount or if they believe the change in circumstances is not substantial.

2. Grounds for Modification of a Private Child Support Order

Generally, grounds that lead to child support modifications would include a material change (also referred to as a substantial change). These changes include permanent changes in the income of either party, a prolonged illness or injury, or unexpected and significant expenses.

Changes in custody arrangements can cause one parent to no longer need to pay support while the other parent is ordered to commence paying.

3. Income Changes

Just because one parent experiences an increase or decrease in income does not necessarily mean a modification is in order. Minor changes in income may not cause any change to the child support obligation at all if the court does not believe such changes are substantial.

4. Influence of Custody and Visitation Adjustments

If the parents share custody of the child on a near-equal basis, the South Carolina child support formula is calculated under a formula that reflects the numbers of overnights the children spend with each parent (known in South Carolina as a ‘Schedule C’ calculation. Sometimes, this results in a far lower child support to the lower earning parent due to the shared parenting time.  

5. Voluntary vs. Involuntary Changes

A modification may be warranted regardless of whether the change in circumstances was voluntary or involuntary. For example, a parent getting a new job with a higher salary can be grounds for modification. If a parent suffers a permanently disabling injury on the job, that is also cause for modification.

However, voluntary changes that could reduce a paying parent’s child support obligation may not lead to any modification — through the use of an income imputation to the underemployed parent — if job loss or lower earnings are a direct result of that parent’s own actions.

6. The Importance of Legal Representation

Finally, having a child support modification lawyer assisting you is critical. While modifications are generally governed by the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines, the definition of a substantial change in circumstances is highly nuanced and discussed in multiple — sometimes conflicting — appellate decisions, resulting in a legal standard that can be difficult to interpret and prove.

A knowledgeable child support modification attorney can help parents know whether they are eligible for a modification and help them express their views to the court clearly and persuasively.

Legal counsel can also be invaluable in the event you do not want a modification. Telling the court that a modification would impose a burden on you is not likely to be a successful argument. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence and formulate arguments that may have a greater chance of success.

FAQs About Child Support Modifications

Do I Have to Wait Three Years to Modify My Child Support Amount?

No, you can request a modification anytime there is a substantial change in your circumstances if you are seeking to modify a private child support order. If you receive child support by virtue of a SC DSS child support enforcement order, you can request a review of child support every three years.

I Do Not Want My Support Obligation Changed — What Can I Do?

Child support is about your child’s standard of living, not necessarily your ability to pay. A court can grant a modification over your and the other parent’s objection. However, you do have the right to present reasons to the court as to why a modification is not appropriate.

Will a Change in Custody Result in a Child Support Modification?

Possibly, yes. If the child’s residence changes from one parent to the other, the obligation to pay child support will also likely change. If you and the other parent start evenly sharing visitation time with the child, this can change the amount of the child support obligation.

Contact Clore Law for Additional Assistance With Child Support

Child support modifications can have a dramatic impact on your life. Make sure your interests are well represented by retaining Clore Law to help you. Our experienced family law attorneys will ensure your goals are pursued and that your voice is heard during the modification process.

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Clore Law Group welcomes your questions about any issues concerning a serious personal injury, car accident, medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, or business tort. If you have a viable claim, we’ll explain the legal process. Since consultations are always free, there’s no cost in learning your legal options.