Whether you will have full custody of your children and you are wondering how much child support your former spouse should pay, or your former spouse has full custody and you are wondering how much child support you must pay, you are going to want to know how to calculate child support under SC law.
In this article you will learn:
- What child support is in SC;
- How child support is calculated;
- What a family court judge considers when determining child support; and
- When the court can deviate from the child support guidelines.
What is Child Support?
Child support refers to the payments that are made by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to help cover the expenses of raising a child.
Child support is not spousal support or alimony – although the court does not monitor how the money is spent, it is intended to help pay for expenses related to child-rearing, like childcare, food, clothing, and medical expenses.
Who Decides How Much Child Support Should be Paid?
Ultimately, the family court will decide how much child support must be paid. Whether it is in the context of a divorce action or a separate action for child support, the court will issue a temporary or final order that contains the exact amount of child support that must be paid each month.
The family court has the authority to set the amount of child support, to enforce the payment of child support, and to modify existing orders for child support.
As a practical matter, however, you and the other parent may decide how much child support must be paid.
When it is possible to reach an agreement before you go to court, the amount of child support will be based on the child support guidelines, exceptional circumstances that justify the payment of less or more child support than the guidelines call for, and negotiations between your attorney and your former spouse’s attorney.
Even when you agree in advance, however, the family court must approve the amount of child support based on the guidelines, the exceptions to the guidelines, and the best interest of the child.
How is Child Support Calculated in SC?
Child support is calculated using the SC Child Support Guidelines, which contains the factors used by the family court and attorneys in determining the amount to be paid, as well as factors that the court may consider to deviate from the guidelines amount.
Child Support Guidelines: How Does the Court Determine the Amount Paid?
The child support guidelines include instructions for determining an appropriate amount of child support based on a number of factors including:
- The gross income of each parent,
- Any income from self-employment or operation of a business,
- The potential income of each parent,
- Alimony paid to the other parent,
- Other monthly alimony or child support that must be paid,
- The number of children in the home,
- Health insurance costs for the child, and
- Childcare expenses.
The basic child support obligation is arrived at using the combined gross monthly income of both parents and the number of children. The basic child support obligation is added to the child’s health insurance premium and work-related childcare costs, and then the “total child support obligation” is divided between the parents in proportion to their income.
What if you just want to get an estimate of what the child support obligation is going to be? Do you really need to fill out schedules and forms and do math?
SC DSS Online Child Support Calculator
The SC Department of Social Services provides a handy online child support calculator that you can use to get an estimate of the total child support payments – you plug in the numbers, and it does the math for you.
Although this is only intended to provide an estimate and it should not be relied on in the courtroom, it is convenient if you want to get a “snapshot” of the possible end result. On the other hand, the SC Child Support Guidelines also provide a list of factors that the court may consider to deviate from the child support guidelines.
Exceptions: When Can the Court Deviate from the Child Support Guidelines?
SC law says that there is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support resulting from application of the guidelines is correct.
This means that the court should assume that the guidelines calculation is correct unless you can show why it is not correct. The guidelines provide a number of additional factors that you can use to show the court why you should pay (or be paid) more or less child support than the guidelines call for, including:
- Educational expenses for the child or spouse,
- The distribution of marital property,
- Consumer debts,
- When there are more than six children in the family,
- Extraordinary medical expenses for the child or parent,
- Extraordinary travel expenses to comply with court-ordered visitation,
- Retirement pensions or union fees,
- Other fixed monthly payments that are required by the court,
- The children’s income,
- A substantial difference in the parents’ incomes,
- Lump sum, rehabilitative, or reimbursement alimony, or
- Agreements reached by the parents to deviate from the guidelines.
In summary, the amount of child support that must be paid is determined by the application of the SC Child Support Guidelines, but that amount can be adjusted up or down based on the factors listed above.
Questions About Child Support in SC?
The SC child support attorneys at Templeton, Mims & Ward can help you to get child support, contest child support, or modify an existing child support order as part of your divorce case or in a separate child support action in the family court.
Call us at (843) 891-6100 or send us an email through our website to set up a consultation and find out how we can help.