If you are divorced, separated, or considering divorce and you have children, child support is probably one of the details that you are anxious to resolve.
How will you support yourself and the children now that you are living on just one paycheck? Or, if your former spouse will have full custody, how much are you going to have to pay to him or her to help support the children?
You may have a lot of questions that you need answers to quickly.
In this article, we will try to answer some of those questions for you – you will learn:
- How child support works,
- What to expect when asking for child support,
- How much you might be required to pay for child support, and
- How much you might receive in child support payments.
First, how does child support work in SC?
Top Questions & Answers on Child Support in SC
1. How Does Child Support Work?
The goal of child support is to equally divide the costs of raising your children between the two parents, considering each parent’s financial situation and which parent bears the financial burden that comes along with physical custody of a child.
Child support is intended to support the children, not the parents – although there is no system in place to check and confirm how the funds are being spent, they should be spent for clothing, food, childcare, and other expenses associated with raising a child.
2. Is Child Support the Same as Alimony?
Child support is not the same as alimony.
Alimony is intended to address an unfair financial imbalance when one spouse’s income was greater and the other spouse relied on that income for their standard of living. Child support, on the other hand, is intended solely to assist with the expenses of child-rearing.
3. Who Pays Child Support?
The non-custodial parent ordinarily pays child support to the custodial parent to help with the costs associated with physical custody of a child.
The custodial parent is the parent who has full physical custody of the child. The non-custodial parent does not have physical custody, although they usually have visitation rights.
4. Is Child Support Mandatory?
Child support is mandatory if the family court has ordered you to pay it – whether that is in a final divorce decree, a final order in a child support action, or in a temporary order that is issued early on in your divorce case. If you fail to pay court-ordered child support, you may lose your driver’s license, and you may be held in contempt of court.
Child support can also be agreed upon without going to court, although it is probably in your best interest to get a court order that details how much child support is to be paid each month.
So, it’s not mandatory unless the Court orders it, right? What if there is no court order and your former spouse has not asked for child support? It may still be in your best interest to pay a reasonable amount of child support – if you do not, your former spouse may be able to go to court later and ask for payment of unpaid child support from the date of your separation (whether a parent can retroactively collect child support without a prior court order is not clear under SC law).
Also, SC law makes it a crime punishable by up to a year in prison when an able-bodied parent refuses to pay a reasonable amount of child support, with or without a prior court order.
5. When Does Child Support End?
In general, child support ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school. In some situations, however, child support may end before the child is 18 or continue after the child is 18.
You may have to file a motion asking the family court to terminate child support, and you should consult with your family law attorney before deciding to stop paying child support.
Child support may be terminated before a child is 18 if:
- The child is emancipated by a court,
- The child is married before the age of 18,
- The child moves out on their own and the parent is no longer responsible for their support, or
- The child joins the military before age 18.
Child support may continue after a child is 18 when:
- The child is still in high school at age 18,
- The child has a disability that requires continued care by the parents, or
- The child is attending college and the parents’ agreement required child support payments beyond high school or the court has ordered the parent to contribute to the child’s college expenses.
6. How Does Child Support Enforcement Work?
Child support enforcement actions can be brought by a private attorney, who can file an enforcement action on a contingency basis to collect unpaid child support plus interest.
The SC Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) can also file a child support enforcement action for you – it is in the state’s interest to enforce the payment of child support so that single parents do not end up supported by the state.
There are many tools available to family law attorneys, DCSS, and the courts to enforce the payment of child support, including:
- Filing a Rule to Show Cause with the Family Court which may result in sanctions against the non-custodial parent if they do not comply with the court’s order,
- Contempt of court that may result in jail time for the non-custodial parent,
- The non-custodial parent’s wages may be garnished,
- The non-custodial parent’s state or federal tax returns may be garnished,
- Workers’ compensation benefits may be garnished,
- Unemployment payments may be withheld,
- The non-custodial parent’s credit score can be affected,
- The non-custodial parent may lose their driver’s license, and
- The non-custodial parent could have their occupational or professional licenses revoked.
7. What are the SC Child Support Guidelines?
The SC Child Support Guidelines must be applied by the courts to determine the amount of child support that will be paid.
They include instructions to determine:
- How to calculate child support,
- The factors that the court should consider in determining the amount of child support,
- How different types of custody arrangements affect child support, and
- When a child support order should be reviewed or modified.
8. How are Child Support Payments Calculated in SC?
Child support payments are ordinarily calculated using the SC Child Support Guidelines, and SC Department of Social Services (DSS) provides an online child support calculator that can be used to estimate child support payments.
The Court will sometimes deviate from the Guidelines when calculating child support, though, taking into consideration factors that the Guidelines do not account for, including:
- Educational expenses for the child or parent,
- Distribution of marital property,
- Consumer debts,
- Families with more than six children,
- Extraordinary medical or dental expenses for the parent or child,
- Extraordinary travel expenses for court-ordered visitation,
- Retirement pensions and union fees,
- Other monthly payments required by law or ordered by the court,
- The child’s income,
- A substantial difference in the parents’ income,
- Lump sum, reimbursement, or rehabilitative alimony, and
- Agreements reached by the parents, although the court is not required to accept the parents’ agreement and the court must make a decision that is in the best interest of the child.
9. Can Child Support Take Your Whole Paycheck?
Child support payments cannot take your entire paycheck, although they can take a significant portion of your check – as much as 65% in some cases.
Federal law limits the amount that can be withheld from your paycheck for child support payments to 50% of your net disposable income, but another 10% can be added if you do not have a spouse or another child, and another 5% can be added if you are more than 12 weeks behind on your payments.
If your paycheck is garnished for child support, you should receive a notice that explains the amount that they will be withholding and how they are calculating net disposable income.
10. Does Child Support Cover Child Care?
Child support payments include the costs of childcare, and this is one of the considerations in the SC Child Support Guidelines (it is also a field that you must complete for the DSS online child support calculator).
Questions About Child Support in SC?
If you still have questions and you need help with getting child support, contesting child support, or modifying an existing child support order, contact the SC child support attorneys at Templeton, Mims & Ward at (843) 891-6100 or by sending us an email through our website to set up a consultation and find out how we can help.