How Do You File For Child Support in South Carolina?

Whether you’re going through a divorce, separation, or other circumstances, trying to figure out how to file child support in South Carolina can be incredibly confusing. Moreover, searching for answers online can raise more questions than you had to begin. 

You don’t have to get stuck in an endless Google search to wrap your head around the basics of filing for child support, though. A clear overview of the process can go a long way toward empowering families with the right information.

How child support works in South Carolina

Child support is based on the income share model as laid out in the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines

Under this model, both parents’ incomes are combined to establish the total parental income. The child support amount is then determined based on this combined income and the number of children. 

The actual amount each parent is responsible for depends on their respective incomes and the time spent with their children; the income share model considers various custody scenarios, linking support payment amounts directly with the custody arrangement. 

However, factors besides income and child custody are also taken into consideration, such as:

  • Work-related childcare costs
  • Health insurance and medical costs
  • Alimony

It’s important to remember that these are guidelines and not strictly followed in all cases. A wide range of circumstances may lead to deviations from the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines. Working with a knowledgeable child support attorney can help you assess what applies to the facts of your specific situation and how to best advocate for your child support needs. 

Options for resolving your child support case in South Carolina

Child support is determined in one of two ways in South Carolina:

  1. A mutual support agreement between parents outside of court
  2. A child support order issued through the court

If parents agree on a child support amount, the specifics are largely up to them, keeping in mind the court could override a mutual support agreement if the judge believes it’s in the child’s best interests to do so. 

On the other hand, if parents cannot agree and the matter proceeds through the courts, the court will rely on the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines and any other relevant evidence to determine a final amount and hand down a child support order to parents. 

How to file child support in South Carolina    

Filing for child support can open the door to many questions for parents. To better understand, we’ve broken it down into two sections: who can file for child support and what the process looks like. 

Who can file for child support in South Carolina? 

In South Carolina, any parent with physical custody (also known as the custodial parent) of their child can request child support from the other parent (the noncustodial parent). 

In situations where both parents share physical custody, either parent may seek child support from the other parent. 

The paying parent must also be recognized as the child’s legal parent. If a child is born to a married couple, the husband is presumed to be the father. However, if the couple is not married or the child is born outside of the marriage, paternity must be established before child support can be ordered. 

Some individuals may qualify to apply for child support through the state’s Child Support Services Division (CSSD). Determining the appropriate amount and way for child support to be paid is often contentious, and it is helpful to use an experienced attorney who can make sure you get the amount of support you’re entitled to.

What does the process of filing for child support involve in South Carolina?

A Complaint must be filed in the appropriate county’s family court to file for child support, typically based on where the parents and child have lived for at least six months (this location is legally referred to as their “domicile”). 

The next step is determining the child custody arrangement. This step is necessary because custody—specifically, the number of overnights a child spends with each parent—is an integral factor in calculating child support obligations. 

Once child custody has been determined, parties can negotiate child support based on the factors mentioned above (work-related childcare costs, alimony, etc.). 

These discussions also include deciding how payments will be made and enforced. 

The most straightforward approach is for parties to agree to make payments directly between themselves, such as through Zelle or Apple Pay. These agreements often include a provision allowing a Five Day Affidavit to be filed if child support obligations aren’t met. Under this provision, the paying parent may be required to pay through the family court, which adds an administrative fee. 

Note that if your agreement doesn’t include this provision, you may need to file a motion, known as a Rule to Show Cause,  before you can enforce the agreement in court. 

Reviewing and modifying child support orders  

If DSS was involved in the child support order, either parent may request a review of the child support order every three years. This could lead to an increase or decrease in the amount based on changed circumstances. 

You can also file for a child support modification anytime you go through a substantial change in circumstances, such as: 

  • Losing your job
  • A new medical condition, disability, or injury
  • Changes in income
  • Changes in physical custody 

If you believe you have had a substantial change in circumstances or it has been several years since the last child support order was established, an attorney can help you determine if modifying child support is beneficial. In 2024, South Carolina amended its Child Support Guidelines, so it may be worth re-opening your case if it was based on the old standards and you’re otherwise eligible to do so. Typically, the court where the original child support order was entered will be where the modification needs to be heard, with some exceptions.

When do child support obligations end? 

Child support generally continues until your child turns 18 and has finished high school or at the end of the school year in which they turn 19. There are some exceptions, such as if your child has special needs or goes to college.

Keep in mind that the support doesn’t end automatically. You have to file a motion to end the child support obligation.

The importance of working with a child support attorney

Consulting with a family law attorney is crucial when determining your child support. Child support cases can often involve complex legal and financial considerations. An attorney experienced in child support cases can be just what you need to address these intricacies and fully protect your rights.

For example, they can help you accurately calculate the child support amount, considering factors like income levels, custody arrangements, and your child’s needs. Moreover, a skilled lawyer can represent you in negotiations or court proceedings so you can best advocate for your family’s needs.

Their help continues beyond filing the order. They also help you handle any legal challenges or modifications that may arise in the future. They can help you update support orders when you have changes in financial circumstances or living arrangements so that the support provided continues to meet your child’s needs.  

Furthermore, if the other parent doesn’t regularly pay their child support, they can help you with securing enforcement measures through the court, such as:

  • Wage garnishment
  • Tax refund interception
  • Legal action

An attorney’s deep knowledge of local laws and court procedures in South Carolina can be instrumental in navigating the legal system and helping you avoid wasted time and unnecessary stress. With their strategic insights and partnership, you can secure the best possible outcome for all parties involved.

Get help with your child support case from an experienced family law attorney

Each child support case is unique, and the process of getting the right child support arrangement to meet your needs can be taxing.

If you’re going through the child support process in Greenville or Spartanburg, reach out to Sentinel Law Firm. Our experienced family law attorneys are ready to listen and help you and your child reach the best possible outcome. Contact us today to talk about your case.

More from Sentinel Attorneys

Untitled design (5)

Schedule Your Virtual Consultation

Our talented and experienced attorneys are ready to listen to your case. Give us a call to schedule an appointment.