Child Custody in South Carolina


Area of Law: 

When a couple divorces and there is a minor child involved, the divorce decree will specify who has physical custody as well as legal custody of the child. Physical custody determines where and with whom the child will live. Legal custody specifies who has the legal right to make important decisions about the child related to issues such as education, religion, medical issues, and discipline. Spouses often reach an agreement regarding child custody on their own, but if they do not, a South Carolina court will intervene and establish custody arrangements based on the best interest of the child. provides a complete summary of divorce and custody laws in the state of South Carolina.


There are typically several different custody arrangements that may be made for children of divorced parents. In most cases, courts will award physical custody to one parent with whom the child will live most of the time. The parent with physical custody, or the custodial parent, often shares legal custody, or the right to make decisions regarding the child, with the non-custodial parent. Many child custody arrangements involve joint custody in which the child spends a relatively equal amount of time with each parent. According to, joint custody is commonly awarded by South Carolina courts.


According to South Carolina law, there is no presumption as to whether the mother or father will better provide for the best interest and welfare of the child. The best interest and welfare of the child are determined by the court's consideration and evaluation of the following factors:


  • Circumstances of the spouses
  • Nature of the case
  • Religious faith of the parents and child
  • Welfare of the child
  • Best spiritual and other interests of the child
  • Child's preference for custody based on the child's age, experience, maturity, judgment, and ability to express preference


In South Carolina, after the custody order is signed by the judge and filed with the court clerk, both parents must abide by the agreement. Custody may be modified if there is a major change in circumstances. Visitation rights may be agreed on by the parents; however, if the parents are unable to agree, the court will establish visitation rights for them. If a parent is denied court-ordered access to a child, he or she may file a petition for modification. South Carolina courts may decide to modify the visitation agreement or order makeup visitation for the time missed if it is found to be in the best interest of the child.


Some common visitation arrangements in South Carolina include the following: 


  • Alternate weekend visitation
  • Sharing of the child according to school recesses
  • Mid-week visitation
  • Alternating holiday and birthday visits
  • Open contact

For a comprehensive overview of divorce and child custody laws in South Carolina, go to