Divorces or breakups can be contentious, especially when you have children, as child custody is often the most challenging part. South Carolina Family Court Judges consider the child’s best interest when ordering custody, including their education, development, physical and emotional well-being, and safety. Generally, there are several types of custody arrangements to consider when discussing child custody with the other parent.
#1: Sole Custody:
Sole custody means that the custodian makes all decisions concerning the child without the necessity of consulting with the other parent, or even telling the other parent about the decisions before they are made. Because there is no “joint raising” of the children under a sole custody provision, these types of custody orders are not generally favored if both parents are fit, have a history of being involved with the children, and able to care for the children.
The sole custodian has both legal and physical custody of the children. Legal custody means the ability to make all decisions for the minor child, such as education, religion, healthcare, appearance, extra-curricular activities, etc. Physical custody means the place where the children reside most of the time.
#2: Joint Custody
At this time, joint custody is the type of custody most ordered by our family courts, as it allows both fit parents input into the major decisions touching upon the minor children. In most joint custody orders, there will be a designated “primary custodian” and sometimes a “secondary custodian”. Usually, the primary custodian is the parent/person with whom the children reside most of the time (physical custodian). The primary custodian is required to consult and confer with the other parent about major issues concerning the children (legal custodian issues), prior to making a final decision. However, if the parents cannot agree, the primary custodian is allowed to make the final decision.
#3: Shared Custody
Shared custody generally refers to an arrangement where custodians have equal or almost equal parenting time with the children. It may be appropriate in situations where both parents have actively raised and nurtured the children prior to the parents’ split; or where the parents live close enough not to disrupt school or other schedules, and the parents have a cordial relationship conducive to amicable co-parenting. Many times, there is still a designated primary custodian for the sole purpose of final decisions if the parents cannot agree on a course of action for a child after truly discussing their respective point of views on the matter. However, some shared custody arrangements do not designate a primary decision-maker. Parents who opt for this type of arrangement should do so cautiously, as failure to plan for final decisions could result in both parents taking equal but opposite positions. This often results in conflict between the parents and confusion for the children.
#4: Split Custody
Split custody refers to the situation where one parent has primary physical and legal custody of one or more children, and the other parent has primary physical and legal custody of the remaining child or children. Here, the siblings are split between the parents. This appears to be the least favored option as it means the siblings do not generally share the same household most of the time. It may be appropriate in situations where there is a large age gap between siblings or when a child poses a threat to the siblings and/or requires extra care.
Your custody arrangement will also determine the type and amount of child support owed.
Because child custody decisions can have far-reaching effects on the children and the parents, it is always wise to seek experienced legal counsel first. The attorneys at McCutchen McLean, LLC are able to assist you in making the appropriate custody decisions for your particular needs and situation.