Child Support

In South Carolina, “child support” refers to the amount each parent must contribute to the care of their child or children. A court determines the amount of child support each parent owes based on guidelines directed by state law. The payment can be made directly between parents, paid through the clerk of court with associated costs, or withheld from the parent’s wages. Failure to pay child support can result in several repercussions including possible jail time.

 In most cases, the state Clerk of Court collects child support from a parent’s wages or directly from the payor and distributes payments to the other parent (after making any allowable deductions for state benefits). 

Custody and Child Support Payments

These guidelines determine payments based on the custody arrangement between the parents and each parent’s income from all sources. Usually, one parent has primary physical custody of a child. The “custodial parent” is legally responsible for their day-to-day care, including providing food, clothing, education, and medical care and ensuring their safety. The child or children typically spend less time with their “noncustodial parent,” who is usually responsible for paying child support. 

The amount of parenting or visitation time a noncustodial parent has impacts the amount of child support they must pay; a more balanced distribution of time usually reduces the amount of support. Each parent’s income also affects the amount they are expected to contribute towards the support of the child or children, as well as other child support and alimony obligations, the number of other children in each home, health insurance, childcare costs, and any extraordinary medical expenses. South Carolina’s Department of Social Services provides a calculator to help each parent understand their child support responsibilities under the state Child Support Guidelines.

Nonpayment of Child Support

If you fail to pay child support according to the terms of your child support order, you can be held in contempt of court. If you are required to make payments through the Clerk of Court’s office, the clerk will automatically issue a notice called a “Rule to Show Cause” and schedule a court hearing. You will have to attend court and explain to a judge why you have not made your payments as ordered. Nonpayment can lead to a penalty of up to a year in jail, up to $1500 in fines, or both. A 2009 study found that 13.2 percent of county jail inmates in South Carolina were incarcerated for nonpayment of child support.

If a person owes back child support, it may be possible to negotiate a payment schedule for arrears and request a modification to your child support obligations in the future. 

Modification of Child Support Obligations 

If you cannot pay your child support obligations because of a significant life change that may eventually affect the well-being of the child  like the involuntary loss of a job, illness, or incarceration, you can apply for a modification to your child support order. Both the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent may request that the South Carolina Child Support Services Division (CSSD) review their child support order every three years. Based on changes in each parent’s circumstances, this review may result in the child support being increased or decreased. 

Hiring a Family Law Professional

An experienced family lawyer will help you understand your South Carolina child support obligations and the options available in your situation. The compassionate, understanding attorneys at Indigo Family Law can help with custody issues, child support enforcement, modification of child support orders, and more. Contact us today if you would like to discuss any possible options.