How Long Can Someone Go To Jail for Not Paying Child Support?

Child support can get tricky. 

Kids are expensive, and sometimes the court-ordered amount is not possible or reasonable.

Maybe you are sending what you can, and you have just fallen behind, or perhaps you are not able to send anything because of your current situation.

Either way, it can be a scary situation.

After all, words like “wage garnishment” and “jail time” are not exactly the most encouraging.

So if you are behind on your child support payments, you might find yourself wondering, “can and how long can someone go to jail for not paying child support?”

The short answer is yes, they can!

The longer answer? It’s a little more complicated. Let’s take a look at the process. 

What Happens When I Miss a Payment?

If you know you are going to miss a child support payment, the best thing to do is tell the custodial parent before you miss it. This communication is not possible in every situation, but if it is, honesty may be the best policy. It is especially important if your missed payment is due to an injury or layoff that is keeping you from working. 

If communicating in advance is not possible, or if you do not address your delinquency beforehand, the custodial parent is within their rights to report the missed payment to South Carolina’s Division of Child Support Services or DCSS. 

Once a petition is filed and a case opened by DCSS, a judge will schedule an enforcement hearing. This hearing is your chance to explain why you have missed payments. 

When the hearing date comes, make sure you bring any supporting documentation, such as medical records, that may help explain your delinquency. In the meantime, try your best to make at least partial payments. Often, a judge will see your actions as good faith attempts to fulfill your obligations and may be lenient. 

During this hearing, if the judge finds that you have violated your child support agreement, they will find you in “contempt of court“, and penalties will apply. 

What Could the Penalty Be?

Penalties for missing child support payments vary by circumstances. Every missed payment is not a one-way ticket to the county jail. Depending on your case details, you may face:

  • Fines
  • Garnished wages or benefits
  • Interception of tax refunds, personal injury suits, or unemployment benefits
  • Loss of recreation and driving license
  • Loss of passport
  • Property liens
  • Jail time

It is unlikely that a first offense will land you behind bars. 

Often, if you have documentation and a good reason for not paying, the court may modify your support obligation until your situation changes. 

How Long Can Someone go to Jail for Not Paying Child Support?

We know the worry is still there, even if the chance of jail time is unlikely. So how long can someone go to jail for not paying child support?

Because the official charge is contempt, rather than failing to pay child support, the law in South Carolina states that you may face $1500 in fines or up to a year in jail, and sometimes both. And while this is an unlikely outcome, it is still worrisome.

If you are facing a child support or contempt hearing for failing to pay child support, give us a call. We will help you find a solution. 

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South Carolina Child Support Laws: 5 Things You Need to Know

With divorce and children, the result is that one parent is generally going to get the child the majority of the time. And the other parent will have to pay child support.

Of course, there are scenarios where this is not the case, such as when parents get a 50-50 times-sharing split.

Let’s take a look at some of the things you should know about child support in South Carolina.

1. How is Child Support Calculated in South Carolina?

When the judge orders child support, both parent’s incomes are calculated. SC child support guidelines consist of a formula that calculates the child support payments.

This formula includes how many children there are, the monthly income of both parents, work-related child care costs, health care expenses, whether one parent has to pay alimony to the other parent or someone else, and so on.

2. Can I Deviate from the SC Child Support Guidelines?

Yes, there are circumstances when you can deviate from the child support guidelines. Not every family has the same situation so there may be factors that can reduce the non-custodial parent’s child support obligation.

For instance, if you have education expenses, consumer debts, a disparity in income, the child works, or if you have six or more children, then you may get a lower child support obligation than you might expect due to a simple formula or standard.

3. How Long Do I Have to Pay Child Support in South Carolina?

If you’re ordered to pay child support in South Carolina, then you’ll have to pay this until the child turns 18 years old. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

For instance, you may still have to pay until your child graduates from high school. If your child is 19 and still hasn’t graduated, then you no longer have to pay child support.

Also, if your child gets emancipated before turning 18, then you no longer have child support obligations.

But if your child is disabled, then you’ll have to continue child support even after he or she turns 18 years old.

4. What Happens if I Don’t Pay Child Support in South Carolina?

If the court orders you to pay child support and you willfully refuse to, then you can be held in contempt by the court. You may also receive fines for the other party’s court and attorney’s fees.

You can also have your license suspended and passport denied. In worst case scenarios, you can even receive jail time.

5. Can I Modify Child Support in South Carolina?

Yes, either party can request the court to modify child support to either increase or decrease the obligation. There are different situations where the judge grants one.

For instance, if you lost your job and now have a lower paying job, then you can ask for a decrease. Just be sure that you don’t quit or get fired on purpose to find lower-paying work because this can backfire on you.

Also, if you end up getting a higher paying job, then the other party can ask to increase the child support amount.

Following South Carolina Child Support Laws

If you are recently divorced or are currently going through one, then you may find the South Carolina child support laws to be a bit confusing.

This is why you should seek the counsel of a family law attorney. 

Contact us now for help!

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Milestones for Re-Examining Parenting Plan

Milestones for Re-Examining Parenting Plan

When you got divorced, you and your spouse had a parenting plan set up for children.

You may be wondering if that parenting plan can be modified.

In this article, we will list milestones you should pay attention to for re-examining your parenting plan.

Changes in the Needs of Your Child

If there have been changes in the needs of your child since your original parenting plan was established, then it is a good time to ask for a re-examination of your parenting plan.

Examples of these changes might include:

  • Medical Needs: Your child may develop additional or new medical needs. These needs could result in higher medical costs, additional resources needed for care, or additional time investment to treat your child(ren).  In this type of situation, it would be absolutely reasonable to re-examine child support and ask for a modification.
  • The Behavior of Child: As your grows, he/she may act out towards one or both parents.  In fact, some of this is probably to be expected, puberty is rough for everyone!   If the custodial parent is not taking the proper actions to help the child grow in a healthy way (mentally or physically), or you believe their emotional and social challenges to be caused by what is going on at home, you can ask that you become the custodial parent or to otherwise modify the parenting plan to address these issues. 
  • Age of child: When your child becomes a teenager, he or she may voice their opinion about what parent they would rather live with. The court will take their opinion into consideration and possibly modify the parenting plan.

Financial Changes

If one parent’s financial situation changes, it might be time to re-examine the parenting plan.  For example, if the custodial parent loses their job, then he/she can request a child support modification.  Another example is if the non-custodial parent takes a pay cut, then he or she can request a child support modification.

Changes in Family Makeup

If a child reaches the age of majority, then child support will need to be modified.  Also, if custody changes from one parent to the other by any of the children, then child support will also need to be modified.


If the custodial parent wants to relocate, then the parenting plan does not necessarily need to be re-examined unless the non-custodial parent can prove there has been a substantial change that affects the welfare of the child.  The court may also look at how a relocation will affect the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent.  Other things the court will look at are:

  • Best interest of the child
  • Reason for relocation
  • Degree to which it would improve the child’s health, education, and general circumstances

South Carolina Law

South Carolina Law (S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-240(B)) lists factors that the court should consider when determining what is in the best interest of your child.  A few of these are:

  1. The temperament and developmental needs of the child;
  2. The preferences of each minor child;
  3. The capacity and disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child;
  4. The wishes of each parent as to custody;
  5. The past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child’s siblings, and relatives who may significantly affect the best interest of the child;
  6. The actions of each parent to encourage the continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, including compliance with court orders;
  7. Any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents to involve the child in the parents’ dispute;
  8. Any effort by one parent to disparage the other parent in front of the child;
  9. The ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child;
  10. The child’s adjustment to his or home, school, and community environments; and
  11. The stability of the child’s existing and proposed residences.

Do You Need Someone to Take a Critical Look at Your Current Parenting Plan?

Yes, Please Help With This!

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Creating a Parenting Plan for a New Baby

Creating a Parenting Plan for a New Baby

If you are an unmarried, separated couple expecting a new baby, you may have some concerns involving a parenting plan.

Concerns might be who is going to have primary custody of the baby or how often is the non-custodial parent going to see the baby.

All of this can be worked through and figured out by establishing a parenting plan.

About Your Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is an agreement set up by both parents for how they will take care of a child or children.

Within the plan, different factors need to be decided on ahead of time.

Here are several items you should consider including, or at least discussing with your attorney when drafting a parenting plan:

  • Deciding the custodial parent: This can be either one parent or the other, or you can set up joint custody with both parents.
  • Visitation Rights & Plans: If there is only one custodial parent, you may need to decide how often the non-custodial parent gets the child. It can be anything that works for your family and has the best interest of the child.  An example might be that the custodial parent has the child during the week and the non-custodial parent has the child every other weekend.
  • How you will manage significant events: There will be birthday parties.  Or maybe the grandparents want your child to spend the night with them. How will this work with your parenting plan?  You need to make sure this is figured out now so it will not cause problems later.
  • Lock Down Child Support:  The parenting plan can be a place to discuss how child support will work. This can be agreed upon both parents ahead of time or may need to be decided by a family court judge.
  • Residence:  Where the primary residence of the child be? It usually is with whoever has main custody of the child.
  • How will expected and unexpected expenses be handled: We already talked about child support, but there may be other expenses such as medical expenses that need to be decided.
  • There will be BIG future decisions:  Things such as education, healthcare, religious practices, and discipline should also be decided in the parenting plan. This will help decide how these will be taken care of in the future.
  • Other things unique to your circumstances:  Anything else you may find important for your child such as diet, curfew, seeing extended family, etc. should also be included in your parenting plan.

Why it is Important to Create a Parenting Plan

You and the other parent may be agreeable now, but that may not be the case in the future.  Having a parenting plan set up ahead of time will save everyone a lot of stress and arguments later.  Get this figured out today, it protects you, it protects your kids, and it protects your sanity.

If you’re hesitant because of a major life change going on right now (like you’re getting divorced…) – this will become your anchor.  It is not something to put off to reduce stress.  It is something to do today, to reduce stress!

Moreover, it can be flexible an change as your dynamic changes.  If there are any major situation changes in the future, it is possible to modify your parenting plan so do not let that be the reason you do not set one up as soon as possible.

Who Can Create a Parenting Plan

You and your child’s other parent can set up a parenting plan on your own as long as you both agree to all conditions. However, you might not be thinking of every possible situation.  It is a great idea to reach out to someone with years of experience drafting these plans, modifying these plans, and fully understanding the scope of these parenting plans.  In short, you want to talk to a lawyer.

If you need assistance creating a parenting plan or if you have questions, please feel free to contact us.


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5 Things You Should Know About Child Support Modifications

5 Things You Should Know About Child Support Modifications

Why you and your spouse got a divorce, you had a child support plan put in place.

Life went on, but for whatever reason, now you need to modify that plan.

Before you start trying to figure this out on your own, here are five essential things you should know about child support modifications in South Carolina

Reasons for Child Support Modifications

You can always ask for child support modifications, but not all cases will qualify.

For instance, If there is a substantial change in yours or your kids’ circumstances, there may be a possibility of receiving a modification in the form of an increase or decrease in benefits.   We cover some of those potential changes below.

Substantial Changes in Circumstances

Changes in the Needs of the Child

An example of a substantial change in the needs of a child would be if the child’s medical needs have increased; therefore, medical expenses have increased drastically.

In a situation like this, you would be reasonable to ask for child support modifications to increase the amount of child support received to offset the increased financial outlay of supporting the child.

Financial Changes

If one parent’s income changes drastically either up or down, it could constitute another reason for child support modifications.

Changes in Family Makeup

Perhaps the most common situation changing the family dynamic is when one of the children reaches the age of majority.  Thereby decreasing the number of children being cared for by one parent and in turn, potentially reduce the amount of child support provided.

Another scenario might be when/if custody changes from one parent to the other by one or all of the children. In this circumstance, a modification makes sense and is often necessary.

How to Change Support Payments

To modify your child support, one parent must request a hearing with either a Family Court or the Child Support Division of the Department of Social Services (depending on who set up the child support initially).  Contact our office, and we’ll walk you through the process.

Reasons for Denial of Child Support Modifications

While we’re trying to give you a good idea of how to approach modifications, keep in mind that not all requests for modification of child support will be approved.  You might have to reach out a family law attorney and formulate a strategy before seeking a modification.

Some reasons (but not all) that your request could be denied, include:

1. The change in your financial or family circumstance was anticipated when the original order of support was written.

2. The requesting party can easily pay the support ordered.

3. The paying person voluntarily left their job, took a lower paying job, or has not tried to find a job.

Keep Great Records

Now a bit of advice.  Whether you are requesting child support modifications or the other parent is, it is very important to keep records of everything that had to do with the child support.

Some examples of things to keep include records of payment, medical reimbursements, daycare expenses, and other similar expenditures.

Two Ways to Make Child Support Modifications

Not all situations involving modifications are contentious, and in that same light, not all situations involving modifications are agreeable by both parties.  Regardless of how you get along with the other parent, here’s what you can expect.

Parents That Agree:  If you and the other parent can agree to child support modifications, then you will not need to fight in court.  You can work with a judge and ask them to approve the modifications.  If the agreed upon amount is less than the state limit, you will have to explain why it is justified and how the amount will adequately provide for your child.

Ask the Court:  If you cannot agree on modification with the other parent, then you will need to go to court and have them help you make child support modifications. You will need to prove one of the above substantial changes to be granted either a temporary or permanent modification.  Don’t be the one that shows up to this fight without a lawyer!

Don’t Show Up Without a Lawyer!

If you need help with child support modifications, please contact us.

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What’s the Difference Between Legal Separation & Divorce?

Legal Separation in South Carolina

You and your spouse have decided that you no longer can live together, but you are unsure about the way forward.

Legal separation?  Divorce?  You do not know what the difference is or how to do either.

In this article, we briefly talk about each of them and help you better understand the way forward.

Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce

There are three main differences between a legal separation and a divorce.

  1. No waiting period: When you get a divorce, there is a waiting period before the court can grant a divorce. You do not have to wait a year to get a decree of legal separation.
  2. Ability to remarry: Unlike with divorce, when you are legally separated, you cannot remarry. You probably should not even date, in fact.  Being legally separated does not dissolve your marriage, and it is illegal to be married to more than one person in any state.
  3. Insurance: If you are legally separated, you can remain on each other’s employer-sponsored health insurance. Again being legally separated, you are still considered legally married.

More About Legal Separation in South Carolina

In South Carolina, there technically is no such thing as a “Legal Separation,” at least by that term.  Instead, the idea that best fits what most think about as a legal separation are Orders of Separate Maintenance and Support.  These orders cover specific issues of interest to both spouses including child custody concerns as well as shared assets and debts.

To establish Orders of Separate Maintenance and Support you should work with an attorney to help you frame and if necessary negotiate the different pieces, you will need to be covered within them.  Contentious issues can be ruled upon through mediation or trial.

When the orders become effective, you are still married.  This is important to recognize as you might complicate the whole separation and divorce if you choose to date someone else while you’re still married.  You should reach out to your attorney to discuss these risks.

About Divorce in South Carolina

When you file for and get a divorce, you are dissolving your marriage. In South Carolina, the process for your divorce, and in particular the legal requirements for divorce, are dependent upon several factors, including fault and contention.  If you need more information about how you should proceed with a divorce, please contact our team today!

I Need to Talk to a Divorce Attorney Today

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