This page includes basic information about custody that is specific to South Carolina. There is also a general custody page that you may find helpful. In our general Custody page, we have information about custody that is not specific to any state. The page includes a section about how to try to transfer your custody case to a new state where you are living so that you can modify the custody order from your new state.
How will a judge make a decision about custody?
The judge will make a custody decision based upon the best interests of the child, considering several factors:
- circumstances of the parents;
- nature of the case;
- best spiritual and other interests of the child;1
- religious faith of parents and child;2
- child’s preference for custody based upon child’s age, experience, maturity, judgment and ability to express preference;3
- any evidence of domestic violence as defined in section 16-25-20 of the law or in section 16-25-65 of the law, including physical or sexual abuse and which parent was the “primary aggressor.”4
The judge may not deny custody to a victim of domestic violence based only on the fact that the victim left the home or relocated.5
1 S.C. Code § 20-3-160
2 S.C. Code § 63-15-20
3 S.C. Code § 63-15-30
4 S.C. Code § 63-15-40(A)
5 S.C. Code § 63-15-40(B)
Can a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation?
The judge must take into consideration any evidence of domestic violence, as defined in section 16-25-20 of the law or in section 16-25-65 of the law, when making a custody decision. The judge will consider physical or sexual abuse as well as which parent was the “primary aggressor.” In addition, the judge cannot deny custody to a victim of domestic violence based only on the fact that the victim left the home or relocated.1 However, there are other factors that the judge will consider when making a custody decision. Therefore, the fact that a parent committed domestic violence does not necessarily mean that s/he will be denied custody.
Visitation by the parent who committed violence may be allowed, but only if the judge believes that proper measures can be taken to ensure the safety of both you and your child. Here are some things the judge could include in a visitation order:
- that the transfer of your child (from one parent to another) occur in a protected setting;
- supervised visitation by another person or agency (the abuser may be ordered to cover the costs of supervised visitation);
- that the abuser has to attend and complete an intervention program for offenders or other counseling as a condition of the visitation;
- that the abuser cannot drink or do drugs during the visitation and for twenty-four hours before the visitation;
- that overnight visitation is not allowed;
- make the abuser post a bond for the return and safety of the child if s/he has made a threat to illegally keep the child;
- require any other condition that is considered necessary to provide for the safety of the child, the victim of domestic violence, and any other household member.2
If visitation is not allowed or is limited to protect a child or parent who is a victim of domestic violence, the judge may order the address of the child and the victim to be kept confidential.2
It is recommended that you seek legal advice from a lawyer to assist you in a custody case involving domestic violence issues. For information on how to find a lawyer, see our SC Finding a Lawyer page.
1 S.C. Code § 63-15-40
2 S.C. Code § 63-15-50
What types of supervised visitation can the judge order?
Based upon your request (motion) or based upon the judge’s own decision, the judge can prohibit or limit visitation if it’s necessary to ensure the safety of the child or the parent who is a victim of domestic violence.1 The judge can order any of the following types of supervised visitation:
- that the exchange of the child between the parents takes place in a protected setting;
- that visitation is supervised by an agency and the parent who is the “primary aggressor” pays the cost; or
- that visitation is supervised by another person. However, if it’s a household member, the judge must establish conditions to be followed during the visitation.2
1 S.C. Code § 63-15-50(D)
2 S.C. Code § 63-15-50(B), (C)
Where can I find more information on custody in South Carolina?
We hope the following links to outside sources may be helpful.
- South Carolina Bar provides highlights some specific laws that relate to child custody and has information on child support and guardians ad litem.
- The South Carolina Judicial Department has links to court forms, such as child support forms, and a frequently asked questions section about family law.
WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites. We provide these links for your information only.