Whether you’re divorced, separated, or contemplating divorce, settling child support probably tops the list of details that you’re anxious to settle.
If you live on just one paycheck, how will you support yourself and the children? If your former spouse has full custody, how much will you have to pay to support them?
You may have many questions that need to be answered quickly.
Our goal in this article is to answer some of those questions – you will learn:
- How does child support work?
- What should you expect when asking for child support?
- How much child support will I have to pay?
- How much will I receive in child support payments?
Top 10 Questions & Answers on Child Support in SC
1. How Does Child Support Work?
The goal of child support is to evenly divide the costs of raising your children between both parents, taking into account each parent’s financial situation and which parent carries the financial burden involved with physical custody.
The purpose of child support is to support the children, not the parents – although there is no way to verify how these funds are spent, the child support funds should use them for clothing, food, childcare, and other expenses related to raising a child.
2. Is Child Support the Same as Alimony?
Child support and alimony are two different things.
The purpose of alimony is to remedy an unfair financial imbalance when one spouse earns more than the other, and the other spouse relies on that income for their standard of living. On the other hand, child support is intended solely to help with the costs of raising children.
3. Who Pays Child Support?
Noncustodial parents usually pay child support to the custodial parent to cover the costs associated with physical custody.
Custodial parents have full physical custody of their children. Noncustodial parents usually have visitation rights but do not have physical custody.
4. Is Child Support Mandatory?
Suppose the family court has ordered you to pay child support. In that case, whether it is in a final divorce decree, a final order in a child support matter, or a temporary order issued early in your divorce case, it is mandatory. Failure to pay court-ordered child support may result in the loss of your driver’s license, as well as a contempt charge.
Child support can also be arranged without going to Court. Even though it might be in your best interest to get a court order stating how much child support should be paid each month.
So, it’s not mandatory unless the Court orders it, right?
What should you do if your former spouse has not requested child support and there is no court order? Suppose you do not pay a reasonable amount of child support. In that case, your former spouse may go to Court later and ask for unpaid child support from the date of separation (whether a parent can retroactively collect support without a previous court order is unclear under SC law).
Moreover, SC law makes it a crime for a non-disabled parent to refuse to pay a reasonable amount of child support, whether there is a court order or not.
5. When Does Child Support End?
Child support generally ends when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school. However, child support may end before a child turns 18 or continue even after the child turns 18.
If you want to stop paying child support, you may need to file a motion with the family court and consult your family law attorney first.
Child support may be terminated before the child turns 18 if:
- A court emancipates the child,
- A child marries before turning 18
- When a child moves out on their own, the parent is no longer responsible for supporting them
- A child joins the military before the age of 18.
Support for a child may continue after the child turns 18 if:
- At the age of 18, the child is still in high school
- The child has a disability that requires ongoing parental care
- It is either the parent’s agreement that child support payments are to continue beyond high school, or the court has ordered the parent to contribute to the child’s college expenses.
6. How Does Child Support Enforcement Work?
Private attorneys can bring child support enforcement actions for collecting unpaid child support plus interest.
Additionally, the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) can file a child support enforcement action for you. It is in the state’s interest to enforce child support payments to prevent single parents from becoming dependent on the state.
DCSS, family law attorneys, and the courts have many tools at their disposal to enforce child support payments, including:
- The filing of a Rule to Show Cause with the Family Court, which may lead to sanctions against the noncustodial parent if they do not comply with the Court’s order
- The noncustodial parent may be jailed for contempt of Court
- Earnings of the noncustodial parent may be garnished
- Tax returns of the noncustodial parent may be garnished
- Benefits from workers’ compensation may be garnished
- Withholding unemployment benefits is possible
- The credit score of the noncustodial parent can be affected
- It may result in the noncustodial parent losing their driver’s license
- An employer or professional license could be revoked for the noncustodial parent
7. What are the SC Child Support Guidelines?
The courts use SC Child Support Guidelines to determine the amount of child support to be paid.
Instructions are provided to determine:
- Calculating child support
- What factors the Court should consider when determining child support amounts
- What types of custody arrangements affect child support
- When it is appropriate to review or modify child support orders
8. How Are Child Support Payments Calculated in SC?
SC Department of Social Services (also known as DSS) provides an online child support calculator that can be used to estimate child support payments. Child support is typically calculated using the SC Child Support Guidelines.
When calculating child support, the Court may deviate from the Guidelines, taking into account factors not included in the Guidelines, such as:
- Education expenses for the child or parent
- Property division in a marriage
- Debts owed by consumers
- Families with six or more children
- Excessive medical or dental expenses for the child or parent
- Travel expenses for court-ordered visits
- Pensions and union fees at retirement
- Payments ordered by the court or required by law
- Income of the child
- A substantial income gap between the parents
- Lump-sum, reimbursement, or rehabilitative alimony
- Agreements are reached by the parents, although the Court is not required to accept the parents’ agreement, and the Court must make a decision that is in the child’s best interest.
9. Can Child Support Take Your Whole Paycheck?
Child support payments cannot take your entire paycheck, but they can take a significant portion of it — as much as 65% in some cases.
In general, child support payments can be withheld from your paycheck up to 50% of your net disposable income, but if you don’t have a spouse or other child, and if you are more than 12 weeks behind on payments, another 10% can be added.
If your paycheck is garnished for child support, you should receive a notice explaining the amount that will be withheld and how it is calculated.
10. Does Child Support Cover Child Care?
Child support payments include childcare expenses, which is considered in the SC Child Support Guidelines (it is also a field that must be filled out on the DSS online child support calculator).
Questions About Child Support in SC?
If you still have questions and need help getting child support, contesting child support, or modifying an existing child support order, contact Montgomery and Hart at 888-928-0748 or contact one of our child support lawyers today.