Custody within marriage:
When a child is born during a marriage, each parent has full custody rights until a family court order specifies otherwise. South Carolina law, §63-5-30, does not favor one parent over the other in child custody cases.
“The mother and father are the joint natural guardians of their minor children and are equally charged with the welfare and education of their minor children and the care and management of the estates of their minor children; and the mother and father have equal power, rights, and duties, and neither parent has any right paramount to the right of the other concerning the custody of the minor or the control of the services or the earnings of the minor or any other matter affecting the minor. Each parent, whether the custodial or noncustodial parent of the child, has equal access and the same right to obtain all educational records and medical records of their minor children and the right to participate in their children's school activities unless prohibited by order of the court. Neither parent shall forcibly take a child from the guardianship of the parent legally entitled to custody of the child.”
Custody outside of marriage:
When a child is born to unwed parents, South Carolina law, §63-17-20(B) governs custody until a family court order specifies otherwise.
“(B) Unless the court orders otherwise, the custody of an illegitimate child is solely in the natural mother unless the mother has relinquished her rights to the child. If paternity has been acknowledged or adjudicated, the father may petition the court for rights of visitation or custody in a proceeding before the court apart from an action to establish paternity.”
Custody and visitation are no longer simply “standard” or “every other weekend” as they may have been in the past. The possibilities are broad and can even include week-on, week-off schedules to allow children true equal time between parents. Factors such as proximity of parents homes, work schedules, maintaining a close relationship with your child, and many other elements can be considered to make custody and visitation work best for your life. Often, the non-custodial or the “visiting” parent will be ordered to pay child support for the benefit of the child.
In contested child custody cases, a Guardian ad Litem will likely be appointed to do an independent investigation for the court. For more information on child custody actions, modification of child custody, or visitation schedules, give us a call to schedule your consultation.