Child support is a legal obligation for parents who have separated or divorced. It is designed to ensure that the financial needs of the children involved are met. Child support is intended to cover costs associated with things like food, shelter, utilities, clothing, transportation, ordinary health care for the minor child.
Determining a child support amount is often a contentious issue in family court proceedings. One of the most frequently asked questions about child support is how it is calculated. In this post, we’ll explore the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines and factors that are considered when determining a child support amount.
South Carolina Child Support Guidelines:
In any family law case in which a party has requested that child support be awarded, the family court must award child support. The child support guidelines are used by the family courts in South Carolina to calculate the amount of child support to be owed, and the family court does not have discretion to choose whether or not to award child support or whether to apply the Guidelines. Certain factors are considered by the Guidelines in the calculation of child support.
The child support guidelines are based on the concept that children should be entitled to the same proportion of their parents’ income that they would have received if the parents were still living together. Therefore, the amount of support ordered largely depends on the parents’ income. For purposes of child support, “income” is defined to include the actual gross income of each parent rather than their net income. A financial declaration from each party will be required by the court to prove their income.
The courts will look at regular income from employment, but other sources of income may be considered as well when calculating child support. These other sources of income can include things like bonuses, commissions, pension, or rental income.
The court can also consider the earning potential of both parties, meaning the court can consider a parent’s ability to earn an income. This could result in income being imputed to a parent if the court believes that the parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed. The court will use the imputed amount in order to calculate child support under the Guidelines. The unemployment or underemployment must be voluntary, meaning the court will consider a party’s motivation behind any sort of reduction in income prior to ordering that any income be imputed.
In addition to looking at the parents’ gross income or earning potential, a court can also consider a parent’s ability to pay. While the ultimate goal of the court is to award support in an amount sufficient to provide for the reasonable needs of children, the amount awarded should also be an amount that the paying parent can afford while still meeting his or her own needs.
The amount of time each parent is awarded with the children is another factor in determining child support payments. In general, the custodial parent will be the parent entitled to receive child support. This is because the custodial parent is assuming a greater share of the financial responsibility for the children.
Shared parenting arrangements will affect the amount of child support awarded. Shared parenting is a parenting arrangement in which both parents are functioning as custodial parents. The Guidelines provide for a separate worksheet for calculating child support in a shared custody arrangement. The goal for this separate worksheet is to apportion child support in a manner consistent with the percentage of time the child is spending with each parent. This separate worksheet is not mandatory, and can only be applied when the child is spending a certain amount of overnights per year with the noncustodial parent.
Certain expenses related to the children, such as work-related childcare, health insurance cost, and extraordinary medical expenses are also factors that are considered when calculating child support. The parent responsible for paying any work-related childcare for the minor child will get a credit for the monthly amount paid towards childcare. Similarly, the parent responsible for health insurance will receive a credit for the monthly amount paid to cover the child’s health insurance. Extraordinary medical expenses are defined as uninsured medical expenses that are reasonable and necessary in excess of $250.00 per year per child.
Other considerations that a court will look to in the calculation of child support is whether one party is paying alimony to the other, and whether one party has a child support responsibility for children outside of the current action. The Court will also consider if one parent has other children in the home outside of the children in the current action.
Deviation from Guidelines:
While in a majority of cases, the amount of child support to be paid will be based on the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines, there are certain situations that necessitate a deviation from the guidelines. Deviation from the Guidelines is the exception rather than the rule, and the court will look at a variety of factors when determining whether to deviate from the Guidelines.
The Guidelines allow low-income noncustodial parents to retain a minimum amount of income in order to maintain a minimum standard of living. The current self-support reserve is set at $748.00 per month, but that amount is subject to change as the Guidelines are updated.
In conclusion, child support is calculated based on a variety of factors, including the income of both parents, custody arrangements, and expenses related to the children. If you are going through a divorce or separation and are concerned about child support, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney to ensure your rights and the rights of your children are protected. For expert guidance through the laws governing child support in South Carolina, reach out to schedule a consultation, either online or by phone to get started.