South Carolina Child Support Laws

by Heather Frances J.D. Google
South Carolina's laws provide ways for parents to better support their children.

South Carolina's laws provide ways for parents to better support their children.

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Like other states, South Carolina has laws that direct how child support is established and enforced when parents split up, including how paternity is established. As long as the custodial parent lives in South Carolina, South Carolina’s laws and helping agencies can be used, even if the noncustodial parent lives in another state. Many of South Carolina’s child support laws and procedures are similar to those of other states.

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Child Support Enforcement Division

South Carolina’s Child Support Enforcement Division, a division of the Department of Social Services, is charged with enforcing federal and South Carolina child support laws. CSED helps both custodial and noncustodial parents with child support problems, including help for custodial parents who are having trouble obtaining child support payments and help for noncustodial parents who are trying to establish paternity or review support orders. CSED can even help a custodial parent find a noncustodial parent if need be. To receive services from CSED, a parent must file an application and pay an application fee, which is waived if the applicant receives Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

Establishing Paternity

South Carolina law allows a paternity case to be brought by a child, the child’s biological mother or legal caretaker, CSED or a person claiming to be the child’s father. The case may involve a court hearing and paternity tests to assist the court in determining paternity, and CSED can help the petitioning parent through the process. An alleged father can also voluntarily acknowledge paternity in writing. Once a father has made this acknowledgment and sixty days have passed, the acknowledgment cannot be changed except for certain reasons like fraud.

How Child Support Is Calculated

South Carolina courts issue orders regarding the amount of child support noncustodial parents must pay. The amount of child support is based on the income of both parents, number of children involved and costs of day care and health insurance. These factors are incorporated into the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines, which prescribe the default child support amounts for all cases in South Carolina. The court can deviate from these guidelines if the result would be unjust or inappropriate, but courts typically follow the guidelines.

Enforcement Remedies

Once a court enters a child support order, CSED can help enforce the order if the noncustodial parent doesn’t pay what he should. Most child support orders contain income-withholding provisions that require an employer to withhold the child support from the noncustodial parent’s paycheck. The court can also order the noncustodial parent to appear before the court to explain why he hasn’t paid his child support; without a valid reason for nonpayment, the noncustodial parent could be fined and imprisoned up to a year. The noncustodial parent’s driver's license, passport or professional licenses could also be revoked, and federal and state income tax refunds seized. If necessary, the noncustodial parent’s bank accounts, land or vehicles could also be seized to pay past due child support.