South Carolina Child Support Guidelines
Child Support Eligibility
Child Support in South Carolina is often settled by the parents of the child by agreement based upon the South Carolina child support guidelines. Individuals who need child care services must qualify on the basis of income eligibility except for certain situations in which the service is available without regard to income. However, any of the following individuals may apply for child care services through South Carolina’s “Integrated Child Support Services Division” (ICSSD):
Any custodial parent (CP) residing in South Carolina, who has physical custody of a child and needs assistance in obtaining child support payments, may apply to the South Carolina Department of Social Services, Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) for services. A non-custodial parent (NCP) may apply to have paternity established or to have his/her support order reviewed.
CSED will help you locate the non-custodial parent (NCP), establish paternity (legal fatherhood) if needed, establish and enforce child support payments and ask that the NCP provide health insurance if available. If you already have an order for child support but are not receiving payments, CSED has many tools available to help you with enforcement of your order including contempt proceedings, tax intercept and license revocation.
ICSSD offers assistance in the following areas:
- Location of noncustodial parents by searching to find where the noncustodial parent lives and/or works.
- Paternity establishment for children born outside of marriage by establishing the legal father of the child.
- Establishment of support obligations by obtaining a court order for the noncustodial parent to provide support for his/her child(ren).
- Collection and distribution of support through keeping records of court ordered child support payments
- Enforcement of support obligations by using many enforcement remedies as necessary to ensure the noncustodial parent’s compliance with the court ordered support.
Establishing Child Support Order.
Child support orders can be established in the following ways:
- A Voluntary Support Agreement (VSA) that is signed by a judge
- A civil court action, brought by the custodial parent, an organization, or the guardian of a dependent child
- A Criminal Abandonment and Non-Support court action
- A divorce order that includes child support
A non-custodial parent may apply ICSSD to have paternity or a child support order established and/or to have the support order reviewed.
The ICSSD will schedule a negotiation conference or court hearing to establish child support. If the CP lives in South Carolina, he/she will be required to attend the conference or hearing. If the NCP lives out-of-state and a hearing is scheduled out-of-state, the CP will not be required to attend the hearing in another state. However, the CP may be required to attend a conference with the ICSSD. Child support (and medical support, if available) will be set in the administrative or court order. An administrative order is enforceable in the same manner as a court order.
Locating Non-custodial Parents
When the NCP is found and served with the notice, obtaining a child support order usually takes less than three months. It may take longer if the NCP lives out-of-state. The NCP’s address must be verified before a conference or court hearing can be scheduled. If the CP cannot provide a current address, if the NCP has recently moved, or if the NCP lives out-of-state, it may take several months to locate him/her. The more information provided in the application, such as NCP’s date of birth and social security number, the easier it is to locate the NCP.
Obligations of Child Support
South Carolina law requires that BOTH PARENTS ARE EXPECTED TO FINANCIALLY SUPPORT THEIR CHILD. SC law states that parents financially support their child until the age of eighteen (18), unless a Family Court judge issues an order finding that the child is an adult prior to that time. In some instances, parents will be required to pay child support beyond the age of eighteen(18), such as: the child is moving toward graduation from high school; the child is disabled or impaired; or a prior Order states otherwise.
Child Support Guidelines
In South Carolina, the Child Support Guidelines are based on the combined gross incomes of the father and mother of the child and must be reviewed, at a minimum, every three years. The Guidelines are available to be used for temporary and permanent orders, actions for separate maintenance and support, divorce and child support awards. The Income Shares Model calculates child support as the share of each parent’s income which would have been spent on the children if the parents and children were living in the same household. The shares are based on the amount of money ordinarily spent on children by their families living in the United States and adjusted to South Carolina cost of living levels. This evidence indicates that individuals tend to spend money on their children in proportion to their income, and not solely on need. The expenditures include the following nine categories: food at home; food away from home; shelter; utilities; household goods (furniture, appliances, linens, floor coverings, and house wares); clothing; transportation (other than visitation related); ordinary health care; and recreation.
Every child has a biological father. A biological father is the man by whom a child’s mother became pregnant. Not every child has a legal father. If a mother is not married to the father when the child is born, the child does not have a legal father. Establishing that you are the legal father creates a legal relationship between the father and the child. This is a necessary first step if the father desires visitation or custody. A father who has not been declared a legal father has no legal rights concerning the child.
The custodial parent (usually the mother) is required by law to give the name of the child’s father to the South Carolina Department of Social Services ONLY if she applies for benefits. The Child Support Enforcement Division will begin legal proceedings in the Family Court to determine the legal father of the child and establish and enforce child support payments.
Both parents can determine the legal father voluntarily by signing a Paternity (fatherhood) Acknowledgment form under oath. This will insure that the child’s original Birth Certificate includes the father’s name. The Paternity (fatherhood) Acknowledgment form may be completed at: Birthing Hospitals or at The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC)
In South Carolina, there are primarily three ways to establish legal fatherhood.
- Both parents can voluntarily acknowledge paternity while at the hospital when their child is born by completing a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment.
- Both parents can go to the State Office of Vital Records or to the Vital Records office at their County Health Department and complete the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment at any time after their child is born (there is a $27 fee to complete this process at Vital Records).
- A court or administrative order is issued stating who the legal father is (this process is followed when unmarried parents request a low cost DNA Test through Child Support Enforcement.
Both parents and the child have the right to a full parent-child relationship. Both parents deserve an opportunity to develop, enjoy and grow in this relationship. The father has the right to know the child and to contribute to the success of the child’s future. The greatest statistical indicator of whether or not an unmarried dad will be involved in his child’s life is whether or not he establishes paternity.
Paternity helps children…
- have a relationship with both parents
- gain the security of knowing that their father cares
- have knowledge of both families’ medical histories
- achieve better outcomes
- decrease the likelihood of high-risk behavior
- have access to health insurance and/or benefits such as Social Security or inheritance
Paternity helps mothers…
- share the responsibility and rewards of parenthood
- share the cost of raising the child
Paternity helps fathers…
- gain legal rights to their child by having his name on the birth certificate
- show that they are committed to their child
- establish an emotional bond with the child and participate in the child’s life
Paternity Determination Without the Court
When the child’s parents are unmarried and want to legally establish paternity they can do so in court or they can complete an Affidavit of Paternity. If both parents are sure that the man is the biological father, they can complete a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment at the hospital when their child is born. The process is easy and available to parents if the mother was not married at any time during her pregnancy. Parents simply complete a Paternity Acknowledgment Affidavit with the birth clerk.
Once paternity is established, an order for financial and/or medical support can be obtained either voluntarily or by court order.
Disputed Paternity – Genetic Testing
In cases where the father he does not admit paternity, a court hearing and/or paternity tests can be scheduled. If a parent does not agree that the child is theirs, a genetic test must be done. Genetic testing is a way of determining the probability that the alleged father is the child’s biological father. Paternity tests examine the genetic markers of the mother, alleged father, and the child. The paternity tests will either indicate the likelihood of paternity or exclude the alleged father from paternity. The alleged father must pay for the costs of the paternity tests.
Modification of Child Support Amount
Federal regulations require review of any order when financial assistance and some types of medical assistance are being provided for the child(ren), if any of the following apply:
– It has been three years since your order was issued or modified.
– The financial situation of either party has changed significantly since your order was issued or modified.
– Medical support was not included in your order and the child(ren) do not have health insurance other than Medicaid, or an adjustment to the medical support order would assure that the child(ren)’s health care needs be better addressed.
– Both the CP and the NCP have the right to request that the ICSSD review the child support order every three years. The review may indicate that an upward or downward modification of child support is warranted.
Enforcement of Child Support Obligations
Unfortunately, many non-custodial parents do not live up to their financial responsibilities to their children and do not pay their child support. State and Federal laws have given the Family Court and the Integrated Child Support Services Division (ICSSD) of the South Carolina Department of Social Services a number of methods to enforce a child support order. Bear in mind that these enforcement remedies are available in ICSSD cases only. If your case is not an ICSSD case and one of these remedies is appropriate, you must complete an application in order for the ICSSD to assist you.
Any child support order established or modified after January 3, 1994 and any child support order established or modified with the assistance of the ICSSD after October 31, 1990 is subject to being enforced through income withholding. If a non-custodial parent changes employers, the non-custodial parent must notify the appropriate clerk of court so that income withholding can be initiated by the new employer.
Rule to Show Cause Hearing
When a non-custodial parent does not make child support payments as ordered by the court, the judge will require that he/she appear before the court and explain why payments are not being made as ordered. If the non-custodial parent cannot provide a valid reason for not making the child support payments as ordered, the judge may order one of the enforcement remedies listed on this page. In addition, the judge has the ability to fine the non-custodial parent up to $1,500 and/or sentence the non-custodial parent to up to a year in jail for failure to pay child support.
If the non-custodial parent can provide a valid reason for not making the child support payments as ordered, the judge and the ICSSD staff will advise the non-custodial parent of the alternatives available in his/her case.
If the non-custodial parent fails to appear for the Rule to Show Cause Hearing, the judge will issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the non-custodial parent.
If the non-custodial parent accumulates an arrearage of at least $500 and has not made a payment within 60 days, any driver’s, occupational, professional, business or commercial license issued by the State of South Carolina is subject to being suspended or revoked. Once a license has been suspended or revoked, the non-custodial parent cannot have the license reinstated until they have reached an agreement with the ICSSD to pay the arrearage.
Federal Income Tax Refund Offset
If the non-custodial parent is at least $150 in arrears and three months delinquent in a case where the custodial parent receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or at least $500 in arrears and three months delinquent in a Non-TANF case, his/her Federal Income Tax Refund is subject to being intercepted to pay child support.
State Income Tax Refund Offset
In any case in which the non-custodial parent has an arrearage of $100 and a delinquency of three months, the non-custodial parent’s State Income Tax Refund is subject to being intercepted to pay the child support.
All or part of any payment to the non-custodial parent from the Federal government is subject to being intercepted for paying child support arrearages. The eligibility criteria are the same as Federal Income Tax Refund Offset.
Unemployment Insurance Benefits Intercept
Any unemployment benefits received by the non-custodial parent are subject to being intercepted to pay child support.
All non-custodial parents referred for Federal Income Tax Refund Offset (above) with an arrearage of at least $2,500 are automatically referred to the US Department of State for passport denial. The non-custodial parent cannot obtain or renew a passport until the arrearage is settled.
Any asset held by the non-custodial parent, real or personal, is subject to seizure if the non-custodial parent accumulates an arrearage of at least $1,000. This could apply to assets such as bank accounts, land and automobiles.
Military Service Modification of Child Support
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
If you are called to active duty, you are protected under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), formerly called the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act. The purpose of the SCRA is to allow United States military personnel to devote their full attention to the defense of our nation by temporarily suspending judicial and administrative civil proceedings that may impact their rights. In some instances, your military service activation may make you eligible for a change in your child support order during your time of service. If you feel that you qualify, you may ask the court to modify your order by filing a motion to modify.
South Carolina Financial Assistance
Family Independence (FI) is a time-limited program that assists families with dependent children when families cannot provide for their basic needs. Low income families with dependent children may be eligible for these services. Families must be residents of South Carolina and willing to participate in the Family Independence Work Program. Applicants must assist in pursuing child support from parents absent from the household.
South Carolina Child Support Resource Line:
The foregoing information is provided as general child support law guidelines in South Carolina and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case. After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to About The Children.
Submitted by Linda O’Marie, Paralegal