Child Support in South Carolina

Child Support in South Carolina

If you’re getting a divorce and have minor children, you’ll have to address child support. Here’s what you need to know to help guide you through that process in South Carolina.

Who Must Pay Child Support in South Carolina

Both parents must financially support their children in South Carolina, even if:

  • the parent and child live in different households
  • the parents were not married to each other when the child was born
  • either parent remarries
  • the parent who provides the child’s primary residence is employed or receives public assistance
  • the parent who provides the child’s primary residence refuses to allow visitation
  • the parent who does not provide the child’s primary residence and lives or works in another state.

How is Child Support Determined in South Carolina?

The amount of child support is based on the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines consider the income of both parents and the number of children, and several other factors.

A copy of the Guidelines can be found here, or a hard copy can be obtained from the Regional Child Support Offices or CSSD by calling 1.800.768.5858.

The guidelines provide for calculated child support amounts up to a combined parental gross income of $30,000 per month, or $360,000 per year. When the combined gross income is higher, courts will determine child support awards on a case-by-case basis.

The court will determine a total child support obligation by adding the basic child support obligation, health insurance premium, and work-related child care costs.

The total child support obligation is divided between the parents in proportion to their income. Each parent’s proportional share of combined adjusted gross income must be calculated.

Gross income includes income from the following sources:

  • salaries
  • wages
  • commissions
  • royalties
  • bonuses
  • rents (less allowable business expenses)
  • dividends and interest
  • severance pay
  • pensions
  • trust income
  • annuities
  • capital gains
  • Social Security benefits (but not Supplemental Social Security Income).

It also includes workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, Veterans’ benefits, and alimony, including alimony received as a result of another marriage and alimony, which a party receives due to the current litigation. Unreported case income should also be included if it can be identified.

Gross income does not include benefits from means-tested public assistance programs, such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Food Stamps, and General Assistance, nor does it include income from other household members or in-kind income.

The obligation of each parent is determined by multiplying each parent’s share of income by the total child support obligation to arrive at a Basic Obligation amount. Adjustments are then factored in to arrive at a final child support amount.

There are provisions for adjustments in cases of joint custody or split custody, where both parents are responsible for the child for a substantial portion of the time.

After the basic child support obligation is established, it’s possible to deviate from the guidelines, but this tends to be the exception rather than the rule. When the court deviates, it must make written findings that clearly state the nature and extent of the variation from the guidelines.

The Child Support Guidelines do not consider the economic impact of the following factors, which can be possible reasons for a deviation:

  • Educational expenses for the child(ren) or the spouse (i.e., those incurred for private, parochial, or trade schools, other secondary schools, or post-secondary education where there is tuition or related costs)
  • Equitable distribution of property
  • Consumer debts
  • Families with more than six children
  • Unreimbursed extraordinary medical/dental expenses for either parent or extraordinary travel expenses for court-ordered visitation
  • Mandatory deduction of retirement pensions and union fees
  • Child-related unreimbursed extraordinary medical expenses
  • Monthly fixed payments imposed by court or operation of law
  • Significant available income of the child(ren)
  • Substantial disparity in the parents’ incomes
  • Alimony. Because of their unique nature, lump sum, rehabilitative, and reimbursement alimony may be considered by the court as a possible reason for deviation from these guidelines
  • Agreements Reached Between Parties. The court may deviate from the guidelines based on an agreement between the parties if both parties are represented by counsel or if, upon a thorough examination of any party not represented by counsel, the court determines the party fully understands the agreement as to child support. The court still has the discretion and the independent duty to determine if the amount is reasonable and in the child’s best interest.

If the court finds that a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support will be calculated based on a determination of potential income which would otherwise ordinarily be available to the parent.

It does not matter if the noncustodial parent lives in another state because states cooperate in establishing and enforcing child support orders. However, when a noncustodial person lives out of state, it may take longer to establish and enforce a child support order.

Either parent receives credit for additional natural or adopted children living in the home, but not for step-children unless a court order establishes a legal responsibility.

Which Agency Handles Child Support in South Carolina?

The South Carolina Department of Social Services, Child Support Services Division handles all child support issues.

A Customer Service Center provides live agents to answer questions Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Self-service options are available 24 hours a day for:

Payments
Scheduled appointments
Scheduled hearings or conferences
Enforcement actions
Customer Service Center

Child Support Services Division
P.O. Box 1469
Columbia, SC 29202-1469
Phone: 1.800.768.5858

Four Regional Offices of the Child Support Services Division (CSSD) are responsible for all paternity establishment and support order establishment and enforcement. Cases are assigned based on where the noncustodial parent lives. If the noncustodial parent lives in another state, the case is assigned to a Regional Office based on where the custodial parent lives.

Each Regional Office is staffed with attorneys and child support specialists who employ a full range of procedures and remedies. You may contact the Branch or Unit you need at the address or phone number listed below.

Midlands Regional Office
Aiken, Bamberg, Barnwell, Chester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lexington, McCormick, Richland, Saluda, York

Child Support Services

Columbia Regional Office
P.O. Box 1469
Columbia, SC 29202-1469

Physical Address
3150 Harden Street Extension
Columbia, SC 29203-6856

Pee Dee Regional Office
Chesterfield, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Sumter, Williamsburg

Child Support Services
P.O. Box 1469
Columbia, SC 29202-1469

Physical Address
2120 W. Jody Rd – Suite D
Florence, SC 29501-2008

Lowcountry Regional Office
Allendale, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Hampton, Jasper, Orangeburg

Child Support Services
P.O. Box 1469
Columbia, SC 29202-1469

Physical Address
3346 Rivers Avenue – Suite E
North Charleston, SC 29405-5715

Upstate Regional Office
Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg, Union

Mailing Address
Child Support Services
P.O. Box 1469
Columbia, SC 29202-1469

Physical Address
714 N. Pleasantburg Drive – Suite 200
Greenville, SC 29607-1640

South Carolina has also established a centralized State Disbursement Unit (SDU) to collect and disburse child support statewide. The SDU collects and distributes child and spousal support payments for cases managed by DSS and all private support cases enforced by the Clerks of Court.

How Do I Ask for Child Support?

To start the process, you must complete an application form available at CSSD Regional Child Support Offices, County Department of Social Services Offices, and County Clerks of Court Offices.

You can also get an application by calling the CSSD at 1-800-768-5858 or downloading it from the CSSD Forms and Documents page.

If you’re receiving assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program, you will automatically receive services from the CSSD.

CSSD charges a non-refundable $25 application fee, but the fee is waived if you receive TANF assistance.

After applying, CSSD will schedule a negotiation conference or court hearing to establish child support. If the custodial parent lives in South Carolina, they will be required to attend the conference or hearing. If the noncustodial parent lives out of state and a hearing is scheduled out of state, the custodial parent will not be required to attend the hearing in another state.

Based on the results of the court action, 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.

It usually takes about three months or less after the noncustodial parent is located and served with the notice. It may take longer if the noncustodial parent lives out of state.

The more information provided in the application, such as the noncustodial parent’s date of birth and Social Security number, the easier it is to locate them.

Read More: How to File for Divorce in South Carolina

Does Alimony Affect Child Support?

Courts will consider alimony with determining child support issues. Alimony is viewed as a deduction from the payor spouse’s gross income and as gross income received by the recipient spouse.

Initially, there still must be a finding that one party has a need and that the other party can pay. Once a finding has been made, the Court can plug in the relevant criteria and apply the child support formula.

Because alimony can take many forms in South Carolina, and due to their unique nature, lump sum, rehabilitative reimbursement, or any other alimony the court may award may be considered by the court as a possible reason for deviation from child support guidelines.

The purpose of this adjustment is to recognize that each parent’s proportional share of total combined monthly income changes with the introduction of any alimony and to provide for a sharing of the Total Combined Monthly Child Support Obligation based on each parent’s actual percentage share of the total combined monthly income,

The court can consider any modification or termination of an alimony award between the parties of a child support award made under these guidelines.

Any previous or existing court orders that require child support, alimony, or both types of payments should be protected by any subsequent child support order.

Alimony paid as a result of another marriage or child support paid for the benefit of children other than those considered in the current child support computations will be deducted from gross income.

Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?

South Carolina courts consider provisions for the children’s health care needs through health insurance coverage and cash medical support to resolve child support issues. One or both parents may be held accountable based on which one can obtain the most comprehensive coverage through an employer or otherwise, at the most reasonable cost.

This cost is factored into a support order, and the party responsible for paying the health insurance premium will receive a credit.

Child support guidelines assume that the parent receiving support is responsible for up to $250 per year per child in uninsured medical expenses, such as co-pays, over-the-counter medicines, and similar expenses. Reasonable and necessary unreimbursed medical expenses above the $250 per child per year are divided in pro-rata percentages based on the proportional share of combined monthly adjusted gross income.

Establishing Paternity

Before the mother or a child’s custodial parent can ask the state to help get child support, paternity must be established when a child does not have a legal or presumed legal father.

Paternity can be established in South Carolina by a voluntary paternity acknowledgment signed by the parents, by an administrative order issued by CSSD, or by a family court order.

When a child is born to unmarried parents, the hospital must offer to assist with signing a legally binding Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit. If both parents are willing to sign and paternity is an issue, the hospital will help you with completing the form and will forward it to the Department of Health and Environmental Control, Office of Vital Records.

If the child’s mother is legally married to one man and has a baby with another man, the Paternity Acknowledgment Affidavit cannot be completed at the hospital because the husband is legally presumed to be the father.

In cases when the mother and father of the child are married, the husband’s name will appear on the birth certificate without the need for the husband to sign a Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit.

Either party may cancel the Paternity Acknowledgement Affidavit within 60 days after the date of the last signature. Canceling the affidavit must be done at the State Office of Vital Records, 2600 Bull Street, Columbia.

When a family court order is required, the man who is named the father will be asked to take a genetic test. CSSD will file paperwork with the court and seek to establish paternity with a court petition. In response, the father can file an answer to the petition, get an attorney to represent him, appear in court on his own, or contact CSSD and ask for a genetic test.

If the man does not respond to the petition or appear in court, a default order may be entered, meaning the court accepts what the mother says to be true. The man will be named the child’s legal father, and the court will ask him to pay child support and provide health care coverage.

If the man submits to a genetic test, the State of South Carolina requires a finding of 95% or higher to establish a rebuttable presumption of paternity. Upon receiving a genetic test result of 95% or higher, CSSD will set the case for an administrative child support hearing to establish paternity and a child support order.

Consequences of Not Paying Child Support

When a parent does not pay child support as indicated by the court order, State and Federal laws give the Family Court and the CSSD several ways to enforce the order. These include:

  • Income withholding
  • Rule to Show Cause Hearing. A judge will require that the payor appear before the court and explain why payments are not being made as ordered. If the noncustodial parent cannot provide a valid reason for not making the child support payments as ordered, the judge may order one of the other enforcement remedies to be used. The judge can also fine the noncustodial parent up to $1,500 and sentence them to up to a year in jail for failure to pay child support.
  • License Revocation. If the noncustodial parent falls behind payments by 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.
  • Federal Income Tax Refund Offset. If the noncustodial 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, their Federal Income Tax Refund is subject to being intercepted to pay child support.
  • State Income Tax Refund Offset. When the noncustodial parent has an arrearage of $100 and delinquency of three months, the noncustodial parent’s State Income Tax Refund is subject to interception to pay the child support.
  • Administrative Offset. All or part of any payment to the noncustodial 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.
  • Financial Institution Account Lien. When a noncustodial parent owes at least $1,000 in arrears, a lien may be placed on accounts at banks, savings & loans, State and Federal Credit unions, benefit associations, insurance companies, safe deposit companies, and money market mutual funds.
  • Insurance Lien. If a noncustodial parent owes at least $1,000 in arrearages, a lien may be placed on specific insurance claims, settlements, awards, and payments.
  • Passport Denial. All noncustodial parents referred for Federal Income Tax Refund Offset with an arrearage of at least $2,500 are automatically referred to the U.S. Department of State for passport denial.

Read More: Divorce Laws in South Carolina

Modifying Child Support Payments

Both the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent have the right to request that the CSSD review the child support order every three years. The review may indicate that an upward or downward child support modification is warranted. Typically, the courts will look for an adjustment of 20% or more to modify the amount.

To start the modification process, go to www.modifychildsupportsc.com and watch a video that explains how the process works and what you need to do. The website is for people paying child support and people receiving child support.

After watching the video, use the website to find everything you need to ask for a change in child support. The interactive program on the site will create the forms you need. When you are done, you can print your forms with instructions.

There may be a cost to serve the papers on the other parent, and there is a court filing fee of $150, but you can ask to file the papers without paying this fee.

You do not need to have a lawyer to initiate the modification process. However, if you have a large arrearage or an active bench warrant for your arrest, you should talk to an attorney.

Child Support and Taxes

Child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.

Generally, the custodial parent is treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support. However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent.

Many agreements include a provision that when there is an even number of children, each parent declares half the children as dependents. The parents alternate years claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a substantially similar statement.

When Does Child Support End in South Carolina?

A child support order is effective until the noncustodial parent petitions the court for a dismissal order and the court dismisses the support order. When the child is emancipated or reaches the age of 18, the noncustodial parent may petition the court for a dismissal order.

However, if the child is still in school or there are other reasons for the court to order child support to continue (i.e., ongoing medical needs), the court may do so.

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