What must a South Carolina Family Court consider when modifying a child custody order?
The Family Court in the State of South Carolina retains jurisdiction to transfer the custody of children "in the event of changed conditions, or for other valid reasons.
Wolfe v. Wolfe, 220 S.C. 437, 441 68 S.E.2d 348, 350 (1951). A person asking the Family Court to transfer custody must establish that:
(1) circumstances have substantially changed;
(2) the changes occurred after the initial award of custody and, ordinarily, prior to filing the request to change custody; and
(3) the changes substantially affect the interests and welfare of the children in question. Moss v. Moss, 274 S.C. 120, 262 S.E.2d 11 (1980).
The party seeking a change of custody has the burden of establishing a material change of circumstances substantially affecting the child's welfare. One of the most important considerations of the Family Court is whether transferring custody would be in the best interest of the child. When issuing or modifying a child custody order, the Family Court in the State of South Carolina must consider the best interest of the child, which may include, but is not limited to the following:
(1) the temperament and developmental needs of the child;
(2) the capacity and the disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child;
(3) the preferences of each child;
(4) the wishes of the parents as to custody;
(5) the past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child's siblings, and any other person, including a grandparent, who may significantly affect the best interest of the child;
(6) the actions of each parent to encourage the continuing parent‑child relationship between the child and the other parent, as is appropriate, including compliance with court orders;
(7) the manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents' dispute;
(8) any effort by one parent to disparage the other parent in front of the child;
(9) the ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child;
(10) the child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community environments;
(11) the stability of the child's existing and proposed residences;
(12) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability of a proposed custodial parent or other party, in and of itself, must not be determinative of custody unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interest of the child;
(13) the child's cultural and spiritual background;
(14) whether the child, or a sibling of the child, has been abused or neglected;
(15) whether one parent has perpetrated domestic violence or child abuse or the effect on the child of the actions of an abuser if any domestic violence has occurred between the parents or between a parent and another individual or between the parent and the child;
(16) whether one parent has relocated more than one hundred miles from the child's primary residence in the past year, unless the parent relocated for safety reasons; and
(17) other factors as the court considers necessary.
South Carolina Code, annotated, § 63‑15‑240(B) (2012).
There are no set rules for the Family Court in determining when to change child custody. The totality of the circumstances particular to a case constitutes the only scale upon which the ultimate decision can be weighed by a presiding Family Court Judge.
It is important to seek the advice of a skilled Family Court Lawyer practicing in West Columbia, Lexington, and the entire State of South Carolina. The attorneys at Hall & Hall Attorneys at Law will aggressively represent you in your Family Court action seeking divorce, alimony, separate maintenance and support, and modification of child custody, visitation and child support. Our attorneys will analyze your case, advise you, prepare your pleadings, file your action and assist you in obtaining a final resolution to your matter. Do not hesitate to contact our office at 803-791-3196, to discuss your matter and let us see how we can assist you.