The touchstone of all family law cases involving children is simple: Serve the best interest of the child. Accordingly, most issues with regard to children in South Carolina are subject to change because circumstances erode and shift with the passage of time, including child support obligations. South Carolina family courts are compelled by both law and decency to promulgate the best interest of the child when possible. Unfortunately, it’s often easier said than done. Child support modifications can be either an increase or decrease in the amount of child support a person is ordered to pay. Child support is typically reviewed every 3 years to determine whether or not a modification is necessary if the South Carolina Department of Social Services is involved in the support payments.
Child Support Obligation:
The court determines the basic child support obligation by combining both parents’ incomes, referring to the Schedule of Basic Support Obligations, and determining where the parents’ income level and number of children to provide for fall on the schedule. Once the court has determined the obligation that is owed, the court looks to the parents’ relative shares of income. The court then determines the child support due by the non-custodial parent by applying the non-custodial parent’s percentage of income to the obligation amount named in the schedule.
For example, if the parents before the court have a combined income of $5,600.00 a month with only 1 child, the original obligation owed is $848.00. If the non-custodial parent makes 75% of the income for the month, then the obligation owed is $636.00 by the non-custodial parent. Most of the time, the court is more concerned with the financial income changes with the non-custodial parent. Though the decrease in income of the custodial parent can decrease the obligation owed by the non-custodial parent, the increase in income of the custodial parent will not decrease the non-custodial parent’s obligation for child support.
Once a child support obligation is determined, there must be a petition for modification presented to the court. The standard that the court uses to determine whether or not a modification to the support is necessary is a substantial change in circumstances.
So long as a change is unanticipated, there is a fair argument for the modification of the support obligation. It is important to note that the court will only modify child support obligations that are periodic in nature. Courts avoid modifying lump sum child support payments because most of the time they have already been paid. In South Carolina, courts are barred from retroactively modifying child support obligations as stated in S.C. Ann. Code § 63-17-310.
Substantial changes in circumstances could include one of the parent’s income substantially increasing or decreasing. Some examples of substantial changes in income are disability, unemployment, new legal obligations to other children or parties, growth of the children, inflation, retirement, illness, and receipt of alimony.
Changes in Child’s Needs:
If a child becomes ill or has increased expenses due to a developing disability, then the child support obligation would be increased to reflect the increased care necessary for the child’s care.
Changes in the Family:
Frequent substantial changes in families with more than one child occur when one child reaches the age of majority. If more children are born into a family, the child support obligation could also be modified. Another substantial change to the family that could give rise to a modification is if custody of one or more children changes from the receiving parent to the paying parent.
Child support modifications can be denied if the substantial change claimed by the paying spouse was an anticipated change that was considered in the determination of the original obligation. If a party who is requesting the modification is able to pay the child support obligation as ordered, then the court will deny the modification request so long as the payments can be reasonably made.
If the individual seeking modification voluntarily left a job, then it is likely that a court would deny the modification request. Courts will often deny petitions that are filed for modification only because the other parent remarried or when the petitioning parent seeks a reduction in child support while enjoying the same lifestyle despite a change in marital status and finances.
Important Points to Remember:
Child Support modifications only take place if they are petitioned for, meaning that in order to change the child support payments one parent needs to ask for the support obligation to be changed. Child support will not automatically increase or decrease if one parent remarries.
If the number of children living in the home of the custodial parent changes, then the child support obligation will be modified to reflect how many children are in the home and the contributions made by other parents for child support payments for those other children. Child support increases can be fought by showing that no substantial change in circumstances had occurred.
How can Henderson & Henderson, LLC help you resolve a child support problem?
Let the team at Henderson & Henderson, LLC make sure that your children get the supportive and healthy quality of life they deserve with payments that reflect a fair and reasonable estimate of the needs of your child. There could be a multitude of concerns making it difficult for your child to get the payment amount they are owed. Because child support modifications are difficult to navigate, choose Henderson & Henderson to guide you through the process. If you have any questions about child support modifications or are looking for a family law attorney in South Carolina, give Caity Plocica at our office a call at 843.212.3188.