Summer Relocation Plans? This is the Must-Read Guide You Can’t Afford to Miss!
When a parent decides to relocate, child custody routines are usually the first thing to be immediately affected by the relocation. Discussions about how to handle new schedules and transportation issues can quickly become a challenging and emotionally charged issue, even between the most agreeable divorced co-parents.
South Carolina’s family courts give top prioritization to the best interests of the child in these cases. Therefore, understanding the state’s child custody relocation laws is crucial for parents who are considering a move. This guide will walk you through the legal aspects of child custody relocation you should consider if your case will be handled in South Carolina.
South Carolina’s Child Custody Relocation Laws – A Brief Overview
South Carolina does not have specific statutes that address child custody relocation. Instead, the courts rely on case law and general child custody statutes to determine whether a parent may relocate with their child. The most important factor in these cases is always the best interests of the child, as outlined in S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-240.
South Carolina courts consider various factors when determining the best interests of the child, including:
- The child’s preference if the child is of an age and maturity to express a preference.
- The quality of the relationship between the child and each parent.
- The ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs.
- The impact of the proposed relocation on the child’s educational, emotional, and social development.
- The motives of each parent in seeking or opposing the relocation.
Generally speaking, a parent seeking to relocate with a child must first notify the other parent of their relocation plans. If the other parent does not consent to the child’s relocation, either parent may file a motion in family court to modify the existing custody order. If their current custody order does not specifically prohibit relocation and unless a new court order states the child must remain in South Carolina (or in their current city), the parent with custody can technically relocate until the other parent files a motion; however, that is typically not the best course of action.
Evidence Necessary to Support Relocation
To successfully argue your case for relocation, you must present compelling evidence that the move is not only in your best interests but it must also be in the best interests of the child. Evidence that will help prove this type of case may include:
- A well-reasoned and detailed plan for the relocation that should address the timeline for the move, the timing and method of notification to the other parent, and housing plans that include where the child will attend school if the move happens.
- Evidence of better educational, employment, or housing opportunities in the new location.
- Proof of a support system in the new area, such as family or friends, as well as a clearly, throughout plan for how the other parent can continue to be incorporated into the child’s daily life in the new location.
- Testimony from expert witnesses, such as child psychologists or others, regarding the potential impact of the relocation on the child.
The Role of a Guardian ad Litem
In relocation cases, the court may decide to appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to represent the best interests of the child. The GAL will investigate the case, interview both parents and the child, travel to the proposed new location if requested by the parties or the Court and provide a report to the court that includes an unbiased assessment of the facts surrounding the potential relocation, as well as concerns that should be addressed by the Court regardless of whether the relocation request is granted. Their role is crucial, as their findings can significantly influence the court’s decision.
Potential Outcomes and Alternatives to Relocation
The court may grant or deny the relocation of the child request based on its overall findings regarding the best interests factors. While every case is different, some of the potential outcomes include:
- Adjusting the visitation schedule to accommodate the increased distance between parents, though depending on the distance involved, this may become more difficult once a child begins school.
- Allowing the non-relocating parent to take primary custody of the child if they demonstrate a desire to assume that responsibility, a clear ability to care for the child, and the other factors indicate it’s in the best interests of the child to not relocate.
- If the non-locating parent determines through the course of litigation that they will also relocate to the new city to be closer to the child, the Court may decide the best resolution doesn’t require changing custody but rather simply to modify the current schedule to accommodate the new family schedules and routines in the new location.
Child custody relocation cases in South Carolina are often some of the most complex cases the family court can decide, and they require a deep understanding of the state’s legal framework. As a parent considering relocation, it’s essential to consult with an experienced family law attorney who has extensive experience with these types of cases. Without such experience, they may not be able to advocate your case properly or successfully.
Don’t let the stress of child custody issues or co-parenting disputes overwhelm you. Take the first step towards a peaceful resolution by contacting an experienced family court attorney today. With over 25 years of experience representing parents, Ben Stevens is a trusted advocate in the legal community. As a Fellow in both the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, as well as a Board-Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he has the knowledge and expertise to help you navigate even the most complex cases. If you or someone you know is facing a child custody or visitation case, don’t hesitate to reach out to our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule a consultation.
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Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule an initial consultation.
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ABOUT J. BENJAMIN STEVENS
Ben.Stevens@offitkurman.com | 864.598.9172
Aggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens' colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He is one of only two attorneys in South Carolina with those simultaneous distinctions. He has held numerous leadership positions in the AAML, and he currently serves as one of its National Vice Presidents. Mr. Stevens has a statewide practice and regularly appears all across South Carolina. His practice is focused on complex divorce and child custody cases.
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