If you are getting a divorce in South Carolina and you have children, one of the concerns in your divorce case will be child support – but how does child support work in South Carolina? 

Whether you will need to pay child support, whether you will be awarded child support, and how much child support must be paid will be determined by the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines and the factors that would allow the court to deviate from those guidelines. 

In this article, we will cover the basics of how child support works in South Carolina, including:

  • What child support is, 
  • Who decides how much child support must be paid, 
  • The South Carolina Child Support Guidelines, and
  • When the court can deviate from the guidelines.  


What is Child Support?

Child support is financial assistance that must be paid by a noncustodial parent to a custodial parent. In most cases, once custody is decided, it is not a question of whether child support must be paid; rather, it is a question of how much child support is appropriate. 

Child support is intended to help the custodial parent with the expenses of raising children – childcare, food, clothing, medical expenses, and all the costs that come along with having a minor child in your home. 

Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Don’t Get Visitation? 

Child support has nothing to do with visitation rights – you must pay child support if you are the noncustodial parent. 

If the other parent is interfering with visitation or other rights, your remedy is to file an action with the court asking for the court’s assistance. If, instead, you withhold child support, the court may hold you in contempt of court and possibly even put you in jail when the other parent files a Rule to Show Cause. 

How is Child Support Calculated? 

In many cases, the amount of child support that is appropriate will be based on the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines. In other cases, however, there may be extraordinary circumstances that require more child support or less child support to be paid. 

Who Decides Whether and How Much Child Support Will be Awarded? 

In many cases, child support is set, or agreed upon, by the parents before they get to their temporary hearing, based on the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines and the factors that would allow the court to deviate from them. 

If there is a separation agreement in place that specifies the amount of child support, the family court may incorporate this into the final divorce decree after ensuring that the agreement is fair, reasonable, and in the child’s best interest. 

If there is no agreement between the parties, child support may be an issue that is addressed at the temporary hearing, during mandatory mediation, or, if it is not resolved yet, the family court will decide the issue at the final divorce hearing

The South Carolina Child Support Guidelines – Basic Determinations

The Child Support Guidelines are based on factors that most child support cases have in common, including:

  • The gross income of each parent,
  • Self-employment or business income of each parent,
  • The potential income of each parent if the court believes the parent is intentionally under-employed, 
  • Court-ordered alimony payments, 
  • Other court-ordered payments including alimony or child support from a different case, 
  • The number of children in the home, 
  • Health insurance costs for the children, and
  • Childcare costs. 

SCDSS has an online child support calculator on their website that can help by giving an estimate of child support – you plug in the information on your income and the other parent’s income, and the calculator will give you an estimate. 

You cannot rely on the child support calculator, however – it is intended only to give the parents an initial estimate, and it does not include the factors that would allow the court to deviate from the guidelines. 

Exceptions – When the Court Can Deviate From the Child Support Guidelines

Although South Carolina law says there is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support as determined by the guidelines is appropriate, the court can deviate from the guidelines when there are extraordinary circumstances that would make the guidelines amount unfair. 

SC Code § 63-17-470 says that the court can consider the following factors to either deviate from the guidelines or modify an existing child support order based on a change in circumstances:

  • Educational expenses,
  • Distribution of marital assets,
  • Debts that each parent must pay,
  • When the family has more than six children,
  • Extraordinary medical or dental expenses for either parent, 
  • Extraordinary medical expenses for the child,
  • Mandatory payments for retirement pensions or union fees,
  • Support obligations for other dependents or child support from a previous relationship,
  • Any other monthly payments that are required by law or by court order,
  • The child’s income, 
  • A disparity of income between the parents where the noncustodial parent’s income is significantly less than the custodial parent’s income, 
  • Alimony, and
  • The parent’s agreement as to child support payments (although the court will still determine whether the agreement is fair, reasonable, and in the child’s best interest). 

Ideally, the parties will consider these factors when negotiating a settlement agreement (or in mediation) – if they do not reach an agreement, however, the court will consider these factors when deciding on child support at court. 

Questions About Child Support in South Carolina? 

Issues like child custody, child support, and visitation rights can be incredibly stressful and confusing for the parties – your Moncks Corner, South Carolina divorce lawyer at Seaton Law can help. 

If you are separated or considering divorce and you have children, call an experienced South Carolina child support attorney now who can answer your questions and help to protect your rights and your children’s rights during the process.

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you and your family.

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