In 1988, the federal government ordered all the states to develop and implement statewide automated child support enforcement monitoring and tracking systems. According to a report by the Greenville News, South Carolina remains the only state without such a system. Although a project has been in development for years, it remains unready and could cost as much as five hundred million dollars (only a fraction of which will be paid by the state) when finally finished. Yet despite that, South Carolina lawmakers quoted in the News note that the state’s child support enforcement program has received accolades for getting the job done. That is important to families who rely on child support to make ends meet in caring for their children.
Who pays whom, and how much, are central issues to be worked out in any divorce or paternity lawsuit. South Carolina employs a set of Child Support Guidelines to determine the appropriate amount of support. These Guidelines proceed from the presumption that children should benefit from the same proportion of family income they would have enjoyed had their parents lived together. The Guidelines provide a list of factors to be considered in determining how much support a non-custodial parent should pay to a custodial parent.
Child Support Factors
South Carolina’s Department of Social Services provides a calculator for estimating the likely amount of a child support award in a particular case, based upon the Guideline’s factors. These factors include:
- Gross income of both parents. Gross income includes income from any source, including assets available to generate income. If the court finds that one parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, its support calculation should account for the reasonable income otherwise ordinarily available to that parent.
- Alimony awards. If alimony has been awarded, the court should consider its amount as a deduction to the payor and income to the payee.
- Other child support and alimony obligations. If the payor parent is already under court order to pay alimony or child support as a result of a previous marriage or court proceeding, the amount of the payments made is to be deducted from gross income.
- The number of other children in the home. The Guidelines provide that either parent should receive credit for other natural or adopted children living in the home, but not for stepchildren unless they have been legally adopted.
- Additional child-related expenses. Also relevant are additional payments made by both parents related to the child, including health insurance, extraordinary medical costs, and childcare costs.
The ultimate amount of an award rests in the judge’s discretion, and the court may deviate from the amount dictated by the Guidelines if circumstances warrant. The court may also approve an agreement between the parties that differs from the Guidelines amount when appropriate. Any award of child support remains subject to modification if the party seeking to modify can establish a substantial change in circumstances, but this is not an easy standard to satisfy.
Consult a Greenville Family Lawyer
If you are divorcing, seeking child support, or seeking to modify an existing support order, an experienced family lawyer can offer invaluable guidance. Greenville family lawyer Robert Clark has the skills and sensitivity to handle all your family law concerns. Contact Robert Clark for a consultation today.