Factors for Relocation in South Carolina

Relocation Concept - South Carolina

Not so many generations ago, families in this country tended to stay put. Adults often worked for the same company much of their adult lives. People dated and married others in their community and settled down there. Children grew up near grandparents, aunts and uncles. But in recent decades, Americans have moved around a lot more, for jobs, relationships, opportunity, adventure. How does relocation work when you share a child, and custody, with someone else?

If you want to relocate, no court or co-parent can prevent you from doing so. However, relocating with your child is another question altogether. One parent’s decision to relocate affects multiple lives, and the benefits of the move must be balanced against the costs, for both the child and the parents. Different states approach this analysis in different ways, but as with most legal issues affecting children, the best interests of the child are a primary consideration. Let’s take a look at how South Carolina deals with relocation and child custody.

Can I Relocate With My Child?

The answer to that question hinges first on where you want to relocate to. If you want to relocate within South Carolina, the law is very much on your side. S.C. Code Ann. § 63-3-530 (30) states in part:

“...the court may not issue an order which prohibits a custodial parent from moving his residence to a location within the State unless the court finds a compelling reason or unless the parties have agreed to such a prohibition(.)”

In short, even if you are moving to the furthest corner of the state from your current location, the court will not prevent you from doing so unless you and your co-parent have a previous agreement not to relocate, or unless the court finds a very strong reason.

Just because the court will not prevent you from moving within the state with your child does not mean that your parenting arrangements will be unchanged. The court may order some accommodations for the other parent. These may include requiring you to bear the majority of effort and expense in transporting your child for parenting time with the other parent.

The court may also choose to modify the visitation schedule to better suit the new circumstances. For instance, if you currently live within ten minutes of your co-parent, but are moving three hours away, the court may give the non-custodial parent more extended periods of visitation so that the child is not constantly being shuttled back and forth.

Relocating Out of State With Your Child

If you need to relocate outside of South Carolina, you will probably find it more challenging to move with your child than if you were relocating within the state. That said, it used to be even more difficult; prior to a 2004 court case (Latimer v. Farmer), South Carolina had a legal presumption against allowing a custodial parent to relocate out of state with a child.

In overturning previous law, the Latimer court took note of our increasingly transient society and the fact that child custody cases must already be decided based on the best interests of the child. The court found that the presumption against relocation was a “meaningless supposition,” particularly if the facts of the case showed relocation to be in a child’s best interests. The Latimer court considered the law of several other states regarding relocation and ultimately imposed the following four-pronged test to determine if a relocation out of state would be in a child’s best interests:

  • Do the potential advantages (economic and otherwise) of the proposed move favor relocation?
  • Is the proposed move likely to improve the quality of life for the custodial parent and child, or a whim on the part of the custodial parent?
  • What is the integrity of the motive of the custodial parent in proposing the move, and of the non-custodial parent in opposing it?
  • Are reasonable substitute visitation arrangements available that will adequately foster an ongoing relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent?

These factors allow South Carolina courts to consider all the circumstances surrounding a proposed relocation in light of the child’s best interests. In the Latimer case, for instance, the custodial parent wished to move for a better job that would also allow him more time to be with the child and to be close to his parents, the child’s grandparents. The court permitted the relocation.

The decision whether to allow a custodial parent to move out of state with a child is very fact-specific, and the positions of the parents typically allow little compromise. The options are essentially that either the custodial parent moves with the child; moves, but leaves the child behind with the other parent; or does not move.

If you are seeking to relocate with a child, or opposing the relocation of your co-parent with your child, you will need to build a strong factual case. You must present evidence to the court that shows the outcome you are seeking is truly what is best for your child. In cases such as these, it is particularly important to have the help of an experienced South Carolina child custody attorney who understands what courts consider in relocation cases.

If you have further questions about relocating with a child, or South Carolina child custody in general, please contact Brinkley Law Firm to schedule a consultation.