Modifying Child Support in South Carolina

modify child support sc

Depending on how old a child is when an order for child support is entered, the parents could be subject to that order for almost two decades. If you think about your life twenty years ago, or even ten, you’ll realize that a lot can change over the course of several years. That’s why it’s necessary for parents to be able to modify child support in South Carolina.

Because child support so profoundly affects the lives of parents and children, parents tend to have a lot of questions. How often can child support be modified? Are there limitations on when a court will hear a motion to modify child support? What are the reasons to modify child support? And exactly how do you modify child support in South Carolina?

What Standards Are Followed to Modify Child Support in South Carolina?

As discussed above, life changes over time, and it would be unfair if child support couldn’t be modified in response to those changes. At the same time, families (especially children), need some predictability and stability. It would be disruptive to have parents seeking to modify child support for every minor change that occurs.

Accordingly, the standard for modifying child support in South Carolina is that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. Things that might constitute “a substantial change” include:

  • A child is diagnosed with a chronic illness and needs ongoing treatment and care
  • A parent loses a job or through no fault of their own
  • A parent becomes severely injured or disabled and suffers a major drop in income
  • One of the children who originally lived with the recipient of support now lives with the parent who is paying it
  • One of the children for whom support is being paid is now emancipated

Situations that may not warrant a modification of child support:

  • A temporary or minor change in a parent’s income
  • A parent chooses to have another child with a new partner (although the presence of another child in the parent’s household could affect support calculations)
  • A parent remarries
  • The change in circumstances was anticipated at the time the original child support order was entered
  • A child decides to pursue a costly extracurricular activity

The court will expect the parent who is requesting the modification of support to provide documentation of the substantial change in circumstances. If a parent is claiming that they cannot pay support as ordered because of a job loss, the court may ask not only for proof of the termination, but documentation of the parent’s efforts to get a new job.

How to Request a Modification of Child Support

How to modify child support depends on where your child support order came from in the first place. If your order was part of a divorce or custody and support case in the South Carolina family courts, you need to petition the court for a modification of child support. An experienced South Carolina child support attorney can help you to prepare the petition and gather the supporting evidence you will need.

However, child support is sometimes ordered through the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) Child Support Division. In that case, you would have to contact DSS to pursue a modification. If you have a child support order through the Department of Social Services, both you and the other parent can request a review of the order every three years.

Can You Modify Child Support Retroactively?

If you petition the court for a modification of child support, and the court grants your request, you can get a change retroactive to the date you filed your motion to modify—but only to that date. That is one important reason that you should not wait a long time to request a modification.

For instance, let’s say that you are receiving child support for your children and you suffer an injury on January 1 that makes you unable to work. If you wait six months to see if your injury gets better, realize it will not, and petition the court on July 1 for an increase in support, you can only get increased support retroactive to July 1, even if you can prove that your disability and loss of income date back to January 1. If you ask the court for a modification of support (up or down) and then discover you no longer need it, you can always withdraw your request before the court considers it.

Will South Carolina Modify a Child Support Order from Another State?

It’s not uncommon for parents to move out of the state that issued their child support order. However, as a general rule, South Carolina can only modify a child support order that was issued by a South Carolina court. If your child support order was issued by the court of another state, you will probably have to pursue a modification in the court of the issuing state.

If you have further questions about modifying a child support order in South Carolina, or about enforcing a child support order, we invite you to contact Brinkley Law Firm to schedule a consultation.

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Stephanie M. Brinkley's Profile Image
Since founding Brinkley Law Firm in 2011, attorney Stephanie Brinkley has helped families grow and expand by navigating them through the legal challenges surrounding Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) and Adoption. As an attorney who focuses on f… Read More
Christopher D. Kays's Profile Image
Originally from Los Angeles, Christopher Kays moved to Charleston in 2007 when he reported to The Citadel for his knob year to study psychology. As a cadet, Christopher volunteered at the VA hospital and helped establish Leadership Day, The Citadel… Read More

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