Child Custody Blog – Breaking Down the Factors

How is child custody really determined?

On my primary custody page as well as my Blog, we discuss the statutory factors a Judge considers when determining the best interests of the child in child custody cases.   The seventeen (17) factors are listed in SC Code 63-15-240 (B).

Is one custody factor more important than others?

I’ve had people ask, “is one custody factor more important than the others?”  This is a really smart question and the answer is “it depends on the specific Judge’s preferences.”  We are all affected by our past experiences and they affect us in the decisions we make.  For example, if you grew up around drug abuse you may be especially sensitive to the use and abuse of drugs.

This concept also applies to Judges.  One Judge may see a history of drug abuse as conclusive evidence that a parent is unfit and others may only look at it as part of the picture.  You can’t chose your Judge, but attorney’s who consistently practice in certain parts of the state are generally familiar with the preferences of the Judges that are often presiding over the hearings in that area and can advise accordingly.

What factors appear to matter most frequently?

There are some issues that appear to be consistently compelling in child custody cases.  I’m going to go into four (4) of them in straightforward terms:

Drug Use – In this instance, I am specifically talking about the ability to pass a drug test. Someone who fails a drug test is likely to lose a contested custody hearing.  It’s my experience that the Court will often order hair-strand drug tests that can go back 3 – 6 months.

Domestic Violence – Someone who has a pending charge for Criminal Domestic Violence is likely to give a Judge pause as it relates to child custody. This is factor fifteen (15) of the statutory factors.  Note, that I am not including a past conviction.  In these instances, the Judge will still be careful but proof of completion of an anger management or domestic violence course often will mitigate the affect on a case.

Social Service Involvement – If a custody case is brought to Court and DSS (Department of Social Services) is involved the Court will often lean on them for information. The Court will be cautious giving a person custody if they have been found guilty of abuse or neglect in the recent past or are being currently investigated for the same.  On the other hand, if you have a finding of abuse or neglect in the past but have done the things (drug classes, parenting classes, etc.) that DSS requested then the affect is often reduced.

Status Quo – If everything is even, often the Judge likes to leave custody the way it has been. It is often compelling if one party has been caring for the child a majority of the time.  This person is often called the “primary caregiver.”  On the other hand, if parents have been dividing care, the Court will often keep it that way.

Gaining the benefit of these factors require you to act relatively quickly. However, please remember that each child custody case is unique and the factors mentioned above can often affected by a number of factors.  Therefore, do not take this blog as legal advice and be sure to consult with an attorney.

If you have any questions about child custody, or Family Law in general, we urge you to contact us.  In order to be flexible and convenient, we have open office hours, and easy appointment scheduling. Contact us today and schedule your confidential consultation.

Our law office serves people across the Upstate, South Carolina, including: Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson, Pickens, Laurens, and Oconee counties.