There is nothing more important than being able to spend time with your children. If you are married when you are contesting custody and the child was born during the marriage both parties start with equal rights to the child. However, if the mother is not married, then she has sole custody by statute until determined otherwise by the family after an order establishing paternity.
If there is an existing final custody determination, then the party wishing to modify the order must show a change in circumstances that warrants changing the order of the court. In determining who to award custody to, the court will look to the best interest of the child and consider the factors listed in S.C. Code Section 63-15-240. The Court in making its decision will also take into account the report of a Guardian Ad Litem who is appointed to look after the best interest of the child. The Court will also set a visitation schedule as well as child support for the non-custodial parent.
In most contested custody cases, there will be a temporary hearing or a hearing pendente lite (latin for pending litigation). Evidence at this hearing is presented through sworn affidavits and the Judge's decision will be the order governing the case until a final hearing, which can take many months and sometimes a year to hold. Make sure you are prepared to fight.