What is the ‘Child’s Best Interest’ Standard, and How Does it Affect Child Custody Cases in South Carolina?

One of the most common ways that divorces become contested is a disagreement between spouses over child custody. The desire to continue to see your child is unlike any other, and most parents naturally want some say in how their child is raised. In other words, parents typically want legal custody as well as physical custody. One of the most important things to know if you have just filed for divorce or are thinking about divorce is the “best interest of the child” legal standard. 

Seventeen Factors of the Child’s Best Interest Standard

SC Code § 63-15-240 lays out 17 individual factors that collectively make up the best interest of the child. Courts generally have quite a bit of discretion when deciding on custody. For instance, many courts often place special emphasis on the status quo; in other words, unless there’s a compelling reason to change where a child has been laying his or her head at night, the court is unlikely to change things up. 

A few of the 17 factors include: 

  • The ability of each parent to understand and meet the needs of the child
  • The child’s preferences (this is given more weight as the child grows older)
  • The wishes of each parent
  • The child’s current and past relationships with each parent, siblings, grandparents, and other close family members that may be pertinent
  • Each parent’s ability to be “actively involved” in the child’s life
  • The stability of each parent’s residence and general home environment
  • Prior domestic violence inflicted on the child or witnessed by the child
  • Any other factors the court deems necessary (this is the 17th and final factor)

How Does the Court Investigate Each Factor?

Before a court hearing in the contested divorce to determine an optimal parenting plan, all parties will need to attend a temporary hearing. At this hearing, the court will issue temporary orders that cover a child’s living arrangements and appoint a guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem will be the child’s representative and is tasked with a fact-finding mission to help recommend and advocate for the child’s best interest. Often an attorney or social worker, guardians ad litem will observe the child in each parent’s residence and conduct interviews with family members and other involved parties. 

Conclusion

When it comes to settling issues of child custody, divorcing spouses have to set aside their contempt for each other and focus on the best interest of their child. While each parent might have their own ideas about what’s truly best for their child, the court’s aim is to determine the best arrangement (singular) for the child. The Brough Law Firm advocates for spouses and parents going through divorce and does everything possible to help clients reach their goals. We’d be happy to discuss your options with you. Reach out through our website to set up a consultation with our legal team today. 

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The Brough Law Firm

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