How is child support calculated?
The calculation of child support in South Carolina is done pursuant to the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines.
With some exceptions, these Guidelines are ultimately reduced to a formula. This formula is used to calculate support, with input regarding each parents’ gross monthly incomes, the cost of the child’s health insurance, and cost of work-related daycare (along with some smaller details). The application of the formula to these variables results in a monthly child support figure.
Disputes regarding child support generally center around the income figures used to calculate support. Some parents will go to great lengths in an effort to deflate his or her income to affect the child support calculation.
If you have an issue with child support, or suspect that the numbers used to calculate support are incorrect, please contact a Charleston child support lawyer immediately.
For your convenience, we have included a link to an online support calculator on our “Links” tab, above.
Can I have my child support increased or decreased?
As a general rule, child support can always be modified upon a showing of a “substantial change in circumstances.”
Whether a particular set of circumstances represents a “substantial change” is a frequently litigated issue.
Some things that may qualify as “changed circumstances”:
- Unanticipated and extraordinary medical expenses incurred on behalf of the child.
- A substantial increase or involuntary decrease in a parent’s income.
- A parent being called into active duty; or
- The remarriage of one parent, couple with an increased standard of living.
It is important to note that this list is far from exhaustive, and even under circumstances described above, a court may be unwilling to modify support (particularly to reduce it).
A fuller, complete examination of your particular facts and circumstances by an experienced Charleston child support lawyer is needed to provide definitive answers.
My ex is in arrears. How do I enforce my support order against him/her?
The enforcement of a child support order is accomplished by what is called a “Rule to Show Cause,” or RTSC. The purpose of a RTSC is to have the non-paying parent held in civil contempt of court for his/her failure to pay.
In order to be held in contempt of court, the payee must show that the payor has “willfully failed” to abide by the support order, meaning that the payor has no legal excuse for the failure to pay. The most common excuse is an “inability to pay,” meaning the payor has been rendered unable to pay support due to some financial circumstances outside of his/her control, i.e., involuntary unemployment, etc. If the court accepts this legal excuse, it is likely that the payor will simply be ordered to pay a monthly sum toward the arrearage in addition to the ongoing monthly support.
If a judge finds that the failure to pay is indeed willful, the court has a number of options at its disposal. The most common is that the payor is jailed immediately, and released only upon a substantial payment toward the arrearage and any attorney’s fees and costs. If the payor is gainfully employed, the judge may require work release, meaning the payor goes to work every day and goes back to jail at night, contributing his/her earnings to the support arrearage (update: work release has become such an uncommon result that it likely should no longer be considered a possible outcome).
As mentioned above, if a payee is successful in having the payor held in contempt, the payor is almost certain to be required to reimburse the payee for all of his/her attorney’s fees and costs. If you wish to pursue collection or are currently in arrears, you would be best advised to consult with a Charleston child support lawyer immediately.
My ex has reduced his work to part-time to keep his/her support obligation as low as possible, what can I do?
This circumstance is surprisingly common.
In general, child support is calculated using the gross monthly incomes of both parents, either actual or imputed. Imputed income is another frequently litigated issue. A parent cannot deliberately set about reducing his/her income in an effort to reduce support obligations. Common means of reducing income include cutting back hours, taking a low-wage, low-stress job, or living off of the income of an affluent new spouse. If a judge finds that that parent is “voluntarily underemployed,” that judge may calculate support based on the parent’s earning potential.
Good-faith reductions in income generally will not meet the standard of “voluntary underemployment.” For example, a parent who leaves a job to start a business, which predictably struggles in the early years, will not have income imputed to him/her if he/she is demonstrably trying to make a better life. Likewise, a parent who has reached retirement age may not have income imputed when he/she begins living off of a reduced, fixed income.
Every set of circumstances is unique, and there are many shades of gray at play in this issue, so always consult with a Charleston child support lawyer regarding an imputed income issue.