Modifying a child custody arrangement can be complicated under even the best of circumstances. Many times, the parent seeking the modification may simply submit a request to the other parent. When the other parent does not agree, the parent seeking the custody modification will typically then take the matter to court.
South Carolina courts will consider modification of a child custody order only if the parent requesting the custody modification is able to prove a substantial and material change in circumstances has taken place since the parties were last in court. Only after the court has been satisfied that the change in circumstances is both substantial and material will it then consider what is in the best interest of the child. The reason for this process is to prevent constant back and forth motions to change custody, which would be destabilizing for the children. It also helps prevent the court from becoming overburdened with frequent and repetitive modification requests between disagreeable parents.
One such substantial and material change would include the custodial parent attempting to relocate far enough away that the move will impact the child's life. Some courts will switch custody from one parent to the other, although the increasingly common approach is to encourage the parents to work out a plan under which both parents may continue to have significant contact with their children.
Another change that can prompt a modification is a significant change in the lifestyle of the custodial parent which the other parent believes will adversely affect the child. For instance, if the custodial parent finds a new job that has longer working hours or leaves the child alone for long periods of time, the court may consider modifying custody. Also, if one parent begins drinking heavily, taking drugs, or engaging in other dangerous activities, the other parent may be able to obtain a custody modification. Another basis for seeking a modification could include the custodial parent being repeatedly held in contempt of court for violating the existing order. In the end, what amounts to a substantial enough change to warrant a revision varies greatly depending on your facts, your jurisdiction, and even your particular judge.
If you find yourself facing the prospect of a child custody, visitation, or support issue, you need the help of an experienced South Carolina family law attorney to guide you through the difficult process.