As many of those with children already know, child support is a payment made from a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent to cover necessary expenses in raising the child. The payment is based on the amount of time each parent spends with the child and the respective incomes of the parents, with some other factors (cost of work-related daycare, health insurance expense, etc.) included. The goal is for each parent to help contribute toward the costs associated with raising a child, which includes not only obvious costs (like food and clothing) but also others that are less obvious (including cost of housing, transportation, etc.).
Most people think that the obligation to pay automatically ends when the child turns eighteen, and while that may be the case, it is not always the case. Without an agreement that says otherwise, the supporting parent's responsibility to provide child support to the child ends when that child is “emancipated” – when he/she is legally deemed self-sufficient. South Carolina Code Section 63-3-530(A)(17) clearly states that child support terminated when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school and that no arrearage may accrue between the date the child support should end and the date of the Court Order ending it.
Generally, a child is emancipated when he or she reaches eighteen or graduates high school, whichever happens last. A child can also be considered emancipated when he or she is married, unless the child is disabled or some other special circumstance exists. In those cases, the duty to provide child support may continue until the disability or special circumstance ends.
An agreement between the parties can require support after the child reaches the age of eighteen and will be enforced by courts as a valid contract. Most of these agreements contain provisions that require support to continue so long as the child are enrolled in school or in situations where the child has a disability or medical problem requiring parental support past the age of eighteen. In South Carolina, courts have the power to require parents to contribute toward the expense of higher education in certain situations.
Support can also extend past your child's eighteenth birthday if the paying parent is behind on what he/she owes. Child support payments that are not made are neither forgotten nor forgiven. Instead, the arrearage continues to be owed until paid, and the failure to pay in a timely manner can result in the paying parent being held in contempt and subject to sanctions (including incarceration). While parents may agree to do so, the Family Court in South Carolina typically has no authority to forgive or reduce arrearage amounts, which means it will have to be paid eventually.
If you find yourself facing the prospect of a child support, child custody, visitation, contempt of court, or other family-related issue, you need the help of an experienced South Carolina family law attorney to guide you through the difficult process. You are invited to contact our attorneys at (864) 598-9172 to schedule an appointment to determine how we can assist you through this process.