A recently decided case, Upchurch v. Upchurch, includes a thorough discussion by our Supreme Court of the principles included in establishing and modifying child support in South Carolina.
The key points addressed were:
- Generally, a petition is treated as an action to establish child support if the issue was not addressed previously in the separation agreement or the divorce decree. When child support has been addressed in a prior Order, the petition is considered one for modification.
- It is possible for the issue of child support to be held in abeyance in a divorce decree or incorporated separation agreement. However, notwithstanding any provisions of a separation agreement, the family court retains jurisdiction to do whatever is in the best interest of the children.
- The Family Court may always modify child support upon a proper showing of a change in either the child's needs or the supporting parent's financial ability. The party seeking the modification has the burden to show changed circumstances. In cases where the child support award is based on a settlement agreement, this burden is increased.
- Changes that were within contemplation of the parties at the time the child support was initially determined are not sufficient upon which to base the modification of a child support award.
- General testimony regarding increased expenses, without specific evidentiary support, is an insufficient showing of changed circumstances.
The full text of this case may be read HERE. A discussion of the other aspects of this decision may be found in this post at the South Carolina Appellate Law Blog published by William J. Watkins, Jr. Mr. Watkins' blog is the third legal blog in South Carolina and is well worth tracking.