Child Support South Carolina

Child Support SC

Calculating Child Support in South Carolina

South Carolina uses the Shares Model in determining child support obligations. The Shares Model was developed by the Child Support Guidelines Project of the National Center for State Courts. The Shares Model includes research into the economic expenses of raising a child and applies a concept that a child should receive the same proportion of parental income that they would receive if the parents lived together.

As soon as the court determines the custody arrangements, child support can be calculated. The court will determine how much child support will be paid if any, and to whom it will be paid. The Department of Social Services provides a calculator on their website to assist in estimating the amount of child support that may be ordered. There are a number of circumstances that can cause modifications to the amount of child support the calculator will show.

Child Support Factors SC

Child support is awarded based on the following factors:

  • Income of each parent
  • Type of Custody ordered
  • Number of children the support covers
  • Number of other children each parent is supporting
  • Any alimony obligations to prior spouses either parent is required to pay
  • Number of other children being supported by each parent
  • Other factors that justify a judge modifying the calculated amount of child support

SC Custody Impact on Child Support

There are different types of custody arrangements. The parents may agree to a specific type on their own, using arbitration or mediation, or, if they are unable to reach an agreement, the court will decide for them. Sole, shared, and split custody are the most common. Nesting is a modified form of shared custody that some parents are adopting.

  • Sole
  • If shared, number of nights each parent has the child each year
  • Split
  • Nesting

The chart below illustrates how the amount of child support varies based on how many nights per year a child is with a specific parent. Sole custody results in higher child support in many cases. When the lesser earning parent has the children most of the nights, shared custody can result in a substantial increase in the child support awarded.

child support SC table

A professional Family Law attorney can help you estimate the amount of support you would receive or pay under various arrangements before you submit a Parenting Plan.

Parents who share custody keep track of whether each parent has the child the number of nights the agreement is based upon. The judge may or may not approve a parenting plan as submitted. The judge has some leeway in the amount of child support ordered.

Child Support for Low-Income Families

When the supporting parent’s income is very low, the court will generally order some level of support while leaving the supporting parent money to live on. There are a couple of different philosophies behind this including:

  • Requiring a minimal level of support reinforces the idea that the parent has a responsibility toward his or her child
  • Awarding enough child support to actually provide the for the child while leaving the parent without enough money to live on removes the supporting parent’s motivation to work
  • Job training may be provided to assist the supporting parent in raising his or her standard of living and ability to provide for his or her children.

Child Support: Determining the Amount

The amount of child support awarded can be determined in a number of different ways including:

• Negotiated by the parents and approved by the court

• A form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) such as binding or non-binding mediation or arbitration

• The Family Law Court decides the amount using a calculator that follows guidelines outlined in SC § 43-5-580(b) or a modified amount due to factors the calculator does not take into consideration.

Child Support: Calculated Amount

A different amount than the calculator determines may be awarded when the calculated result would be unjust or inappropriate. When the court varies significantly from the calculated amount it must specify the facts that led to the court’s decision. Variations in the calculated amount may be made as the result of the following factors because the calculator does not take them into consideration:

  • Educational expenses for the child or children or the spouse, including those incurred for private, parochial, or trade schools, or other secondary schools, or post-secondary education where there is tuition or related costs.
  • Equitable distribution of property
  • Consumer debts
  • Families with more than six children
  • Unreimbursed extraordinary medical or dental expenses for the noncustodial or custodial parent
  • Mandatory deduction of retirement pensions and union fees
  • Support obligations for other dependents living with the noncustodial parent or non-court ordered child support from another relationship
  • Child-related unreimbursed extraordinary medical expenses
  • Monthly fixed payments imposed by a court or operation of law
  • When the child has a significant available income of their own
  • Substantial parity of income in which the noncustodial parent’s income is significantly less than the custodial parent’s income, thus making it financially impractical to pay what the guidelines indicate the noncustodial parent should pay
  • Alimony; because of their unique nature, lump sum, rehabilitative, reimbursement, or other alimony that the court may award, may be considered by the court as a possible reason for deviation from these guidelines
  • Agreements reached between parties; the court may deviate from the guidelines based on an agreement between the parties if both parties are represented by counsel. Alternatively, if upon a thorough examination of any party not represented by counsel, the court determines the party fully understands the agreement as to child support. The court still has the discretion and the independent duty to determine if the amount is reasonable and in the best interest of the child.

Child Support: Health Care Expenses and Insurance

The court can order one or both parents to provide health insurance for the child. The parent with access, at a reasonable cost, to the most comprehensive coverage should provide coverage. The cost of the child’s insurance is determined by subtracting the cost of coverage for self only coverage from the premium for the coverage. That amount will be a credit against the child support obligation if the premium is paid by the supporting spouse. If the premium is paid by the spouse receiving support, the amount of support will be increased.

The Shares Model assumes the parent to whom support is owed will be responsible for up to $250.00 per year (per child) of uninsured medical expenses including co-pays, over-the-counter medicines, and similar expenses. Reasonable and necessary uninsured medical expenses in excess of the $250.00 per year shall be divided in pro rata percentages based on the proportional share of the parents.

If the parents do not agree on reasonable and necessary expenses, such as orthodontia and professional counseling, the court will make a determination.

Purposes of Child Support

Under the Shares Model, child support should cover far more than the basics if the parents’ income would normally provide more than the basics.

Child Support: Monthly Amount

  • Shelter
  • Food, including food consumed at home and away from home
  • Clothing
  • School fees
  • Transportation (not related to visitation)
  • Utilities
  • Household goods (appliances, linens, floor coverings, and housewares)
  • Recreation including entertainment
  • Ordinary health care
  • Extracurricular activities

Child Care

The monthly amount does not include expenditures for child care. An additional amount to pay a portion of child care expenses (up to 100%) may be awarded.

Child Support: Gifts and Savings

Child support is not intended or calculated to cover gifts or savings.

Special or Additional Amounts

In some cases, the court will award payment for college expenses, even after the child reaches age 18.

Child Support: What “Income” Counts in the Calculation?

  • The actual gross income of the parent if the parent is employed to his or her full earning capacity
  • If the parent is unemployed or underemployed, the parent’s potential income is used
    • When a parent is voluntarily unemployed, or underemployed, the court can impute potential income based on the parent’s recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing job opportunities and earning levels in the community.
    • If a parent does not work to care for young or handicapped children, potential income may not be included
    • Rehabilitative alimony may be used to help an unemployed or underemployed parent achieve their potential earning capacity
  • Gross income includes:
    • Salaries
    • Wages
    • Commissions
    • Royalties
    • Bonuses
    • Rents (net)
    • Dividends
    • Severance pay
    • Pensions
    • Interest
    • Trust income
    • Annuity income
    • Capital gains
    • Social Security benefits (not SSI Income)
    • Workers’ compensation benefits
    • Unemployment insurance benefits
    • Veterans’ benefits
    • Alimony
    • Imputed income of non-income earning assets

    For example, a family vacation home that could be rented out when the family is not using it but is not being used in that way has a “reasonable earning potential.”

Child Support Calculation: Exclusions from Gross Income

  • Benefits from means-tested public assistance programs
  • Income of other household members
  • In-kind income unless they reduce the parents’ living expenses (i.e. a company car, free housing, or reimbursed meals)

Self-Employment Income

The court will evaluate the finances of the business in detail and may determine and apply an amount that is different from the amount used for business income tax purposes.

Child Support Calculation: Child Care Expenses

The cost of daycare the parent incurs due to employment, or the search for employment, will be added to the basic obligation after considering any tax credits.

Child Support: Shared Physical Custody

Shared physical custody assumes that each parent has court-ordered overnight visitation with the child for more than 109 nights per year. If one parent does not take physical custody as ordered by the court during a one-year period (has the child fewer nights), the parent to whom support is owed may petition the court for an adjustment reflecting the actual number of nights that overnight visitation occurred.

Child Support: Split Custody

Split custody is an arrangement where there are two or more children and each parent has custody of one or more of the children. In a split custody arrangement, the amount of child support that would be owed for each child is calculated and the amounts are offset to determine the child support obligation, if any. If the parents’ incomes and the number of children each parent takes custody of are very similar there may not be a child support obligation.

Temporary order for support pending paternity

Child support can be ordered pending a determination of parentage if:

  • The defendant signed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity
  • The defendant has been determined to be the parent based on the prevailing laws
  • There is other clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is the child’s parent

Child Support: Grandparent Responsibility

When a minor is the mother or father of a child, the Child Support Enforcement Division of the State Department of Social Services may pursue support and maintenance for that child from one or both of the child’s maternal and paternal grandparents as long as the parent of the child is under eighteen years of age.


 Willful failure to pay child support can result in penalties, loss of privileges and licenses, fines, and incarceration.


South Carolina Department of Social Services. (2014 Edition). South Carolina Child Support Guidelines.

Call    (877) 351-1513