One of the most important decisions involved when a couple decides to go through the process of ending their marriage is what will happen to their children. Under most circumstances, keeping both parents actively engaged in their children’s lives is considered a priority. For parents without custody, this is accomplished through the granting of visitation rights.
Before visitation is considered, a custody determination must be made. Under South Carolina law, the court, as part of determining the best interest of the child, takes into consideration the child’s reasonable preference as to custody. The amount of weight placed on the preference depends upon the child’s age, experience, maturity, judgment, and ability to communicate a preference.
Additionally, both parents prepare and file with the court a parenting plan, which addresses many issues related to the children. One of those issues includes parenting time to be spent with each parent. The final custody determination made by the court is based on the best interest of the child following consideration of all evidence presented. The court can award joint or sole custody, but, regardless of the custody determination, the court can allocate parenting time that is in the best interest of the child.
If the court orders sole custody, the custodial parent should allow a minor child to speak by phone or electronic means with the noncustodial parent if it is determined by the court to be in the best interest of the child. However, these opportunities should not be allowed if there has been abuse, neglect or abandonment. Similarly, under joint custody arrangements, the parent with the child should allow for opportunities for phone or electronic communication with the other parent.
An important consideration is that visitation can still be permitted to a person who has committed domestic violence. This is possible if the court determines that there will be adequate provisions for the safety of the child and the victim (or victims) of domestic violence. Some of the provisions the court may order include, but are not limited to:
That the exchange of the child takes place in a protected setting
Visitation occurs only when supervised by another person or agency
The person who committed domestic violence completes an intervention program or other designated counseling
The person who committed domestic violence does not consume alcohol or use controlled substances during the visitation period or for 24 hours prior to visitation
A prohibition on overnight visitation
Help with Family Law Issues
The process of divorce is often a highly stressful situation for couples. But, even in this difficult time, it is likely that a divorcing couple will still want to provide what is best for their children. Custody and visitation decisions are critically important in helping children involved in a divorce transition as smoothly as possible. For more information about any aspect of divorce, contact an experienced family law attorney today. At the Surasky Law Firm, LLC, we provide compassionate help during divorce and look forward to hearing from you.