Does Religion Play a Party in a Custody Case in South Carolina?

Will the Court take my religious faith into consideration when awarding custody?

South Carolina law (S.C. Code §63-15-20) does require the court when placing the child in the custody of an individual or a private agency, whenever practicable, to select a person of the same religious faith of the child. In the case where there is a difference in the religious faith of the parents then the court must look at the religious faith of the child. If the religious faith of the child is not ascertainable, then the faith of either parent shall be considered.

Rhett D. Burney

Attorney at Law

How to Increase Your Social Security Benefit When You Are Divorced

Can I Claim My Ex-Spouses Social Security Record?

If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record (even if they have remarried) if:

1) You are unmarried;

2) You are age 62 or older;

3) Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and

4) The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.

Note: Your benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount (or disability benefit) if you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age. The benefits do not include any delayed retirement credits your ex-spouse may receive.

If you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment).

If your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on their record if you have been divorced for at least two years.

If you are eligible for retirement benefits on your own record and divorced spouse’s benefits, we will pay the retirement benefit first. If the benefit on your ex-spouse’s record is higher, you will get an additional amount on your ex-spouse’s record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.

Note: If you were born before January 2, 1954 and have already reached full retirement age, you can choose to receive only the divorced spouse’s benefit and delay receiving your retirement benefit until a later date. If your birthday is January 2, 1954 or later, the option to take only one benefit at full retirement age no longer exists.  If you file for one benefit, you will be effectively filing for all retirement or spousal benefits

If you continue to work while receiving benefits, the retirement benefit earnings limit still applies. If you are eligible for benefits this year and are still working, you can use our earnings test calculator to see how those earnings would affect your benefit payments.

If you will also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as government work, your Social Security benefit on your ex-spouse’s record may be affected.

Note: The amount of benefits you get has no effect on the amount of benefits your ex-spouse or their current spouse may receive.

Courtesy of the Social Security Administration.  Click Here for More Info. Or go to https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/divspouse.html

Rhett D. Burney
Attorney at Law

What is not considered “Gross Income” when calculating child support in South Carolina?

In determining child support “gross income” does not include:

  1. Benefits received from Means – Tested Public Assistance Programs, such as temporary assistance to needy families (TANF), Supplemental Security income (SSI), food stamps and general assistance;
  2. Income derived by other household members; and/or
  3. In-kind income; however, the court should count as income expense reimbursements as in-kind payments received by a parent from self-employment or operation of the business if they are significant and reduce personal living expenses, such as a company car or reimbursement of meals.

-Source The South Carolina Child Support Guidelines

Rhett Burney
Attorney at Law

Can the court consider account assets or other assets in determining child support?

The court can look at any asset which is available and which can potentially generate income for child support. The South Carolina Child Support Guidelines gives this example: the court may determine the reasonable earning potential of any asset at its fair market value and assess against it the current treasury bill interest-rate or some other similar appropriate method of computing income. In other words. If someone has $100,000.00 in a bank account earning .001% interest, the court could impute the current treasury bill interest-rate to the $100,000 for the determining child support. The court can also look at an asset, such as a vacation home or idle land which is not being rented, and include such potential income for that property as well.

Rhett Burney
Attorney at Law

Does the family court in South Carolina use a person’s net or gross income in determining child support?

The court uses gross income in determining child support. However, the court should consider whether a parent is employed to full capacity, or the potential income of the party if they are unemployed or underemployed. According to the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines, “gross income” includes income from any source including salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, rents (less allowable business expenses), dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, Social Security benefits (but not Supplemental Social Security income), workers compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, veterans benefits and alimony, including alimony received as a result of another marriage and alimony which a party receives as a result of the current litigation.

-Source The South Carolina Child Support Guidelines

Rhett Burney
Attorney at Law

What Are Some Reasons for Deviating from the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines?

The child support guidelines do not take into account the economic impact of the following factors which can be possible reasons for deviation.

  1. Educational expenses for the children or the parent (i.e., those incurred for private, parochial, or trade schools, other secondary schools, post secondary education where there is tuition a related cost);
  2. Equitable distribution of property;
  3. Consumer debts;
  4. Families with more than six children;
  5. Unreimbursed extraordinary medical/dental expenses for the parent, or extraordinary travel expenses for court ordered visitation;
  6. Mandatory deduction of retirement pensions and union fees;
  7. Child related unreimbursed extraordinary medical expenses;
  8. Monthly fixed payments imposed by court or operation of law;
  9. Significant available income of the children (i.e. the Olson Twins or Justin Bieber);
  10. Substantial disparity of the parent’s income;
  11. Alimony;
  12. Agreements reached by the parties if both parents are represented by a lawyer or if, not represented by counsel, the court determines a party fully understands the agreement as to child support.

The court still has the discretion and independent duty to determine if the amount is reasonable and in the best interest of the child(ren).

-Source The South Carolina Child Support Guidelines

Remember that deviation from the South Child Support Guidelines is the exception rather than the rule.

Rhett Burney
Attorney at Law