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What Does a Judge Consider When Making a Decision About Custody?

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In South Carolina, the judge must first determine what is in the child’s best interest when deciding which party will have custody. In determining what is in the child’s best interest, the court can look at:

  • the temperament and developmental needs of the child;
  • the capacity and the disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child;
  • the preferences of each child;
  • the wishes of the parents as to custody;
  • the past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child’s siblings, and any other person, including a grandparent, who may significantly affect the best interest of the child;
  • the actions of each parent to encourage the continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, as is appropriate, including compliance with court orders;
  • the manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents’ dispute;
  • any effort by one parent to disparage the other parent in front of the child;
  • the ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child;
  • the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community environments;
  • the stability of the child’s existing and proposed residences;
  • the mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability of a proposed custodial parent or another party, in and of itself, must not be determinative of custody unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interest of the child;
  • the child’s cultural and spiritual background;
  • whether the child or a sibling of the child has been abused or neglected;
  • whether one parent has perpetrated domestic violence or child abuse or the effect on the child of the actions of an abuser if any domestic violence has occurred between the parents or between a parent and another individual or between the parent and the child;
  • whether one parent has relocated more than one hundred miles from the child’s primary residence in the past year unless the parent relocated for safety reasons; and
  • other factors as the court consider necessary.

-S.C. Code of Laws, Sec. 63-15-240

Of course, every case has different facts which will affect how a judge will decide a case.  The best course to take is to schedule an appointment with an attorney to discuss all of your facts, so you will have a better understanding of what to expect in court

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