SC Child Support Guidelines and Shared Parenting

Section 4.1 of the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines states that “[f]or the purpose of this section, shared physical custody means that each parent has court-ordered visitation with the children overnight for more than 109 overnights each year (30%) AND that both parents contribute to the expenses of the child(ren) in addition to the payment of child support.”  It seams clear that simply crossing the 109 overnight threshold should not be sufficient in itself to warrant reduced child support.  My recent experience, however, has taught me to be very leery (and breakout the calculator) when advising my client whether or not to consent to an extra few nights of visitation per year for the non-custodial parent.      My client has her children 249 nights per year and they are with their father 116 nights (31.8% or just 7 nights over the threshold).  It is not, however, an arrangement in which both parents are actually functioning as custodial parents, contributing fairly to the expenses of their children.  The Defendant’s expenses have not increased as they would in a true shared custody arrangement.  At the temporary hearing, the judge acknowledged that the guidelines don’t necessary work in this situation but stated that we are bound by them and calculated child support using Worksheet C, resulting in the payment being roughly $350 a month less.      For me, this was one of those days that you return to your office from court shaking your head.  For my client, however, it was an even harder pill to swallow.  When she agreed to an extra 7 nights of visitation, she was trying to be “fair” and encourage the Defendant’s relationship with his children.  Merely having 7 extra nights with his children each year should not have substantially relieved him of his duty to pay child support.   This begs the question – is it in the best interest of the child to participate in settlement discussions regarding visitation not only with a calendar but a calculator in hand?

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