Like many South Carolina parents, the thought of divorcing your spouse may fill you with concern about what will happen to your children. You may have heard stories about painful custody battles or read about parents who lost custody and had to settle for a few scheduled visitation hours throughout the month.
Fortunately, the family courts are more open to maintaining the strong bond the child may have with both parents. Nevertheless, to maximize the chances of winning shared parenting rights during custody proceedings, there are factors you should consider.
Improving your chances of gaining custody
You may be a wonderful, caring parent, but a court may still rule that the children are better off with the other parent. For example, if your job requires you to travel many days a week or if your residence is in a neighborhood that will expose the children to crime and violence, a judge may find it in their best interests if your former spouse has physical custody and you have visitation rights. A safe living environment is one factor the court will consider. Other factors include these:
- Are you mentally and physically healthy?
- Do you have a strong relationship with your children?
- Are you willing to encourage your children to build and sustain a positive relationship with your former spouse?
- Are the children spending regular time with you since you and your spouse separated?
- Do your children who are older than age 12 prefer to live with one parent over the other?
It may go without saying that any evidence or reports of violence toward the children or your spouse may jeopardize your petition for custody. If such accusations or charges exist, the court may require you to demonstrate that you are no longer a threat to the safety of the children or your former spouse. This may include restrictions on the use of drugs and alcohol and participation in counseling. You may be prohibited from visiting with the children overnight.
What’s best for all involved?
Despite the common misconceptions about child custody decisions, you may not be able to predict how a judge will rule. While the courts rightfully seek to protect the best interests of the child, by negotiating with your former spouse, you may be able to reach an agreement that is in everyone’s best interests. For guidance and advice in this area, a family law attorney who is knowledgeable in South Carolina custody laws can be a helpful advocate.