Since 2004, South Carolina’s courts have dealt with the issue of custodial parent relocation with the minor children in a balanced and child centered approach. For almost 20 years, from 1982 to 2004, South Carolina had a legal presumption against allowing a custodial parent to relocate out of state with the minor child(ren), based on the case of McAlister v. Patterson. In McAllister, the South Carolina Supreme Court created a legal decision making schema wherein the trial court is to focus on the minor child’s best interest.
Indeed, the state Supreme Court had it right when it recognized that relocation cases are one of the most difficult cases that family courts deal with. The new analysis that courts must apply is that the non-custodial parent must first show a change in circumstances. Following this threshold showing, the noncustodial parent must then show that a change in custody is required. The change in circumstances cannot be a change solely affecting the noncustodial parent or even the custodial parent for that matter; it must be a change that affects the minor child and it must be substantial. Since 2004 the courts have used various criteria to appropriately measure both of these standards. South Carolina trial courts look to factors delineated in other states’ reported opinions. Courts weigh things such as the parent’s reason(s) for seeking or opposing relocation, the relationship between the children and each parent, the impact that relocation will have on the relationship with the non-custodial parent and the opportunity for a realistic substitute visitation arrangement that will encourage an ongoing relationship between the child(ren) and non-custodial parent. The list is not exhaustive.
The South Carolina legislature also made sure that it spoke on the topic. In particular, it required that a trial court cannot enter an order barring a custodial parent from leaving the state, except in compelling circumstances. This law was enacted subsequent to Latimer v. Farmer. More importantly, this law means that the custodial parent can pack up and leave without any interference from a trial court. Experienced legal counsel can help to prevent this from happening, to insure that the decision is based on the children’s best interest.
If you are looking to relocate and have a custody order in effect or are looking to make sure that your child remains in South Carolina, you need an experienced and compassionate lawyer. Attorney William Mayer, located in Laurens, South Carolina can help. If you or a loved one is dealing with any family law matter and would like to speak with an attorney, William Mayer can be reached at (864) 984-9202. To leave a simple legal inquiry or to setup an appointment, contact us here.