Both mothers and fathers are required by law to support all of their minor children, whether the children were born during a marriage or out of wedlock. Generally, both parents equally share a duty to support their children, although certain circumstances (usually monetary need and the ability to pay) may cast a greater burden on one parent or the other.
Child support is governed by the “Child Support Guidelines” created by the South Carolina Department of Social Services. These guidelines set a presumptive amount of child support.
A Court may deviate from the presumptive amount of child support, but a deviation must be justified. The factors for deviation from the Guidelines include educational expenses for the children or the spouse, consumer debts of the parents, the percentage of combined income of each parent, the number of children being supported, prior support obligations of either parent for dependants from another relationship, unreimbursed extraordinary medical expenses, day care and health insurance expenses of the children, and any agreements reached between the parties regarding the amount of support.
Child support obligations can be modified where there is a significant change of circumstances, such as where the supporting parent becomes involuntarily unemployed or becomes disabled. Modifications of child support, however, must be made through a subsequent court order.
It is very important that parents who are ordered to pay child support, fully comply with the court order requiring such payment by making the payments in full and on time. A supporting parent’s failure to abide by a court order regarding child support obligations can cause the non-paying parent to be subjected to mandatory wage withholdings or mandatory payment through the family court. A supporting parent who willfully fails to make support payments can be held in contempt of court.
Spousal support is money that one spouse is ordered by the Court to pay for the support of the other spouse when they are no longer living together. Essentially, there is no difference between “alimony” and “separate support and maintenance,” other than the fact that separate support and maintenance is the term used for spousal support in actions for separate support and maintenance, whereas alimony is the term used for spousal support in divorce actions.
There are 5 basic types of alimony: periodic alimony, lump sum alimony, rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony, and alternative forms of alimony that fall under the “other” category.
Periodic alimony is meant to restore a dependent spouse to the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.
Lump sum alimony is a set amount of money to be paid in one installment. Lump sum alimony may also be paid periodically over a period of time.
Rehabilitative alimony, although not frequently awarded, is meant to provide support for additional training to assist a supported spouse in achieving his or her income potential and to enable the supported spouse to be self-supporting.
Reimbursement alimony basically pays one spouse back who made extraordinary contributions during the marriage to enhance the earning potential of the other spouse. An example would be where one spouse works in order to allow the other spouse to obtain an education that allows the spouse to earn more than the spouse otherwise would have been capable of earning.