South Carolina Parenting Plans (Custody Agreements)

When you and your co-parent divorce or break up, a parenting plan describes how you'll care for your child.

Although your South Carolina custody case can move forward without a parenting plan, the judge usually wants to see one from you.

If you already agree on how you'll co-parent, write a plan together and submit it as a settlement. Otherwise, each parent may make their own proposal. The judge can accept either proposal or combine aspects of both — or reject both and choose how you must parent.

Even though you can't predict everything that will happen in years to come, many conflicts are avoidable by thinking ahead. Keep the focus on what's best for your child.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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Choosing a template

You can hire a lawyer to write a parenting plan for you. If you're writing a plan yourself, you can use South Carolina's parenting plan form, another form recommended by the judge, or an app like Custody X Change. The Custody X Change parenting plan template lets you choose from more than 140 common provisions. You can personalize it and print it for court.

What goes in a parenting plan

A parenting plan describes legal custody (i.e., who makes major decisions about the child) and physical custody (i.e., who cares for the child day-to-day). It includes a visitation schedule describing vacations, holidays and birthdays.

Personalize your plan to fit your situation. Especially when you and your co-parent agree on the details and it serves your child's best interests, South Carolina judges generally allow you to choose what works for you.

If you're pursuing a no-fault divorce in South Carolina, you must live separately for one year before you file, during which you probably get a good idea of what co-parenting arrangements do and don't work for you.

Be detailed

Try to get specific on issues that matter to you. For example: Do you think of Thanksgiving as just one day or as a four-day weekend? At what hour does it begin and end? Will you offer makeup parenting time if Thanksgiving interrupts a parent's usual visitation?

Be fair

Even if you and your co-parent agree on a parenting plan, it needs to treat both parents fairly. The judge pays extra-close attention to fairness if one of you has a lawyer and the other doesn't.

Think ahead

Even if you and the other parent aren't fighting, try to anticipate where you may not see eye-to-eye someday.

Typical provisions

Parents often specify when they can introduce their new romantic partners to the child. In South Carolina, it's known as a paramour clause. If your ex finds a new partner, should your child call them "Mom" or "Dad" — or by their first name? If you find a new partner, should your ex have similar expectations for what your child calls them?

It's also common in South Carolina to specify how you'll discipline the child.

Religion is an important topic between co-parents. Do you expect your child to be raised in a particular religion — or no religion at all? Say whether you're each allowed to give the child religious instruction, and set expectations for milestones like baptism. You can specify congregations your child should or shouldn't attend.

Other provisions to consider

Your parenting plan can include:

  • When you'll put your toddler to bed (or if you'll follow your pediatrician's advice)
  • Whether one parent must bring the child to activities the other parent signed them up for

You can add your expectations for behavior, communication and cooperation with your co-parent (as long as it relates to parenting) like:

  • How you'll handle emergencies, such as hurricane evacuations or pandemic lockdowns
  • Whether you can drink a beer during your parenting time

While your case will address child support, the topic isn't usually covered in a South Carolina parenting plan. Instead, you can use your plan to describe how you'll pay for costs not covered by child support — for example, buying your teenager their own car.

If you agree on how you'll pay for your child's health insurance or college tuition after they turn 18, put that in your parenting plan too. Although the court can't force either of you to pay for an adult child against your wishes, the promises you voluntarily sign today may be enforceable years later.

Anything you expect to be important to your child — and to be a potential issue between you and your co-parent — can go in your parenting plan.

Submitting and presenting your plan

You don't need to submit a parenting plan on the day you open your case, but you should have one as soon as possible. It shows the judge what outcome you'd like. Follow the court's instructions about when and how to file or present it.

If you agree on a parenting plan and all other issues in your case, you may be able to skip to the end of the court process to have your parenting plan approved at a final hearing.

Otherwise, the judge will likely want to see a plan at the temporary hearing, usually held two to six weeks after your case is opened. Take this hearing seriously and go in prepared. There, the judge will issue an order that you'll have to follow until you either settle or have your trial. It tends to become the new baseline for your ongoing negotiations.

If your case goes on for months, you and your co-parent will probably be required to go to mediation. Bring your proposed parenting plan to mediation so you have a reference point from which to negotiate.

You'll also need an updated parenting plan for your final hearing, where the judge either approves your settlement or presides over your trial.

The easiest way to make a parenting plan

When you're writing a parenting plan, it's critical you use airtight language that leaves no room for interpretation. You must also be careful not to omit any information required by the court.

If you hire a lawyer, they'll write up the plan and ensure it meets the judge's expectations.

If you write your own plan, use technology to take guesswork out of the equation. The parenting plan template in the Custody X Change online app walks you through each step.

The result is a professional document that demonstrates your competence as a parent from the first glance.

The easiest and most reliable way to make a parenting plan is with Custody X Change.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

Make My South Carolina Plan Now

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