How to Calculate Child Support Payments in South Carolina

Learn how to calculate child support in South Carolina, when the amount of support may be different than the calculated amount, and how to apply for, collect, and modify child support.

By , Legal Editor

How to Use the South Carolina Child Support Calculator

To calculate the estimated amount of support in your case, you can use the official South Carolina Child Support Calculator. (When you're filling in dollar amounts, round to the nearest dollar and don't use a dollar sign ($) or commas.)

You'll need to have some basic information on hand before doing the calculations, including:

  • what your physical custody (parenting time) arrangements will be
  • each parent's income (including alimony payments received from the other parent, which is deducted from the paying parent's income)
  • child support being paid for children from a previous relationship
  • alimony being paid to a previous spouse
  • the cost of health insurance premiums for the child, as well as the child's recurring, unreimbursed medical care
  • your expenses for work-related child care, and
  • the child care tax credit claimed on either parent's taxes.

When you have shared custody (meaning that each parent has the children for more than 109 overnights during the year), you'll need to know the exact number of overnight visits with each parent. With split custody (meaning that each of the parents has custody of at least one of their children), you'll simply fill in the number of kids living with each parent. If you're still negotiating issues like custody and alimony, you might try multiple calculations under different scenarios.

For details on what is and is not included in income, you can find a link to the latest version of the guidelines on the South Carolina Department of Social Services' Child Support page.

When Child Support May Be Different Than the Guideline Calculation

South Carolina presumes that the amount calculated under the guidelines is the correct amount in any case. But a judge may order a different amount of support if the guideline amount would be unjust or inappropriate, based on your particular circumstances. When deciding whether that's the case, the judge must consider certain factors that could be possible reasons for deviating from the guidelines, including:

  • educational expenses for a child or the parents
  • extraordinary, unreimbursed medical expenses for a child or either parent
  • a parent's legal obligation to support other dependents living in the household
  • the parents' debts
  • assets the parents received from the property division in their divorce
  • alimony awarded in the divorce—which, because it might be in the form of a lump sum or reimbursement, wouldn't necessarily be considered ongoing income in the support calculation
  • whether the noncustodial parent earns so much less than the custodial parent that it wouldn't be practicable to pay the guideline amount of support
  • whether a parent is required to pay union dues or mandatory pension contributions, and
  • whether a child has significant, independent income.

A judge may also allow a deviation from the guidelines when the parents have agreed to a different amount, but only if they both have attorneys or the judge has thoroughly questioned them to make sure they understand the consequences of the agreement. Even then, the judge has the right to look at the evidence to decide whether the agreed amount is reasonable and is in the children's best interests. (S.C. Code § 63-17-470 (2024).)

How to Apply for Child Support in South Carolina

Typically, you'll apply for child support as part of the process of filing for divorce in South Carolina. Outside of the divorce context, you may get help with requesting support by applying for child support services with the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS). You'll need to register an account before you can login and submit your application online. If needed, the DSS may also help with establishing the child's legal paternity and locating absent parents.

How to Collect Child Support in South Carolina

If you're having trouble collecting support payments, you can also apply for services from the South Carolina DSS to get help enforcing your order. Depending on how much the other parent owes, the agency has several ways of enforcing child support, including:

  • withholding support from paychecks
  • reporting the debt to credit bureaus
  • intercepting income tax refunds
  • intercepting workers' compensation or unemployment benefits
  • seizing money from bank accounts
  • placing liens on property (so the delinquent parent can't sell it or borrow money before paying off the debt)
  • suspending the delinquent parent's driver's or other licenses, and
  • filing a court proceeding to have the delinquent parent found in contempt of court, which could lead to a fine or even jail time.

How to Change the Amount of Child Support

Either parent may request a change in the existing amount of child support. You have two different ways of requesting a change:

  • filing a motion directly with the court, or
  • mailing a written request to the South Carolina DSS by certified mail.

Either way, you'll need to provide evidence demonstrating that there's been a change in circumstances that wasn't expected when the existing order was issued, and that affects the child's needs or the noncustodial parent's ability to pay support. When a judge is deciding whether you've met the changed-circumstances requirements, the judge may consider the same factors (listed above) that go into decisions about deviating from the guidelines. (S.C. §§ 63-17-320, 63-17-470, 63-17-830 (2024); Upchurch v. Upchurch, 624 S.E.2d 643 (S.C. 2006).)

Every three years, parents may ask the DSS to review their child support orders to see if they're entitled to a modification, based on their current financial circumstances.

Unless the DSS is handling your modification request through an administrative process, you should consider speaking with a family law attorney who can help navigate the court process and gather the kind of evidence you'll need to convince a judge that a modification is required in your case.

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