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Hightailing it with the kid(s)

When I first began practicing family law in the early 1990’s it was a lot easier for mothers (it was typically mothers) to get away with leaving their boyfriends/husbands and removing the children from South Carolina. Rarely would the family courts require the mother to return the children to South Carolina–especially if the mother wasn’t married to or living with the father at the time she left.

When, in 2012, the South Carolina legislature created explicit child custody factors (S.C. Code § 63-15-240) I did not see this legislation as changing the law on custody so much as codifying it. However one area where it appears to have had a large impact is mothers hightailing it with their children. One of the seventeen factors in the new custody statute deals the actions of each parent to encourage the continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, as is appropriate, with this issue explicitly; another deals with it implicitly. Factor sixteen requires the family court to consider “whether one parent has relocated more than one hundred miles from the child’s primary residence in the past year, unless the parent relocated for safety reasons.” Factor six asks the family court or consider “the actions of each parent to encourage the continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, as is appropriate…” Typically when a parent leaves the state with a child that parent is not encouraging a continuing parent-child relationship with the other parent. More often, the family courts are requiring the absconding parent to return to South Carolina. Sometime there are even awarding the other parent custody.

A parent who hightails it out of state with the children needs to demonstrate the necessity of doing so and emphasize any safety concerns the other parent presents.  Failing that, the parent needs to show that the move was beneficial for the children and not simply done to extricate the parent from a failed romantic relationship.  Simply treating the move as a parent’s right to live where he or she wants may result in the absconding parent being asked to return to South Carolina or even losing custody.

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  • California Observer

    Having worried once about being on the receiving end of “hightailing,” this new law seems to me like a good idea, Greg. But your description is uncharacteristically neutral. Do you agree, or do you want to keep your opinion to yourself?

    • I’ll keep my opinion to myself. I represent folks on both sides of this issue and a public opinion would be bad for business. My advice on this issue has changed as I observe the court’s handling of this issue changing.

  • G.

    Factor 16 is a good thing if other states help enforce an order.

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