When going through a divorce, you may fear how a custody dispute could undermine the values you want to instill in your child — especially when the other parent or guardian does not share your worldview. But South Carolina law pays considerable attention to the cultural and religious attachments of children and families when making custody decisions.

A court will give preference to family religious affiliations and cultural identities whenever possible in the best interest of the child, but you do have options to exercise greater control in a custody outcome.

Types of custody

Two major decisions constitute custody arrangements: Whether you will have joint custody or sole custody, and how you will divide physical and legal custody. Legal custody relates to primary decision-making power about how you raise your child while physical custody relates to where he or she resides. Religious and cultural values can fall under both of these, but a primary legal custodian will essentially have veto power on most value disputes.

When deciding custody, a court will pay particular attention to cultural and religious attachments a child or family holds. South Carolina courts give preference to these values and work to uphold them whenever possible in the best interest of the child — particularly if the child has a personal attachment to them. But ultimately these values rest on the way a judge divides parenting authority.

Parenting plans

One way to have greater control over your custody outcome is to negotiate a reasonable agreement with the other parent outside of court when you create your required parenting plan. You may use a mediator or your lawyers or both to create an agreement together instead of leaving your fate into the hands of a judge. This approach has the added benefit of keeping disputes less contentious.

In the parenting plan, you have the ability to divide decision-making power between parents however you wish. For example, you can give one parent the final word on extracurricular sports while the other claims attire and social events.

Courts do not have to accept your parenting plan, but as long as there are no red flags for the child’s well-being, they will typically turn them into an enforceable court order.