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FAMILY LAW

 

Child Custody

CHILD CUSTODY

Should the custody of your children be in dispute this will certainly be the most important and often the most difficult issue in your case. The best interests of your children must be considered. There are several different types of custody arrangements that the Court can order: joint custody, shared custody, split custody, or sole custody. The factors to determine which type of custody arrangement is appropriate in your case are complex and must be presented in specific detail. Expert testimony may be required to help demonstrate to the court what is right for your children. Visitation must also be addressed. Again, expert testimony may be helpful in this multifaceted arena. How much time will the children spend with one parent or the other? How will holidays and summers be shared? What happens when one parent needs or desires to re-locate? Finally, who will have the authority to make the decisions as to the health, education, and welfare of the children? All of these issues must be determined. It’s very personal and requires experience, integrity, and knowledge.

Child Support

CHILD SUPPORT

In most instances the federally mandated South Carolina Child Support Guidelines will be utilized to determine an appropriate amount of support that must be paid for the benefit of the parties’ children. In rare cases those determined amounts may be adjusted. The Child Support Guidelines consider each parent's gross income, the health care insurance premiums for the children, and any child care expense. The number of overnights that each parent has with the children can also be a major factor. The uncovered medical expenses for the children will also be addressed and usually is divided between the parents based upon their proportional gross monthly income.

Child Support can be modified when an unanticipated substantial change of circumstance takes place. These circumstances may include a job loss, a substantial pay raise, or the elimination of daycare. Unlike alimony in the majority of cases a fairly accurate prediction of Child Support can be made.

Spousal Support

SPOUSAL SUPPORT

In most Family Court cases spousal support is one of the major concerns and may be the most important issue. Spousal support is the money that one spouse is ordered to pay for the support of the other spouse. You will sometimes hear the phrase “separate maintenance and support” and there really is no difference between alimony and separate maintenance and support except that the underlying causes of action are different. There is no set formula in South Carolina for determining alimony. The South Carolina Family Court judges are given a great amount of discretion when setting a spousal support award. Trying to predict what an alimony award will be is an estimate, at best.

There are many types of spousal support that can be awarded, including periodic alimony, lump sum alimony, rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony, separate maintenance and support, and other forms that the Court deems just and appropriate under the circumstances. Spousal support is not only money that exchanges hands – it can be in the form of paying for one spouse’s medical insurance, paying for the mortgage or a portion of the mortgage, paying for the utilities, etc.

South Carolina Law requires that the Family Court consider numerous factors before making a decision concerning spousal support. The most significant factors include the duration of the marriage and the financial situation of the parties: that is, the needs of each party and the ability for one spouse to help support the other. Fault can also be a major factor in that a spouse may be barred from receiving any support from the other if certain conduct, such as adultery, is proven. Having an attorney with knowledge and experience who knows how to properly present your case to the Court may have a significant impact on the outcome of your alimony award.

Premarital Agreement

PREMARITAL AGREEMENT

Premarital Agreements are “agreements” which the parties reach prior to the marriage. These Agreements will determine what will happen if a marriage is later dissolved or if the parties separate. Premarital Agreements can address the issues of spousal support and division of property. These agreements can ensure that the asset remains with the original owner if the marriage ends. This type of agreement is particularly important if this is a second or subsequent marriage and the parties desire to leave their assets to their children from a previous marriage.

Premarital Agreements are complex in nature and must be entered into and drafted in a particular fashion which includes full financial disclosure of both assets and debts. Extreme diligence is necessary when drafting Premarital Agreements to ensure that they are later enforceable if the worst-case scenario, divorce or separation, takes place.

Property Division

PROPERTY DIVISION

In many cases there can be substantial financial assets or debts which must be addressed. Often, the parties do not recognize the value of their assets or the level of their debts. For example, retirement accounts including military retirement may be subject to allocation by the Court. A marital home, perhaps a vacation home, savings and personal property are all subject to division. Marital debts also must be divided. Marital debts can include a home mortgage loan, credit card debt, and all other debt incurred during the course of the marriage.

The decision which the Court may order in a property division case can significantly impact your and your children’s standard of living and your financial future. This is a serious and often complicated part of your case which must be addressed in a manner that ensures a fair and reasonable resolution.