Family Law Representation in South Carolina: Divorce, Custody, and Child Support.
Everyone wants to have a successful marriage, to be happy, and to raise a family in a nurturing and protected environment. We all enter into relationships and marriages with the best of intentions. Sometimes those intentions fall apart. No one feels good about divorce. No one feels good about forcing someone that they love or loved to do things. Unfortunately, forcing or compelling people to do the right thing is sometimes necessary.
Marriage is a partnership. When a partnership breaks up there are lots of entanglements that have to be resolved. Financial entanglements and human entanglements. I want to help you unravel these entanglements so that you can move on with your life.
The best thing that can be said about divorce is that it ends at some point. I will help you understand the process, understand the law and come to a resolution using all the tools that are available. The Family Court Judges are the ultimate resolution and we will try your case vigorously in the family courts of South Carolina. Before that we will attempt to negotiate resolutions that are legally, ethically, and morally supported.
Whatever we do, we will do it with you as the ultimate decision-maker. This is your life. This is your children’s lives. I am aware of the tremendous responsibility in handling people’s lives and understand your need to understand the process and to be able to use my services to achieve your desired legal result, so that you can heal and move on with your life.
Why should you choose Attorney Conrad Falkiewicz to represent you?
Questions & Answers about South Carolina Divorce & Family Law
I don’t want to be married anymore, can I just get an “uncontested divorce”?
You can get an “uncontested” divorce if you and your spouse agree on EVERYTHING. This is extremely rare. If you and your spouse agreed on everything you would probably want to stay married.
If you and your spouse can come to an agreement, with or without the help of an attorney, then you can ask to have that agreement approved by the Family Court and if you have grounds for divorce to ask for a decree of divorce.
The agreement will have to meet requirements of South Carolina law and will have to be approved by a Family Court Judge at a hearing. Non-lawyers can very often make parts of their agreements that are not allowed under law. You cannot permanently waive child support or “agree” that grounds for divorce exist.
The statutory grounds for divorce in South Carolina are Adultery, Physical Cruelty, Habitual Drunkenness or Drug Use, Desertion for one Year and a one year Separation. All of these grounds require evidence and corroboration.
How quickly can I get a divorce in South Carolina?
Technically, after a one year separation or desertion, you could get a divorce within hours in South Carolina.
But, it never works that way. Such a divorce would require the complete cooperation of both spouses.
To have complete cooperation, both spouses need to have an absolute and sure knowledge that they have all of the facts that they need or want about the issues, a complete and total agreement about all issues, including finances, custody, visitation, child support, taxes, debts, alimony and a fervent mutual desire to get it finished.
For a divorce based on fault by a spouse (adultery, physical cruelty or habitual drunkenness) a final hearing cannot be held sooner than 60 days from the filing date and no final order may issue until the 90th day. This also is technically true. However, most fault divorces are contested and may not be resolved even after a years’ time.
All contested cases are required to participate in mediation. This is a good thing. Mediation is simply assisted negotiation. Many cases are resolved by mediation or negotiation which can speed up the final result.
If the parties can mediate their issues instead of fighting, then the whole process can move faster.
What about a legal separation in South Carolina?
That term “legal separation” gets mixed up with definitions from states other than South Carolina. In South Carolina, you have a right to separate and only have to prove you were separated at the time of a hearing for a one year separation divorce. You are not REQUIRED to establish a separation by an action in court at the date of separation.
BUT, if grounds for divorce do not exist, that does not mean you cannot go to the court for help. Actions in the Family Court can be brought, independent of and without grounds for divorce, to establish Custody, Child Support, Visitation, Alimony, Division of Property and Debts.
If you separate and cannot agree, then the law recognizes that you may need relief or help to live during the time of separation, that you may need help determining financial issues., and that there may be serious conflicts about your children and all of the issues parents have to resolve.
Will I have to pay alimony?
If the marriage was one with a main wage earner and a lesser wage earner, then it is possible that alimony would have to be paid by the greater wage earner. But, alimony can take several forms and the length of the marriage, the difference in earnings, and fault in the failure of the marriage are all things that would be taken into consideration by the Judge deciding the case. A spouse who has committed adultery cannot get alimony.
Do I have to pay for my spouse’s debts?
Any debts that have been created by you or your spouse during your marriage are part of the marital estate. All assets that are the result of the parties efforts during the marriage are also part of the marital estate.
Things given or gifted to one spouse by inheritance or that were owned by them prior to the marriage are not part of the marital estate unless the parties have made them part of the marital estate by how they used them or changed them. This kind of change is called transmutation.
Don’t I get joint custody of my children automatically in South Carolina?
To put it simply, No.
Custody, Joint Custody, Split Custody are all forms of custody that a Family Court Judge may determine to be appropriate. Different schedules of visitation may be determined depending on the needs of the children and the parents.
There is NOTHING automatic about custody.
The history of the family, the way the parents cared for the child or children, the schedules of the children and schedules of the parents, who was the usual caregiver to the children, and the history of the duties of both parents are all examined by the Family Court to make a determination of the best interests of the child or children when determining custody and visitation.
Who gets to keep the children?
Except in the case of some extreme behavior by a parent, both parents will retain their parental rights. One parent may be made the custodian of the children, but even then, the other parent has parental rights that can be enforced, stipulated by agreement or by Court Order, and there is a level of parental rights that cannot be reduced, even by a Judge. Usually, both rights and responsibilities are spelled out and balanced in either a court order or an agreement which HAS to be approved by the Court.
Sometimes I hear, “My wife is a drunk, my husband committed adultery, my spouse uses drugs, I haven’t done anything wrong, so shouldn’t I get to keep the money, the kids and everything?”
Fault can be a factor in all issues in family court, but it is not ever the only issue. Each individual partner to a marriage still holds rights as an individual and it is rare that any failed marriage is seen the same way by both parties. One party can certainly be far guiltier than the other, but they still don’t generally lose all rights.
Mediation is assisted negotiation. A mediator is either appointed by the court or chosen by the parties. The mediator is paid by the parties. A mediator is trained to help parties and their lawyers negotiate to a resolution. Because a mediator is a neutral party and also sworn to maintain confidentiality of both parties, they are in a unique position to help guide the parties to an agreement. They don’t advocate for either side, but they also know areas where agreement may already exist and where there is room to move toward an agreement.
Many, many cases resolve themselves in mediation and because of that agreement the parties save money, time, and avoid having a decision made for them by a judge. Judges make decisions based on hours or sometimes days of testimony, but parties make decisions based on years and decades of knowing each other. This can be a very positive part of the process.
How much will I have to pay for child support?
If you are the parent who will be paying child support, it will most likely be determined by use of the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines.
These guidelines take into consideration the gross incomes of both parents, the type of custody, visitation, health insurance and child care needed by the children and the parents.
The child support guidelines are available on the Department of Social Services website, but the variables can be confusing. It is good to look at those guidelines, but they can only be relied on to give an answer based on the information put into them. That information is something that generally needs examination by a legal professional.
Why can’t I get a divorce based on irreconcilable differences in South Carolina?
Because, having irreconcilable differences is not one of the grounds for divorce in South Carolina. To get a divorce in South Carolina, the facts of your case must match one of the 5 grounds for divorce.
To get a divorce in South Carolina there are five legal reasons (grounds). The grounds are; Adultery, Physical Cruelty, Habitual Drunkenness or Drug use, Desertion for one year, and finally, a one Year Continuous Separation. The ground of Desertion is very rarely used any longer because the parties will go to court based on the separation of the parties before the one year has passed to determine needed support, custody, and visitation even when the grounds for divorce do not exist. These issues can be determined by the court even when a divorce cannot be granted.
A divorce is not just between two spouses. The State of South Carolina is also part of the divorce. All states have an interest in marriage and divorce because the stability of families, the protection and well-being of children and the clear ownership of property are important to the stability of the community as a whole. Because of those interests, the State regulates and determines how people become married and how they get divorced. For example, in South Carolina, if you are too young, you can’t get married. If you are already married, you can’t get married to another person at the same time. If you are brother and sister, you can’t get married.
If you need an experienced and trusted Charleston, South Carolina Divorce Lawyer, contact me for your Free Consultation. I’ll be happy to speak with you about what you can expect and how to move forward with your life in a way that works for you and your children.