August 29, 2011

Family Law Q & A’s


In a perfect world, everyone will have that one special person with whom they will meet and fall in love. They will have a beautiful wedding, raise healthy children, and live happily ever after till death do them part. However, in the real world, approximately half of all marriages in the United States will end up in divorce and a Family Court judge will part them instead of death. For many, the divorce process may very well feel like a “death” and the resulting loss of the relationship can have long term effects, emotionally, socially and financially.

This means that, statistically speaking, every one of us will either go through the divorce process personally, or know of a family member or loved one that will have to get divorced.  Directly or indirectly, divorce will affect us all at some point in our lives.  That is a pretty sobering thought.

Because of the prevalence of divorce in our modern society, there are a lot of rumors, stories, and (mis)information floating out there. For example:  “Neighbor Jane got the sun, moon, and stars in alimony from her divorce,” or “Cousin Billy-Bob was able to keep both his house and condo and his wife got zip,” or “Family Court judges in South Carolina hate men, so you should file for divorce in Las Vegas instead.” 

Divorce proceedings are complex and emotionally difficult enough without inaccurate or inapplicable information to further muddle things up. What Murray Law Group, LLC would like to do is to provide some general information to help get you on the path towards properly resolving your Family Court issues.  We will do so in a Question and Answer format.  This column will focus on the basic preliminary issues of grounds, jurisdiction, and child support.    Feel free to submit questions of your own and we may use those questions as a basis for our next newsletter.  And as always, if you wish to further discuss your legal questions and needs, feel free to go to our website at for further information and instructions on contacting us directly. All parties identified in each scenario below are fictitious and are used here for illustration purposes only.

Let us begin:

Q:        My husband and I just can’t seem to get along anymore, and that’s been the case for a while now.  In fact, it seems like we’re always at each other’s throats and he is mentally and emotionally abusive towards me.  I’m already at the point where I don’t feel the marriage can continue.  In fact, if this goes on any longer, I’m afraid something drastic and terrible will happen between us.  Do I have enough going on to be able to file for a divorce?  — Susan from Surfside.

A:       It sounds like this situation can be classified as you and your husband having irreconcilable differences.  Irreconcilable differences, although recognized in other states, is not valid grounds for divorce in South Carolina.  Some states also allow parties to divorce each other on the basis of mental or emotional cruelty/abuse, but again, that is not a basis for divorce here either.  Although the wife implies that her husband may become physically abusive towards her, there is no actual claim of physical abuse either. The only grounds for divorce available in South Carolina are a) Adultery; b) Physical Abuse; c) Habitual Drunkenness or Drug Abuse; or d) Desertion/Abandonment for one year.  If you don’t have any of these grounds, or even if some of these grounds exist but you simply don’t have sufficient witnesses and evidence to prove these activities in a court of law, then you are not eligible to file for a divorce right away.  The only thing you can do without the basis for filing is to get physically separated for at least one year.  Once legally separated for one year, either of you can file for a divorce based upon that one-year continuous separation identified in section d) hereinabove. 

Q:        I used to live with my wife in New Jersey.  I caught her cheating on me with my former best friend.  I moved down to South Carolina to get over the shock and mend my broken heart, now I’m ready to file for a divorce.  I contacted her about my intentions and she agreed to cooperate with me in obtaining a divorce.  I don’t want to have to go back up to New Jersey to file for a divorce, so how long do I have to live in South Carolina before I can file here?  –Chris from Conway. 

A:        That depends.  If you moved to South Carolina and your wife remained in New Jersey, you will have to live here for one year in order for the South Carolina Family Court to have jurisdiction in your case.  If both you and your wife are living separately here in South Carolina, then the both of you only need to live here for three months. 

Q:        My marriage to my husband has fallen apart and I know he is planning to move out any day now.  My husband has always been tight and stingy with money and he’s already threatening that he won’t give me a dime once he leaves.  He’s going to leave me with our three children, and they’re really the most important thing to me.  My fear is that I won’t be able to make ends meet.  Am I entitled to child support?  And how can I get it?  –Lisa from Loris.

A:       In the above situation, it sounds like the wife will be getting full custody of the children.  If that is the case, then the children are entitled to child support.  In the past, there was some inequity and inconsistency in the distribution of support. All too often the wife received too much or the husband was not paying enough.  The Family Court has taken the issue of child support out of the hands of the parties by creating a payment guideline that calculates the appropriate minimum amount of child support.  The parties’ gross monthly income, along with several other factors, are taken into consideration in the calculation of child support.  Once you plug and chug all the numbers, the Guidelines will come up with the appropriate child support amount and it sets a clear standard.  The parties may deviate from the Guideline amount to a certain extent, if there is a mutual agreement to do so.  Obviously if the parties settle upon an amount of child support that is higher than the Guideline amount, any Family Court judge will view that to be in the best interest of the children and approve that agreement.  If the parties agree on an amount lower than the Guideline amount, than the parties better be prepared to defend that lower figure and justify it to the Family Court judge.  Once the wife goes to court and gets an Order of child support issued by the judge, which in the vast majority of cases will be the amount established by the Guideline, the husband better be prepared to faithfully pay that amount to support his children.  Otherwise, he risks being held in Contempt for failing to comply with the Family Court Order requiring him to pay child support.  The penalty can be up to 300 hours of community service, up to a $1,500.00 fine, and up to one-year imprisonment, or some combination of all three.

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