Sunday, July 26, 2009

Child Support Calculator

Ever wonder how Judges calculate your child support in South Carolina? South Carolina uses "child support guidelines" to calculate child support. These guidelines are based on the gross income of the parties, and provides credits for such things as:

1. work related child care expenses
2. previous court ordered child support payments,and
3. health insurance premiums for children

If you would like to estimate your child support, click here to check out the DSS child support calculator.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What to expect in Court?

When going to Court regarding divorce, your attorney should try to prepare you as much as possible as to what to expect. Besides the basics of dressing appropriately, providing copies of your evidence to the court as well as opposing attorney and your spouse, some of the general things you can expect in a Courtroom (for a final hearing) include:

1. Finality. Judges will make final decisions regarding your divorce, alimony, property division. Once that decsion is made, any choice you had is gone. Consider what is truly important to you and what you may be willing to compromise before getting to that point. Some counties require mandatory mediation and pretrial conferences, so by the time you get to a trial, you should only be dealing with issues that you can't resolve on your own.

2. Evidence. If you are alleging that your spouse makes more than they are saying, be prepared to provide documentation. You have to prove your case. Make a journal if you have to from the time you start considering divorce and obtain copies of financial documents. Keep your attorney informed of anything that might help prove what you are saying and support what you are asking for.

3. Witnesses. If you have a witness to prove a point (whether it be personal or expert), make sure your attorney has spoken with them first and bring them to court. Judges expect parties to make self serving statements to get what they want. Many times, third parties can help because they may be more objective and may prove your case.

4. Testimony. In a trial, you will likely testimy. Prepare your testimony with your attorney to stay on point with the legal issues. Most times you won't be allowed to cover every aspect of your life with your spouse. Try to stick to the issues.


1. Judges don't (or at least shouldn't) know you or your spouse so they can't take your word for it. They can't know who to believe and you can't expect to prove you case by insisting that you are telling the truth.

2. Your attorney can't guarantee a result and sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, you still may not get what you want or feel that you are entitled to.

3. South Carolina family court hearings are determined by a Judge, not a jury. Judges are ordinary eople and you never know what testimony or evidence will be the most convincing or what the final decision will be.

4. If you have questions about your legal situation, a consultation can cost you a lot less than not doing anything until your spouse serves you with papers. Sometimes by that point, you spend the entire divorce playing catch up to your spouse who has been preparing their case before they hired an attorney.

5. Try to manage your expections. Be honest about what you want when talking to your attorney.

Do you need to hire an attorney?

This is an excellent question. For many individuals who have been separated for more than a year and are contemplating an uncontested divorce where there are no children, no property, no debts, no alimony issues there are forms that you can use represent yourself. You are not required to hire an attorney. If you consider this route, make sure to look for forms with specific instructions that you feel comfortable following. Additionally, legal services offers free classes to help individuals represent themselves in a divorce.

If there are contested issues, consult with an attorney. You don't have to hire the attorney if you are not satisfied with a consultation. Start early, ask questions, and keep a journal of what is going on in your life.

How Can you help your Attorney help you with your Divorce?

One of the most important things that I like for clients to do is to write down what they would like to accomplish in this divorce and their disagreements with their spouse. It helps to focus the client on what is important to them because sometimes the attorney might have have a completely different focus on what you want. It also helps to determine your expections with the court system.

As much as letting a client know their legal options, I like to help clients transition through this painful process to hopefully get their life back to a normal place or better. Being able to give a client some peace of mind helps determine if the attorney and client are a good fit.

Going through a divorce can be like jumping out of a plane. Your attorney is similar to a parachute to help with the landing. If both you your attorney know what you want and expect, it will help to determine your legal rights and whether all of your complaints can be addressed through court.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How damaging is a custody dispute to your child?

Consider the following article:

“Children of the Family Court”

“Children are born loving their parents... After a time they begin to judge them…
Never do they forgive them.”

I wish I could remember who penned these poignant words. I did not. However, during my years as a South Carolina family court judge I would frequently quote them to hundreds of fathers and mothers who appeared before me.

I want to share some insight with you that you will find neither comforting nor validating. To be candid, I hope you find it unsettling.

After over thirty-five years of practicing family law (as an attorney, a judge and now as a family court mediator) I have witnessed firsthand the anger, bitterness, hurt and sadness experienced by wives and husbands, and fathers and mothers going through the anguish of a divorce and custody fight involving their children. From my unique vantage point as a judge I was able to view some of society’s more disturbing human traits.

Let me share this with you. If you are scheduled to appear in a family courtroom, this is what happens (the sequence of events is not necessarily essential):

• Your case may be scheduled for one day of trial. Actually, that means, at best, you will be inside the courtroom for six hours only (family courts typically run from 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM, and then from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM).

• Your attorneys will call your witnesses to testify, and you will testify, and each side with be subject to questions from your spouse’s attorney. The ultimate objective of your spouse’s attorney is to paint you, as a spouse and a parent, in the worst light possible. The experience can be excruciating and humiliating, with strangers being made privy to your family’s most private moments.

• A guardian ad litem who is court-ordered to represent your children’s interest will most often testify; however, depending on the age of your children, they, too, may be called as a witness to testify.

• At the conclusion of your case, and perhaps several months after the trial has ended, the family court judge will enter his or her decision. And your lives and the lives of your children will then become governed by the order or decree of your family court judge, which most certainly will impact your family for many years to come.

After parents and their attorneys had entered and been seated inside my courtroom, I would make these remarks to them:

“For whatever reason you’re here in my courtroom today, please know that I’m truly sorry you’re sitting here; and I have to believe that you’d rather be anywhere on the face of this earth than sitting here listening to me. But you must understand that I didn’t invite you here…you brought your case to us, and by sheer serendipity (the luck of the draw), your case was placed on my trial docket to be heard by me today.

I also know that custody of your children remains an issue that you haven’t been able to resolve. So today, you must realize that I’m the parent of your children, because you’re asking me to make those parenting plan decisions for you. It’s not my choice…it’s yours. But I promise you this – I will pay close and careful attention to your testimony, and I will make the best possible decision I can make for your children based on what you tell me today from this witness stand. Then I will forget your names and go on to another case tomorrow.

If that sounds harsh, I apologize. I’m trying to be truthful with you both. But I also need to remind you, as I have to remind myself every day, that in the lives of our children, when this day comes to an end, this day will be gone from our collective lives forever. So if your children spent yesterday, or even this morning, upset and concerned over their parents’ divorce, and if your children went to sleep last night fearful of what their own lives would be like after tomorrow, then we have all robbed your children of these days…forever. Shame on us.

I’m saying this to you right now because before I begin your trial I want to recess your case and let you step outside my courtroom with your attorneys, and I want you to take a step back from this brink, and re-think whether you want to be your children’s parents today or would you prefer that they become, for lack of a better description…children of the family court.”

Often, and fortunately, these comments would serve as the catalyst to the parents’ settlement, which included their agreement as to how they chose to co-parent their children in their post-divorce world.

If it sounds comforting to you that these parents ultimately realized the risks involved with a stranger making their own child’s parenting decisions, not so fast. That’s only part of this difficult equation – that part dealing with the parent-versus-parent relationship. What about the even thornier and ultimately more complex relationship of children-versus-parents?

While a child’s parents were locked in the throes of their own personal turmoil, what questions were these parents asking regarding how their child or children were coping with their own pain and anguish? Please carefully re-read the words at the very beginning of my comments, and you’ll find your answer.

Children, perhaps those even in their pre-teen years, whose parents are going through this marital anguish, become the unknowing (and perhaps even more disturbing, the knowing) victims of their parents’ dysfunction. A parent will often seek their child’s allegiance in a variety of cunning ways, depending on the age of the child, in order to gain some advantage in the “custody wars”. Children then quickly realize they have no input, no voice, no control in the decisions which will affect them, and they are forced into a no-win position: “choose” one parent over the other and the child feels instant repercussions from this decision, which, most prominently, amounts to the child’s overwhelming sense of guilt in conveying a not so subtle message that he or she loves one parent more than the other. The effects are devastating, long-lasting, and many times, permanent.

I could go on, but this seems to me to be a good stopping point for now. However, I need to leave you with one last thought to ponder.

The author, Pat Conroy, wrote these haunting lines in his novel, “The Prince of Tides” –

“If your parents disapprove of you, and are cunning with their disapproval, there will never come a new dawn when you can become convinced of your own value. There is no fixing a damaged childhood.”

Monday, May 18, 2009

Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina

There are 5 grounds for divorce in South Carolina. Those are

1) Adultery
2) One Year Separation
3) Abandonment
4) Physical Cruelty
5) Habitutal Drunkeness

Friday, May 8, 2009

Protection from Foreclosure in South Carolina-Do you qualify?

The Supreme Court of South Carolina has suspended foreclosures on mortgages which may be eligible for modifications. See entire order below.

Ex Parte Federal National Mortgage Association, Petitioner.

In Re Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) Loans Subject to Foreclosure Sale.


Petitioner asks this Court to issue an ex parte temporary injunction1 or restraining order “enjoining all judicial officials in South Carolina conducting foreclosure sales on May 4, 2009 (or the next judicial sales dated) from dismissing all eligible one- to four-unit owner occupied properties securing Fannie Mae portfolio mortgage loans and MBS pool mortgage loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae for which there is a foreclosure judgment.” It asserts that this injunction is necessary to avoid undue costs if these foreclosure actions are dismissed rather than stayed or postponed based on the fact that the underlying loans may be subject to modification under the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HMP), and the United States Treasury Supplemental Directive 09-01. It also states that, “absent injunction, mortgagors eligible for relief under the HMP program could be denied their right to participate because their property was sold at the foreclosure sale. This qualifies as irreparable injury for which the court should provide redress in the form of a temporary injunction.”

While I am very troubled by the ex parte nature of this petition2, I grant a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the foreclosure sale of any property arising out of a loan owned or guaranteed by petitioner or Freddie Mac or held by a servicer who has signed an agreement to participate in the HMP3. If a sale has already taken place today prior to issuance of this order, this TRO shall stay the master-in-equity, circuit court judge or special referee from taking any further action to complete the sale including the issuance of a deed to the purchaser.

By May 15, 2009, the plaintiff in every mortgage foreclosure action stayed by this order shall serve on all other parties to the action (including petitioner and/or Freddie Mac as appropriate) an affidavit setting forth its belief whether the loan is subject to modification under the HMP. If the affidavit indicates that the loan is subject to modification under the HMP, the foreclosure shall be stayed pending a determination if the loan will be modified. If the loan is modified, the foreclosure action shall be dismissed. If the loan is not modified, the foreclosure may proceed.

If the affidavit indicates that the loan is not subject to modification under the HMP, the TRO will be lifted unless petitioner, Freddie Mac or another party serves and files a counter affidavit asserting that the loan is subject to modification under the HMP by May 22, 2009. If a counter affidavit is timely filed, the TRO will remain in effect until the master-in-equity or circuit court judge determines if the HMP is applicable to the loan. The lower court shall insure that these determinations are made in an expeditious manner.

If the loan is determined not to be subject to modification under the HMP, the TRO shall be lifted and the foreclosure may continue. If the lower court determines that the loan is subject to modification and the loan is modified, the foreclosure action shall be dismissed. If the lower court determines that the loan is subject to modification but the loan is not subsequently modified, the TRO shall be lifted and the foreclosure may continue.


s/Jean Hoefer Toal

Columbia, South Carolina
May 4, 2009
4:50 p.m.

Alimony in South Carolina

In The Court of Appeals

Linda Huff Browder, Appellant,


Cecil Ray Browder, Jr., Respondent.


Appeal From Lexington County
Richard W. Chewning, III, Family Court Judge


Opinion No. 4524
Heard March 5, 2009 – Filed March 26, 2009




J. Michael Taylor, of Columbia, for Appellant.

J. Mark Taylor and Katherine Carruth Link, of West Columbia, for Respondent.

PIEPER, J.: In this appeal of a divorce decree, Linda Huff Browder (Wife) asserts the family court erred in: (1) denying her request for alimony; (2) failing to hold Cecil Ray Browder, Jr. (Husband) in contempt; (3) valuing and apportioning the marital property; and (4) denying her request for attorney's fees. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


Husband and Wife were married on December 15, 1973, and last resided together on November 22, 2003, in Lexington County, South Carolina. Prior to the filing of the instant matter, they were married for thirty-one years and had three children.

During the marriage, Husband worked as a salesman earning approximately $80,000 to $130,000 per year, while Wife was the primary caregiver of their three children. In 1992-93, when their youngest child was twelve, Wife began working part-time and eventually obtained certification from Midlands Technical College for floral design. Wife earned roughly $8.00 per hour through her part-time employment. Significant assets were acquired during Husband's higher income years which included a large home on Lake Murray, two parcels of property, and a home in Columbia, South Carolina, purchased for the use of their children while attending college (the College Street property).

Wife filed for divorce on October 30, 2003, citing the statutory grounds of habitual drunkenness and adultery. Prior to trial, a temporary order was issued ordering Husband to pay $1,750 per month in alimony to Wife. The temporary order also required Husband to provide a detailed accounting of the proceeds received from the sale of the College Street property.

On August 4, 2004, Wife claimed Husband failed to timely account for his handling of the College Street property proceeds and requested that Husband be held in contempt. After issuing a rule to show cause on August 9, 2004, the court ultimately found Husband adequately accounted for the funds at issue and declined to hold him in willful contempt.

The underlying case was heard on February 3, 2005, and March 10, 2005, before the Honorable Richard W. Chewning, III. At the time of the hearing, Husband was fifty-eight and was earning approximately $83,000 per year plus benefits as a salesman. Wife was fifty-four and was working part-time earning $8 per hour at a local floral shop. During the hearing, Husband admitted to committing adultery but denied Wife's allegations of habitual drunkenness. The parties stipulated to a 50/50 division of the marital property and offered expert testimony as to the appraised value of particular marital property. Specifically, Wife asserted the appraised value of their river home in Edisto was $105,000, while Husband offered testimony that the appraised value of the property was $73,000. The marital home, which was listed for sale prior to the hearing, was appraised at around $700,000 and the parties agreed to split the proceeds equally upon the sale of the home.

In its final order dated August 1, 2005, the court granted Wife a divorce from Husband on the statutory ground of adultery and denied Wife's request for alimony reasoning that Wife's receipt of significant liquid assets in concert with her ability to be employed on a full-time basis did not warrant an award of alimony. The court divided the marital estate equally[1] and concluded that each party would be responsible for paying his or her own attorney's fees. However, Husband was ordered to reimburse Wife for her private investigator's fees and costs. Wife timely filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment, which the court granted in part to correct various mathematical and scrivener's errors. This appeal followed.


In appeals from the family court, this court has the authority to find facts in accordance with its own view of the preponderance of the evidence. Wooten v. Wooten, 364 S.C. 532, 540, 615 S.E.2d 98, 102 (2005). Despite this broad scope of review, we remain mindful of the findings of the family court judge, who saw and heard the witnesses, and was in a better position to evaluate their credibility and assign comparative weight to their testimony. Id.


Wife argues the family court erred in failing to award alimony. We agree.

An award of alimony rests within the sound discretion of the family court and will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. Dearybury v. Dearybury, 351 S.C. 278, 282, 569 S.E.2d 367, 369 (2002); see also McKnight v. McKnight, 283 S.C. 540, 543, 324 S.E.2d 91, 93 (Ct. App. 1984) (stating the decision to grant or deny alimony rests within the discretion of the family court and will not be disturbed on appeal absent an abuse thereof). An abuse of discretion occurs if the court's ruling is controlled by an error of law or if the ruling is based upon findings of fact that are without evidentiary support. Sharps v. Sharps, 342 S.C. 71, 79, 535 S.E.2d 913, 917 (2000).

"The purpose of alimony is to provide the ex-spouse a substitute for the support which was incident to the former marital relationship." Love v. Love, 367 S.C. 493, 497, 626 S.E.2d 56, 58 (Ct. App. 2006). "Generally, alimony should place the supported spouse, as nearly as is practical, in the same position he or she enjoyed during the marriage." Craig v. Craig, 358 S.C. 548, 554, 595 S.E.2d 837, 840 (Ct. App. 2004) (quoting Allen v. Allen, 347 S.C. 177, 184, 554 S.E.2d 421, 424 (Ct. App. 2001)). The objective of alimony should be to insure that the parties separate on as equal a basis as possible. Patel v. Patel, 347 S.C. 281, 291, 555 S.E.2d 386, 391 (2001). Thus, "[i]t is the duty of the family court to make an alimony award that is fit, equitable, and just if the claim is well founded." Allen, 347 S.C. at 184, 554 S.E.2d at 424.

In determining an award of alimony, the court is required to consider and give weight in such proportion as it finds appropriate to each of the following factors: (1) duration of the marriage; (2) physical and emotional health of each spouse; (3) educational background of each spouse; (4) employment history and earning potential of each spouse; (5) standard of living established during the marriage; (6) current and reasonably anticipated earnings of both spouses; (7) current and reasonably anticipated expenses and needs of both spouses; (8) marital and nonmarital properties of the parties; (9) custody of the children; (10) marital misconduct or fault of either or both parties; (11) tax consequences as a result of the form of support awarded; (12) existence and extent of any prior support obligations; and (13) such other factors the court considers relevant. S.C. Code Ann. § 20-3-130(C) (Supp. 2008). "Fault is an appropriate factor for consideration in determining alimony in cases where the misconduct affected the economic circumstances of the parties or contributed to the breakup of the marriage." Craig, 358 S.C. at 554, 595 S.E.2d at 841 (quoting Smith v. Smith, 327 S.C. 448, 463, 486 S.E.2d 516, 523-24 (Ct. App. 1997)).

We find the family court's denial of alimony in the instant case was an abuse of discretion. Here, the family court denied Wife's request for alimony reasoning that Wife's receipt of significant liquid assets in conjunction with her ability to be employed on a full-time basis would alleviate her financial need. The court further found that "the proximity of the parties' net incomes does not warrant an award of alimony." However, the record fails to support the family court's factual finding that the parties' net incomes are in close proximity. Rather, at the time of the final hearing, the record indicates that Wife was working part-time earning $8 per hour, while Husband was earning $6,912 per month plus benefits. By the time of the hearing on Wife's motion to alter or amend, Wife had attained full-time employment at the rate of $10 per hour. The significant disparity between incomes is clearly evidenced by the record. Accordingly, the family court based its decision, in part, upon a finding of fact that is without evidentiary support.

Moreover, the court's emphasis on the speculative date of Husband's retirement was error. Although retirement may play into the factor of anticipated earnings, Husband was fifty-eight and gainfully employed at the time of trial. Any change in circumstances regarding Husband's retirement may warrant a modification of alimony when that event occurs; however, consideration of this anticipated but speculative occurrence at this time was inappropriate.[2] See Rimer v. Rimer, 361 S.C. 521, 528, 605 S.E.2d 572, 576 (Ct. App. 2004) ("[W]hen the effect of anticipated changes is not readily ascertainable, it is inappropriate for the family court to speculate as to the effect of such anticipated changes.").

Based upon our own view of the facts, we conclude an award of alimony is appropriate. We have considered all of the previously cited factors regarding alimony. We place significant weight in this case on five of those factors: (1) duration of the marriage; (2) earnings of each spouse; (3) educational background of each spouse; (4) employment history and earning potential; and (5) marital misconduct or fault of either party. The fact that this was a thirty year marriage in which Wife spent the bulk of the marriage caring for their children weighs heavily in favor of alimony. Additionally, Husband has a college degree and over thirty years of experience in sales, while Wife is a high school graduate and has little to no full-time work history; in this same regard, we have noted the disparity between the incomes of Husband and Wife. While we recognize that the purpose of alimony is not to penalize one party and reward the other, we also cannot ignore the fact that Husband admitted to committing adultery. Therefore, under our view of the evidence, we find an award of alimony is warranted. See Patel, 347 S.C. at 291, 555 S.E.2d at 391 (stating the objective of alimony should be to insure that the parties separate on as equal a basis as possible). Accordingly, we reverse the family court's denial of alimony and remand the matter for a determination of an appropriate award of alimony, including retroactive alimony. See Patel v. Patel, 359 S.C. 515, 531, 599 S.E.2d 114, 122 (2004) (holding wife was entitled to retroactive alimony when alimony was awarded on remand).

Wife next asserts the court erred in failing to hold Husband in contempt. We disagree.

On appeal, a decision regarding contempt is not subject to reversal absent an abuse of discretion. Brandt v. Gooding, 368 S.C. 618, 627, 630 S.E.2d 259, 263 (2006). An abuse of discretion occurs if the court's ruling is controlled by an error of law or if the ruling is based upon findings of fact that are without evidentiary support. Davis v. Davis, 372 S.C. 64, 82, 641 S.E.2d 446, 455 (Ct. App. 2006).

Contempt results from the willful disobedience of a court order. Bigham v. Bigham, 264 S.C. 101, 104, 212 S.E.2d 594, 596 (1975). Willful disobedience requires an act to be "done voluntarily and intentionally with the specific intent to do something the law forbids, or with the specific intent to fail to do something the law requires to be done; that is to say, with bad purpose either to disobey or disregard the law." Spartanburg Co. Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Padgett, 296 S.C. 79, 82-83, 370 S.E.2d 872, 874 (1988). A party seeking a contempt finding for violation of a court order must show the order's existence and facts establishing the other party did not comply with the order. Abate v. Abate, 377 S.C. 548, 553, 660 S.E.2d 515, 518 (Ct. App. 2008).

Wife asserts Husband's failure to provide documentation of three accounts paid from the proceeds of the sale of the College Street property amounted to willful contempt of the court's order for an accounting. At trial, Husband explained that he repeatedly requested records of the accounts at issue to no avail. He further explained that the records were sent to the marital residence and that he was unable to find the pertinent information that Wife requested. In addition to his efforts to obtain the records, Husband's testimony at trial thoroughly explained the amounts and debts of the disputed accounts, which were accumulated prior to the instant action to pay for the parties' expenses as well as the expenses of their children. Based on this evidence, the court found Husband adequately explained the allocation of the proceeds of the College Street property and concluded that the debts were marital. This finding is supported by the evidence. Accordingly, the denial of a contempt finding by the court was not an abuse of discretion.

Turning to the next issue on appeal, Wife asserts the court erred in its valuation and apportionment of the marital property. Specifically, Wife contests (1) the valuation of the Edisto River property, (2) the valuation of Husband's personal property, and (3) the assignment of Husband's credit card debt as marital. We disagree.

In making an equitable distribution of marital property, the court must: (1) identify the marital property to be divided between the parties; (2) determine the fair market value of the property; (3) apportion the marital estate according to the contributions, both direct and indirect, of each party to the acquisition of the property during the marriage, their respective assets and incomes, and any special equities they may have in marital assets; and (4) provide for an equitable division of the marital estate, including the manner in which the distribution is to take place. Gardner v. Gardner, 368 S.C. 134, 136, 628 S.E.2d 37, 38 (2006). Generally, marital property subject to distribution is valued as of the date the marital litigation is filed or commenced. Id. The court has broad discretion in valuing marital property. Pirri v. Pirri, 369 S.C. 258, 264, 631 S.E.2d 279, 283 (Ct. App. 2006). As such, "[the] court may accept the valuation of one party over another, and the court's valuation of marital property will be affirmed if it is within the range of evidence presented." Id.

Here, the parties stipulated to a 50/50 division of the marital assets. Among the assets to be apportioned was the River House property on Edisto River. Wife asserts the court's valuation of the property at $73,000 was an abuse of discretion. Both parties offered expert testimony from an appraiser as well as their own appraisal reports in valuing the River House property. Husband's appraiser valued the property at $73,000, and Wife's appraiser valued the property at $105,000. Despite Wife's assertion the property is worth more based on other comparable properties in the area, Husband's expert testified the valuation was adjusted to reflect the differences in the comparable properties. Because the court may accept one party's valuation over another and the valuation based on Husband's appraisal was within the evidence presented at trial, we find no abuse of discretion. See Pirri, 369 S.C. at 264, 631 S.E.2d at 283 (stating the court's valuation of marital property will be affirmed if it is within the range of evidence presented).

As to Husband's personal property, Wife asserts Husband's boat, valued at $2,500, and a DVD player, valued at $100, were improperly excluded from the court's valuation of the marital estate. This issue was not ruled upon by the trial court nor was it raised in Wife's Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend; thus, it is not preserved for our review. See Lucas v. Rawl Family Ltd. P'ship, 359 S.C. 505, 511, 598 S.E.2d 712, 715 (2004) (stating an issue cannot be raised for the first time on appeal, but must have been raised to and ruled upon by the trial judge to be preserved for appellate review); Woodward v. Woodward, 294 S.C. 210, 363 S.E.2d 413 (Ct. App. 1987) (finding husband's argument that the court erred in failing to consider certain items in equitable distribution was not preserved for appellate review where the issue was not raised to and ruled upon by the trial court).

As to the credit card debt in connection with the disputed funds from the College Street property, this issue was discussed in regard to the contempt finding above. As noted, there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the finding that these debts were marital. Husband's testimony revealed these debts, which had been used to pay the couple's monthly expenses as well as the expenses of their children while in college, were accumulated over time prior to the parties' separation. Additionally, despite Wife's assertion that it cannot be presumed that the debts were incurred before the filing of the instant action, the evidence indicated the disputed balance transfers took place in May and August 2003, prior to Wife's filing for divorce in October 2003. The proceeds from the sale of the College Street property were received on November 3, 2003, and the payments on the balance transfers occurred between November 5, 2003, and November 11, 2003. Accordingly, the court's inclusion of these debts as part of the marital estate was not an abuse of discretion.

Lastly, Wife asserts the court erred in failing to award attorney's fees. We agree.

An award of attorney's fees lies within the sound discretion of the family court and will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. Patel v. Patel, 359 S.C. 515, 533, 599 S.E.2d 114, 123 (2004). In determining whether to award attorney's fees, the court should consider each party's ability to pay his or her own fees, the beneficial results obtained by counsel, the parties' respective financial conditions, and the effect of the fee on the parties' standard of living. E.D.M. v. T.A.M., 307 S.C. 471, 476-77, 415 S.E.2d 812, 816 (1992).

Where the substantive results achieved by counsel are reversed on appeal, an award of attorney's fees is subject to reversal. Sexton v. Sexton, 310 S.C. 501, 503, 427 S.E.2d 665, 666 (1993). In light of our disposition as to alimony, the results achieved by Wife's counsel were beneficial. Accordingly, we find an award of fees is appropriate and remand the issue to the family court for a determination of reasonable fees and costs.


For the foregoing reasons, the order of the family court is


HEARN, C.J., and LOCKEMY, J., concur.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Divorce Client Frustrations with Attorneys

With the current recession and increased stresses involved with divorce and family law cases, I am curious as to what the average person's complaint with how attorneys are dealing with their concerns. What can attorneys do to help clients cope? What are the biggest complaints when dealing with attorneys in divorce and family law cases? I am seeking constructive criticism?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mediation in South Carolina - Is it right for you?

Family court mediation involves a third party mediator who meets with and assists couples in reaching an agreement regarding any domestic disputes they may be having. Many counties in South Carolina require mediation in any contested family court case, such as divorce, child custody, property division or alimony. The mediator’s role is not to decide what is best for the parties, but to facilitate discussion and dialog between the parties to help them work through the issues and hopefully reach an agreement. The mediator is there to listen and assist the parties in their decision making. However, the parties are the ones who decide what their agreement will be. The mediator can meet with the parties in the same room or can travel back and forth between the parties, whichever the parties are most comfortable with. The amount of time that it takes to mediate a can depends on the parties comfort level and the issues involved.

Certified mediators undergo training before attempting mediation. You can verify the mediator’s certification before you start the process. Meeting with a mediator to discuss the issues that need to be resolved with your spouse can also be therapeutic, as often times, this is the best chance many people have for getting both personal and legal issues heard. It can be helpful for both parties to listen to the other’s point of view, especially if there are children or custody is an issue. Often times when dealing with a divorce the parties are so winning or being right, that they lose sight of the big picture, their children. No matter how the case ends, if there are children, the parties will have to find a way to share their time. As mediation can make the court process a lot less stressful and scary for any children involved, this alone can make mediation a more attractive alternative.

Mediation can be a more economical and amicable solution to resolve family law matters such as child custody, property division, and alimony. It’s always worth a try to consider mediation if you feel willing to compromise with your spouse to settle your legal disputes. Some reasonable give and take is necessary for mediation to work. However, mediation is not right for all family law cases, such as cases where there is domestic abuse or one or both of the parties are unwilling to compromise for the purpose of settlement. In these instances, mediation is rarely effective or worthwhile.

When meeting with a mediator, be prepared to list all the pending issues, as well as what you are willing to compromise. Finding a common ground with your spouse is the ultimate goal of mediation. Finding an attorney who is also a mediator can be even more helpful. The attorney is likely able to put any agreement reached in writing to be used in court when the parties finalize their case. Remember, mediation gives the parties way more control that the court system ever will. One of the advantages of mediation is the satisfaction of agreeing to a settlement versus being told what you will be required to do. So if you feel that you and your spouse may be able to compromise, give mediation a try. If it is clear that you don’t see eye to eye, a divorce attorney is probably the best option.

If you have or are are considering a family law or domestic case in South Carolina, contact a Mediator or Attorney today for advice specific to your case.

M. Rita Metts is a licensed Attorney and Certified Family Court Mediator with more than 15 years of Family Law experience, including divorce, custody, alimony, etc. For more information visit the website at, email, or call 803-929-0577.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Reasons to use an Experienced and Dedicated Family Law Attorney in South Carolina

If you live in South Carolina and you are going through a divorce you need to hire professional staff because you will need legal advice. Hiring an experienced and dedicated attorney is the best option if you are looking at paying alimony, fighting for child custody, and much more. There are five grounds for divorce in this state, as well as jurisdictional and venue requirements.

When you hire a family law attorney for a child custody issue you are making a good decision. There are muliple factors that courts look at when considering custody which an attorney can help you with. The court process can be very stressful on children as well as the parties. When you use a professional staff experienced with divorce they can help you understand the court process and advise you of your rights throughout the entire process.

When you are going through a divorce you may have problems with mediation and agreeing to certain things in the divorce like the amount of money you have to pay or should receive for alimony and child support. You might feel you deserve custody also. Mediation is when you will sit with a court appointed professional staff that will try and make the both of you come to agreements about the divorce. Mediation is required in many South Carolina counties in divorce, child custody cases, alimony and property division, as well and other states around the nation. An attorney can help you work through agreements and possibly bypass the mediation process in the courts. Alternately if you hire an attorney who also a certified mediator, you get the benefits of both legal advise and/or mediation services, depending on your needs.

Hiring a family law attorney can help you come to agreements with your spouse during the divorce process. You do not want to fight and be bitter through the process because it can cause you to lose rights. However, if one of the parties is impossible to work with then the judge may recognize this. An attorney can help make the process more fair when it comes to alimony payments and if you even have to pay anything, child support and visitation and more.

Consulting with an experienced attorney when you are going through a divorce, legal separation, child custody, child support, adoption, alimony or property division in South Carolina is the best option you can chose. You need to consider a family law attorney because the entire process can be too stressful to endure on your own and you may lose valuable grounds by waiting. The consultation allows you to gather sufficient information to protect your family and find out your rights. Finding an experienced and dedicated attorney will help you ensure the outcome is fair and at the best interest of the child. An attorney can help you calculate alimony payments if you should have to pay them, get the most time in visitation or even full custody, and help with mediation. You need a professional staff to work with you through the entire process. Itcan even help to speed up the entire process by coming to agreements with the other party.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Divorce Lawyer

In the unlikely event you have to retain the services of a divorce lawyer, ensure they have adequate experience and you can rely on them. If this happens you will need an attorney where at least fifty percent of their work in this area and unless you're expecting problems, preferably one trained in divorce mediation who practices it professionally. Still, you also need to feel at ease with them; someone who immediately instills a sense of trust.
Attorneys that tend to follow the mediation route are good at giving settlement advice but you may need an attorney who is more familiar with courtroom settlements. To save time, always ensure you know exactly what you are going to say to your divorce lawyer and what questions you need answered.

Plan each conversation by making an agenda and write down the things you want to talk about; take notes on the content of the conversation and the amount of time spent on phone calls. Physical meetings will cost more so if an item can be dealt with by mail or on the phone this will save money.

Your divorce attorney is just a resource for legal matters so do not try to get them personally involved as that is not their function; if you need emotional support there are others who can help with this. Try not to involve you divorce lawyer with any tales of bickering that you and your ex-partner are involved in that are not directly pertinent to the divorce.

The most important aspect for you to get sorted out is the control of the situation which should be yours and then you will be able to use your lawyer more effectively. Your legal representative must be told up front that while his or her advice is essential, all decisions regarding the divorce will be made by you. You must also let them know that you expect copies of all correspondence to be sent to you for you own records and if you contact them by phone, you expect a reply within one working day.

Not all cases need a courtroom to be decided upon so you could employ a lawyer just to help you with a marital settlement, legal information or advice. For someone taking this route, it is only important that you approach a lawyer to have certain aspects explained once you have carried out you own research. Divorce lawyers can draw up or assist with marital settlements their clients have drawn up themselves, but in this scenario, if things awry at least you will have someone who is familiar with your case.
About the author: Tab Solon is an independent website builder who owns and runs mainly news sites on various topics such as and

Men v. Women: Who does better in a divorce?

While the walk down the aisle ends in marital bliss for many couples, for an equal number the end of the aisle is a place far, far away from happily ever after. People who divorce often do so in eager anticipation of reclaiming their lost independence, forgotten autonomy and an identity lost during the course of the marriage.

Upon divorce, a couple's marital property, property acquired by the two during the course of their marriage, is divided up according to the applicable state law. Parties may divide and settle their property 50/50 or in some other arrangement depending upon the given laws. The hope is that the parties are treated fairly.

But even in a situation where all the assets are divided 50/50, divorced women may find that a seemingly fair settlement is still far from equitable. Women are typically awarded custody of the children. Because our predominant social values suggest that children are best situated with their mothers, women often do the lion's share of child rearing in divorced families, even in shared custody cases.

Any parent who has ever fought a custody battle knows that child care responsibilities are a privilege, not a burden. Unfortunately, most divorce settlements fail to account for the damaged future earning potential of a woman with child care responsibilities. Since mothers usually take some time away from their careers, and since women still earn slightly less than men, it is fair to say that most women, even prior to divorce, have lower earning power than their male spouses.

The problem of lower earning power is exacerbated by child care responsibilities. They reduce a woman's available work hours, thereby making it more difficult for her to increase her income through promotions, client cultivation and so forth. This marked reduced earning capacity is not factored into a divorce, since settlements focus on dividing marital property.

Ultimately, the overall economic quality of a man's life, based on earnings and amount spent on living expenses, increases after his divorce. He continues to earn more but bears fewer family expenses. The overall economic quality of a woman's life, post-divorce, decreases.

Of course, both parents are expected and legally required to contribute to the cost of raising their children, but the law still does not provide a mechanism to compensate a woman for the earning potential she has lost based on her decisions to marry and have children. Women often opt for careers that they feel will be more conducive to motherhood, working lower paying jobs because of the fewer hours they require.

A difficulty in reforming marital property laws to compensate these women lies in the fact that many women, even in today's modern world, make career decisions based almost entirely on their family plans. Thus, a college professor who might have become a successful businesswoman had her family plans been different, has no way to show a court her lost earning potential. Her decision to take a lower paying job cannot be weighed by the court, since there is no real evidence of material economic damage.

The objective of a divorce court is to give each party what he or she fairly deserves based on their earnings during marriage. It is next to impossible to factor the broad social pressures that shape women's career decisions into a given divorce settlement.

Legal scholars must either find a way to assess the lost earning power of the female spouse, or women as a collective must find a way to have their families and make honest career decisions too. The Medieval Period may be long gone from our history, but there are still some remnants of the dark age of divorce law at work in our courts today.

The Author: Corie Lynn Rosen

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Essential parts in separation agreements

It is vital to keep in mind that even though a separation agreement can be a very potent document it cannot end a marriage; a divorce is the only thing that can end a marriage. However they can work together, while a divorce will end the marriage the agreement can take care of the particulars.
Or, it can be used on its own so that a divorce can come later, or not at all. Some separated couples get back together or remain apart but never actually terminate their marriage with a divorce.

Filing the agreement is sometimes done with a divorce but usually done when one party needs help enforcing it. It does not need to be filed with the court to be legal as long as it is correctly signed.

Some provinces cannot enforce certain terms of the agreement unless both spouses have had independent legal advice (from a lawyer) or sign a waiver of independent legal advice witnessed by a lawyer before signing the agreement. It is always smart to have a lawyer take a look at the agreement before signing it.

Make sure your spouse gets independent legal advice too. This can prevent him or her from later asking a court to overturn it on the grounds that he or she did not understand what he or she was signing.

The care and financial support of children, spousal support, and division of property and debt. These are the main issues that need to be taken care of in a separation agreement. If you do not have one or any of these issues to deal with then the agreement will be easier to make.

The crucial aspects of a separation agreement that you need to know are: 1. to understand what an agreement can and cannot do; 2. to make sure that it is signed correctly after receiving independent legal advice; and 3. to make sure it deals with the important issues of children, income and property.

About the Author
James MacKenzie
This writer suggests that you visit for additional hints on a separation agreement.

The Family Law Attorney is helpful to settle Things over

Ann Arbor, December 2008 - "Bitter words and harsh times can create even more uncomfortable, awkward and very tense situations or environments for the parties involved and even for those around them. Having a professional who can help to fix these situations and draft and create fair, just settlements for divorced couples can be invaluable to these couples as they go through the divorce process" says Mr. Robert Dawid of
Speaking about Family Law Attorneys, Mr. Robert Dawid said "Strangely, when one thinks of a Family Law Attorney, they often think of those lawyers we have seen on television that have sinister ideas and intricate plots to destroy the lives of their opponents. What one will discover if they spend any time at all with any Attorney is that this is simply not the case. The vast majority of Attorneys are committed to discovering what is fair and implementing a settlement that reflects this. A Family Law Attorney is not interested in taking a bad situation and making it worse. This does not benefit them at all and goes against the sense of fairness and equality that they fight to protect. A family should never go through a divorce alone, without the counsel of a professional to guide them through what can become ugly situations and hard times."

He added, "If there are children involved in the divorce, these situations can become bitter messes from the very beginning. Former couples sometimes spend countless dollars and a great deal of time trying to decide who is going to have custody of their children after their divorce. What is often forgotten in situations such as these is: what is best for the children? A Family Law Attorney will bring their expertise in these situations and past experiences in similar cases in helping the family decide what is best for the children. Many families face the unpleasant requirement of putting their children through a messy divorce when the parents cannot get along or stay married to each other any longer. When divorce seems inevitable, the parents will usually fight often, be miserable and create tense situations inside the home, which their children often pick up on. So, getting divorced may be the best thing for the children in some cases, as nobody wants their children to grow up in these circumstances."

Speaking on the move, Mr. Robert Dawid said, "A messy divorce, however, will often create the very thing the parents were trying to avoid, a tense and uncomfortable situation for their children. Having a Family Law Attorney to help the parents through these troubled times will help to smooth the situation and create a fair and calm environment for the children"

About For legal advice or consultation regarding bankruptcy, is the best place to look for in this planet. The advantage of approaching for legal help is that the initial consultation is completely free.

For more info, visit

Robert A. Dawid Attorney at Law Robert A. Dawid, PLLC 122 South Main Street, Suite 353 Ann Arbor, MI 48102 (734)277-2567 (734)769-8284-Fax

Should You Hire an Attorney for Your Divorce?

I'm sure you expect me to say "yes". I am an attorney after all. And guess what? You're going to be right.

Lots of people hesitate to hire an attorney because they feel that we make things worse - not better. They worry that a lawyer will add conflict and make things worse. That's sometimes true.

But generally, I think we bring a lot to the table. We have the training and skills to make things go more smoothly. Most importantly, we know the danger zones and can help you avoid making expensive mistakes.

Here are some of the most common mistakes that people make when they don't have a lawyer -

Mistake Number 1 - They forget to divide assets - they may not even realize there is an asset to divide. The most commonly overlooked asset is the retirement plan - especially pension plans that do not have an account balance and will not pay out any money for a long time. Sometimes these are the most valuable things a family owns and they don't get divided.

Mistake Number 2 - Some assets require a special process to be divided. With the pension plans I mentioned earlier, I've seen lots of mistakes. Some people, for example, suggest that they will divide the plan by borrowing against it. Big mistake. There are much better ways to divide the plan using special federal laws that make the division a tax free transfer. That's just one example of an asset with a special process for division. There are others.

Mistake Number 3 - You may draft a document that is unenforceable. Some people fail to do what they agreed to do. When that happens the document needs to be binding and enforceable. There are right ways and wrong ways to draft these documents and you need to be sure it's done properly.

Mistake Number 4 - You may assume that property division is required to be 50/50. That's not always the case. In many instances property can be divided in some way other than an equal split and you might have been the beneficiary.

Finally, Mistake Number 5 - This is the biggie. When you don't have an attorney you fail to take advantage of years of experience from someone that has done this many times before. I've been a Raleigh divorce lawyer for more than twenty years. I've learned that there is a sense of security in knowing that you have someone on the team that can guide you and help you be objective and rational. Having that person on board, and trusting their advice, helps you reach agreement faster and with less anxiety and stress.

I always like to ask for help from someone that has done it before not matter what I am doing. I get help when I go backpacking, when I buy a house, when I make decisions about raising my kids. Divorce is difficult. This is the right time to get some help.

If you are worried about a lawyer taking things in a direction you don't like then remember who's the boss. You are hiring the lawyer. You get to make the calls. You are the decision maker because you are the one that has to live with the divorce settlement after it's all over. You are the decision maker - not your lawyer.

Get the help and advice you need and manage your lawyer so that things are handled in the manner you wish to have them handled. Again, you are the boss. After all, you're the one paying the bills.

Speaking of paying the bills - you may have some anxiety about legal fees. You may not have cash available right now due to the expense of separation. This is a time to seek help. I've had clients go to parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends and get financial help. I've had clients get bank loans, credit card advances and 401(k) loans to get through this period. There are options. Talk them through with your lawyer.

This is a tough time - maybe the toughest thing you will go through. Get a lawyer on your team - someone you trust and can count on to help you through the process. One way to get to know a lawyer better is through their website especially if it offers a video that gives you a sense of the lawyer before you commit to a meeting.

Arthor: Lee S. Rosen is a Board Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of Rosen Divorce in North Carolina. Rosen Divorce is the largest divorce firm in the Southeastern United States. For more information visit

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Domestic Problems?

Families comes in all shapes andsizes. Therefore, it is difficult to develop laws to resolve all legal issues involving the family. For this reason, family laws regarding divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, and property division are complex in nature and Family laws are hence quite complex in nature and difficult for the average individual to follow and comprehend. Family law covers all aspects of domestic issues between parents, children, husbands, wives and domestic partners. Laws vary from place to place and courts consider different factors in their decision making.

If you have questions regarding a family law or domestic matter, a family lawyer then help is just a click away. Call as early in the process as possible to avoid losing a much needed advantage. It is worth the consultation fee. A family law attorney can help you with your family issues like divorce, legal separation, alimony, domestic violence, child custody, child support, division of marital property and debts, etc. Many attorneys are also certified mediators and can provide you with mediation support if you and your family would like to try to reach an agreement on the issues through negotiation. A mediator is a third party who can assist you and your family in reaching a joint resolution to the problems.