A few months ago I blogged on the concept that a child’s minority only lasts for 216 months and that the number of months of minority remaining should determine how much energy and fortune to put into a custody case. Once a child turns eighteen the family court can no longer order custody or visitation. Holcombe v. Kennison, 300 S.C. 479, 388 S.E.2d 807 (1990).
This insight that when fighting over custody, one is fighting over at most 216 months, and as time passes a declining number of months, has implications in the tempo of custody litigation. When one’s client is satisfied with the status quo, every month under the status quo is one less month that the satisfying status quo can be altered. When one’s client is unsatisfied with the status quo, every month under the status quo is one less month that a modification can result in client satisfaction. Thus, when my client is happy with the current custody arrangement, any delay is desirable; when my client is unhappy, any delay should be resisted if possible.
I’ve had a couple of recent custody cases in which my client is happy and the other side does not seem to be moving the case forward. I am happy to leave the case in limbo. Just today an opposing attorney phoned me after 4:00 p.m. requesting a continuance of a hearing tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. on my motion to dismiss, due to an illness that appeared to be of several days duration. Previously I would have been resistant to this request: requesting a last-minute continuance over something the attorney has been aware of for days is inconveniencing and somewhat discourteous. However the status quo was satisfying to my client, and a continuance keeps that status quo in place another month. Knowing this meant another month of client contentment, I granted the continuance without hesitation.