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2014 again finds few published family law opinions

While gender roles and marital expectations have rapidly changed during the past 50 years, family law has lagged in its response. Custody, child support, alimony and, to some extent, property division all tend to reflect traditional gender roles and expectations, creating a widening gap between what the average citizen considers just and what a family court lawyer can tell that citizen to expect from the family court system.

Part of the reason for this gap is the failure of the legislature to amend or update statutes to reflect changing social mores. However some of the reason for this gap is that the appellate judiciary resolves very few family law matters and fails to publish some of the decisions that might enlighten family court attorneys and judges.

2014 again found few published family law opinions. The first year I did this annual review of the previous year’s family law opinions I was surprised by how few opinions there were. Now I am merely disappointed.  Not including In the Interest of Jane Doe, 407 S.C. 623, 757 S.E.2d 711 (2014), an adult protective services case that was an appeal from family court but did not involve family law, there were sixteen published family law opinions in 2014.  One of those cases, Srivastava, was subsequently refiled in 2015Two of those opinions are from the case of Brown v. Baby Girl Harper, an adoption and termination of parental rights denial that Court of Appeals affirmed in August and the Supreme Court affirmed less than two months later.

Three of these opinions–Srivastava v. Srivastava, Buist v. Buist and Brown v. Brown–focused primarily on the issue of attorney fee awards. Two–Hudson v. Hudson and Meehan v. Meehan–focused primarily on the interpretation and enforceability of prenuptial agreements. These are underdeveloped areas of family law and their insights are useful. Three opinions–Brown v. Baby Girl Harper, SCDSS v. Hogan and SCDSS v. Michelle G.–dealt with parental rights–issues that are always of great importance to our appellate courts.

A table of these sixteen cases with links to the opinions are below:

Download (PDF, 47KB)

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