Posts Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys

Little reason to attack the guardian at trial

Working on materials for an upcoming lecture on attorney/guardian interactions, I realized that it had been years since I last felt compelled to “attack” the guardian ad litem at trial. However I am often asked by colleagues on effective techniques to undermine the guardian. There are times when the only effective strategy for minimizing a […]

What the guardian should expect from the attorneys/What attorneys should expect from the guardian

The following are materials for an upcoming Charleston County guardian ad litem luncheon.  I am posting them as a blog so that folks can comment.  I often “recycle” lectures, so comments may be used to update the materials. A lot of the bickering between attorneys and guardians is because, outside of the private guardian ad litem […]

Is empathy really useful for a family law attorney?

A recent New York Times ROOM for DEBATE discussed Does Empathy Guide or Hinder Moral Action? The anti-empathy debater defined it as “the capacity to experience the feeling of others, and particularly others’ suffering.” He believes our culture confuses empathy with compassion, and that empathy is a hindrance to making wise and moral decisions. Family […]

Patterns in 2016 Published South Carolina Family Court opinions

For the past six years I’ve done an annual recap of the prior year’s South Carolina published family court appeals. It’s an opportunity for me to observe patterns that I may not have observed in reviewing each published opinion discretely and shortly after its release. After a slow start (two published opinions in the first […]

Insufficient guardian investigation causes Court of Appeals to reverse termination of parental rights

The December 30, 2016 Court of Appeals opinion in SCDSS v. Nelson reversed the termination of Mother’s parental rights primarily because the guardian ad litem had conducted an insufficient investigation. In Nelson, DSS removed Mother’s three children in September 2013 because she was living with her sister in a roach-infested home without running water, lights, […]

Is the lack of a set notice requirement in the UCCJEA a feature or a bug?

In 2008 South Carolina went from the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The updated statute was largely an improvement. It includes limitation upon the exercise of “emergency jurisdiction” so that an emergency cannot be used to give a state permanent jurisdiction. It provided powerful […]

Court of Appeals holds order from bifurcated trial finding common law marriage is not immediately appealable

The issue of what family court orders are immediately appealable can be confusing.  Sometimes final orders need to be appealed immediately, even if that order does not end the case. For example, orders from contempt actions need to be appealed immediately even if the case is ongoing. Arnal v. Arnal, 363 S.C. 268, 609 S.E.2d 821, […]

Betting on an estranged spouse’s untimely demise

In the first twenty years of my practice it was rare that a party died in the middle of divorce litigation or within a few years of the divorce. The few times this happened there were obvious warning signs: either a history of serious mental illness including suicidal ideations, or addiction to dangerous narcotics–typically opiates. […]