Archive for the ‘Of Interest to Family Court Litigants’ Category

Checklist of questions whose answers can derail a custody or visitation case

I tried a custody case last month in which I learned a few weeks prior to trial that my client was using marijuana approximately once a month. What had previously seemed a strong case for custody no longer was. While many of the issues that can derail a South Carolina custody case seem pretty obvious, […]

Supreme Court changes Family Court 365 day benchmark administrative order

On August 27, 2014 the South Carolina Supreme Court issued an administrative order superseding the May 9, 2006 order that set the 365 day benchmark to dispose of family court cases. The new order is more detailed and provides guidance to family law attorneys and litigants. Under the new order, written requests for a final […]

Can judges stop attorneys from communicating their rulings to litigants?

I occasionally see or hear of family court judges issuing instructions for orders but asking attorneys not to reveal their ruling to their clients until the order is signed and filed. These judges’ rationale is that, until the order is entered, they reserve the right to change their ruling. I believe such requests are inappropriate. […]

Courtesy copying clients on emails

Fellow attorneys often ask me why I courtesy copy my clients on almost all emails. Evidently it is not a uniform practice. However there are three good reasons for doing so. First, it helps one comply with Rule 1.4(a), specifically Rule 1.4(a)(3), of the South Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, which requires a lawyer to […]

How should the family court handle misbehaving stepparents in custody litigation?

I have a fundamental jurisprudential difference with most of my family law colleagues and many of the state family court judges regarding how one should deal with misbehaving stepparents in custody litigation.[1] Their typical response is to join them as parties and subject them to restraining orders. My preferred response is to make parents strictly […]

Court of Appeals affirms strict compliance with adoption consent requirements

The August 4, 2014 Court of Appeal opinion in Brown v. Baby Girl Harper affirmed a family court’s decision not to terminate a birth mother’s parental rights because the executed consents to the adoption were not properly witnessed. The attorney-witness was not in the room when the birth mother signed the consent document, and neither […]

Court of Appeals reconsiders its decision and reinstates no fault divorce

When I blogged on the May 14, 2014 Court of Appeals opinion in the case of Mick-Skaggs v. Skaggs, I noted the curious decision to change the ground for divorce from no-fault to mutual fault. First, neither party contested the fact of one year’s continuous separation and typically the appellate courts will not change the […]

Previously unpublished opinion answers question of where to enforce foreign equitable distribution orders

On July 30, 2014 the South Carolina Court of Appeals published the previously unpublished opinion in the case of Katzburg v. Katzburg. This opinion answers the frequently recurring question of where to enforce foreign state’s equitable distribution orders. The answer: circuit court. A more detailed analysis of the opinion can be found in the blog […]