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

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.  These materials can also be downloaded as a Microsoft Word file. I often “recycle” lectures, so comments may be used to update the materials. A lot of the bickering between attorneys and guardians […]

Let’s Make Better Mistakes Tomorrow

Recently, walking past an apartment in Amsterdam, I observed the following postcard-sized calling card for a “life coach” and broke out laughing: Attorneys, especially family law attorneys, represent folks who are trying to overcome “mistakes.” Sometimes the mistake is having a child before they are ready to parent. Sometimes the mistake is marrying someone they shouldn’t […]

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 […]

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, […]

Locking the barn doors after the horse has escaped

There are a half dozen critical moments in each family court case when having an experienced attorney is critical: motions for temporary relief; contempt actions; mediation; when trial is scheduled; trial; and when post-trial motions are due. A motion for temporary relief is often outcome determinative. The party obtaining favorable results can likely keep those […]

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. […]

(Unwittingly) Coaching the children

To most people “coaching” children in the context of custody and visitation cases is telling a child to lie to the judge (or the guardian, or a mental health professional/forensic evaluator) about that party’s or the other parent’s behavior. Two classic (but overstated) examples are telling kids to lie about sexual or physical abuse in […]