Unpublished Supreme Court opinion in Conits demonstrates the effect of de novo standard of review

Posted Wednesday, November 20th, 2019 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Appellate Procedure, Equitable Distribution/Property Division, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys, South Carolina Appellate Decisions, South Carolina Specific

Last week I blogged about how the Supreme Court’s decisions in Lewis and Stoney–mandating a de novo standard of appellate review of family court factual findings–was making it more worthwhile to appeal family court orders. I noted last month’s oral argument in Conits v. Conits as an example of how this less deferential standard of review was affecting family court appeals.

After an initial reported South Carolina Supreme Court opinion in Conits held that Husband had preserved the issue of the valuation of his farm in Greece, on November 20, 2019, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed a family court finding (subsequently affirmed by the Court of Appeals) that the farm was 30 acres with Husband’s half interest valued at $1,420,000.00. If further found that “Husband’s testimony was the only competent evidence of the farm’s size and value in this record.”

In reaching this conclusion, the Supreme Court noted that the Court of Appeals had relied upon cases prior to Lewis in affirming the family court and had thus applied the improper standard of review. Thus, despite the family court’s numerous factual findings that Husband was not credible, his valuation of this Greek farm prevails, reducing the amount he has to pay Wife to effectuate equitable distribution by approximately $700,000.

The Conits opinion is yet another piece of evidence that the ability to appeal family court orders is becoming a vital skill set for South Carolina family court attorneys.

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