2019 Published Family Court opinions summary

After a couple of years mid-decade in which South Carolina’s appellate courts published only six opinions addressing family law, 2019 produced a more robust set of opinions: eighteen, plus a refiled opinion from late-2018.

Many of these opinions were highly consequential. Two Court of Appeals opinions, Singh v. Singh, and Kosciusko v. Parham, held that child issues could not be arbitrated. Although the Supreme Court has not reviewed these opinions yet, I suspect their holdings will be sustained. In Moore v. Moore, the Court of Appeals finally affirmed an alimony termination based upon continued cohabitation. However the Supreme Court has not resolved the petition for a writ of certiorari. In the two Stone v. Thompson opinions, the Supreme Court first held that an order finding a common-law marriage is immediately appealable and then decided to abolish common law marriage prospectively and render it harder to prove retroactively. In Bazen v. Bazen, the Supreme Court admonished a mother for dishonesty but then limited the petitioning grandparents to non-overnight visitation because they didn’t have a substantial relationship with the grandchildren prior to the litigation. And the appellate courts continue to grant standing to foster parents looking to adopt the children in their care.

A few of these cases, along with an unpublished Supreme Court decision from an appeal that resulted in three prior published opinions, found the appellate courts giving little deference to the family court’s credibility determinations. Prior to the late-2017 opinion in Stoney v. Stoney, that rarely happened. As I noted repeatedly in this blog last year, the de novo standard of review set forth in Lewis is greatly assisting family court appellants.

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