2021 again has few published family law appeals–and even fewer greatly consequential ones

Posted Tuesday, January 4th, 2022 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Of Interest to Family Court Litigants, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys, South Carolina Appellate Decisions, South Carolina Specific

While 2021 didn’t come close to the recent record for fewest published South Carolina family law appeals (six), the nine published opinions break little new ground.

In Singh, the Supreme Court confirmed what everyone had suspected: one cannot arbitrate children’s issues. The two other pronouncements from the Supreme Court will likely have little future impact. Stasi reversed a Court of Appeals reversal of a TPR/adoption on a very fact specific “failure to visit” issue. Swicegood corrected an obvious Court of Appeals error that disallowed gay common-law marriages that predate 2014–an issue unlikely to come up frequently–while still finding the parties were not married at common law.

The Court of Appeals gave some guidance on contempt and alimony modification issues. Campione rejected a number of frequently recurring defenses to contempt so perhaps these defenses will be pled less frequently. Taylor reversed contempt findings by rejecting the family court’s credibility determinations. It also exposed, but did not really address, serious flaws in contempt procedures and suggests there may be procedural due process problems with Rule 14, SCFCR.

I believe at least two of these nine opinions, Taylor and Daily, would have provided the appellant less relief under an abuse of discretion standard of review. There are a whole lot of errors from family court trials. Given the cost of appeal is almost always less than the cost of trial, I remain surprised so few cases get appealed.

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