Why not have multiple final orders?

Posted Thursday, March 31st, 2022 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Family Court Procedure, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys

When a case concludes, family law attorneys typically draft one final order addressing all issues in the case. It is certainly the easiest method of insuring all issues resolved in the case are addressed in an order. Yet it often isn’t the best way.

A few years ago I prosecuted my first contested termination of parental rights/adoption case. There was no need for others to know why the biological father’s parental rights were being terminated. The litigants needed the termination order but many folks might need to see an adoption order. The biological father needed to be provided the termination order; he did not need the adoption order. Various agencies needed the adoption order; they did not need the termination order. I needed few filed copies of the termination order but many filed copies of the adoption order. Thus, I drafted separate final orders for the termination and the adoption.

Later I realized that name change orders stemming from divorces or separate maintenance actions should be separate from the final order. The spouse resuming the maiden name needs to show that order to various governmental agencies and may need many copies of that order. Those agencies don’t need the details of the marital dissolution. Again, separate orders.

Now I realize that orders granting fault divorces don’t need to be part of an order approving a separation agreement. Financial institutions might need to see provisions of the order addressing financial issues. The children’s care providers might need to see the provisions regarding custody. Neither needs to see what led to the court granting a fault divorce. For similar reasons, I sometimes encounter two separate marital dissolution agreements and orders with one addressing children’s issues and the other addressing alimony and property division issues.

Having multiple final orders addressing subsets of issues stemming from the final hearing can serve two purposes. It can avoid embarrassing a litigant by insuring few need to see the order that reveals embarrassing details. It can also insure that narrow provisions (such as the name change) can be revealed without having to reveal other details of the marital dissolution.

I suspect there are other examples where multiple final orders might be prudent. When drafting final orders an attorney should consider when and why these orders might need to be revealed to third parties. That attorney should consider drafting multiple orders that insure folks can reveal some necessary details from their case without revealing all details.

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