A request for entry upon land for the purpose of inspection is a discovery option infrequently used by family court attorneys. Part of the reason for this is we often informally allow such inspections. There’s a good reason to require more formality.

Rule 34(a), SCRCP, allows a party to request an inspection “to permit entry upon designated land or other property in the possession or control of the party upon whom the request is served for the purpose of inspection and measuring, surveying, photographing, testing, or sampling the property or any designated object or operation thereon…” In many marital dissolution cases involving equitable distribution, a party might seek inspection of the other party’s residence to inventory and document the marital household items contained therein. Typically, these inspections are done informally–without the necessity of a request for inspection. However, the best practice is to require a formal request for inspection.

I began requiring such formal requests after a few cases in which an opposing counsel sought additional inspections of my client’s residences. While I fought these requests, my belief is that if I demanded, and obtained, a formal request when the initial inspection was sought, I would have a firmer basis to deny the subsequent request. Rule 26(a), SCRCP, authorizes the court to limit discovery when “the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative” or when “the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity by discovery in the action to obtain the information sought.” Further, demanding a formal request for inspection impresses upon the opposing party the need to do a full and complete inspection the first time–and not to cause trouble during the inspection. The number of times the opposing party has gotten argumentative with my client in the midst of an inspection drastically decreased once I began demanding formal requests for inspection.

While a party certainly has the right to inspect the opposing party’s residence to inventory marital property, that right is limited and does not provide the party unfettered access to an estranged spouse’s residence. Demanding formal requests for inspection insures better behavior and more thoughtful inspections.

Late Friday (April 3, 2020), the South Carolina Supreme Court issued an order that will partially reopen the court system for business while continuing to greatly limit public access to the courthouse. While it does not appear that contested trials will resume during this quarantine period, compared to the March 18, 2020 order this new order greatly expands the matters the family court may permissibly handle. The items in this new order that should be most of interest to South Carolina family law attorneys and litigants are as follows:

Section b(2) authorizes non-jury trials to proceed “ if the parties consent, or the matter involves an emergency or other circumstance warranting immediate resolution.” This section allows for trials to be conducted via remote technology and limits who may appear for in-person trials. In- person hearings will be conducted “[o]nly if a judge determines that the hearing cannot be conducted adequately using remote communication technology and the matter involves an emergency or other circumstance warranting immediate determination.” This order contains a number of technical rules on conducting and preserving testimony for these remote hearings that anyone considering such a hearing should review.

Section b(4) allows motions [including, one assumes, motions for temporary relief] to be addressed without a hearing. “If, upon reviewing a motion, a judge determines that the motion is without merit, the motion may be denied without waiting for any return or other response from the opposing party or parties. In all other situations except those where a motion may be made on an ex parte basis, a ruling shall not be made until the opposing party or parties have had an opportunity to file a return or other response to the motion. A trial judge may elect not to hold a hearing when the judge determines the motion may readily be decided without further input from the lawyers.” If such a hearing is held, it is likely to be conducted via electronic means.

Section c(16) authorizes certification in lieu of affidavit. If a statute, court rule or other provision of law requires an affidavit to be filed in an action, the requirement of an affidavit may be satisfied by a signed certification of the maker stating, “I certify that the foregoing statements made by me are true. I am aware that if any of the foregoing statements made by me are willfully false, I am subject to punishment by contempt.” Many family court litigants were having difficulties getting necessary documents notarized. This section allows them to maintain social distancing while executing affidavits and financial declarations.

Section f(2) allows for family court agreements to be approved without a hearing. Typically, the family courts had been approving temporary agreements without hearings via consent orders. The provisions of Section 2(f)(A & B) would appear to require the signature of the attorneys, the guardian ad litem (if there is one) and the parties to approve any general order or temporary order. Past procedure had the court approving such orders without the parties’ signatures if that party was represented and their attorney signed in their stead. This order may impose an additional requirement on the number of signatories before getting such orders approved.

Section f(2)(C) sets the procedure for approving final family court agreements. The Charleston County family court was already waiving the hearing requirement to approve such agreements but this order sets statewide procedures. Both the agreement and the consent order needs to be signed by the attorneys and the parties. There must be an updated financial declaration for each party. If a guardian has been appointed and the agreement involves children, the guardian must submit an affidavit or certification addressing the best interests of the children. Finally, the parties must provide “[w]ritten testimony of all parties in the form of affidavit or certification addressing and answering all questions the Family Court would normally ask the parties on the record.” The list of required information largely tracks the affidavits in lieu of appearance that family court attorneys have long used to get agreements approved when a party cannot attend the final hearing. However attorneys should review Section f(2)(C)(iv) and revise their form affidavits to conform with this order.

Finally, Section f(1) authorizes the family court to grant uncontested divorces without a hearing. This subsection sets forth the requirements to obtain a divorce and includes additional requirements if either party is seeking a name change as part of their divorce.

Still unclear is how to address the constant visitation denials that the pandemic is causing. With very limited access to the family courts, there was little one could do for parents who were being denied visitation. Whether the family courts will address such visitation denials via hearings, whether such hearings will be conducted in-person or remotely, and whether it would require filing a contempt petition to obtain such a hearing, is something only time and experience will demonstrate.

Since the March 18, 2020 order issued, the family courts were not granting divorces and the only hearings taking place involved emergencies–typically child protective services or protection from domestic abuse matters. This April 3, 2020 order sets statewide procedures to approval final agreements and authorizes uncontested divorces. It would appear to allow for more family court motion hearings, including motions for temporary relief. While I don’t see multi-day divorce or custody trials resuming until quarantining ends, and I am uncertain whether the family court will want to conduct hearings involving custody or support issues without hearings, family court attorneys and litigants have numerous options that were not available the previous two weeks.

In the November 6, 2019, case of Cooper v. SCDSS, 428 S.C. 402, 835 S.E.2d 516 (2019), the South Carolina Supreme Court found that the family court had improperly denied Foster Parents’ requests to intervene in DSS removal actions.

The two sets of Foster Parents at issue had placement of Mother and Father’s three children (at the time of trial one set of Foster Parents had the two older children; during the appeal, all three children were placed with the second set of Foster Parents). DSS sought to remove the children from Foster Parents’ care and place them with Mother’s aunt. Foster Parents filed termination of parental rights (TPR) and adoption actions, and subsequently sought to intervene in the removal actions and sought to consolidate the removal and TPR/adoptions actions.

By the time the Foster Parents’ intervention and consolidation requests were heard by the family court, DSS changed its position on removal and sought reunification with Mother. It argued that intervention, consolidation, and granting discovery rights to Foster Parents would unnecessarily complicate the case. DSS argued Foster Parents’ intervention rights were strictly permissive and not mandatory. DSS also argued the volunteer GAL could protect the Children’s interest and that Foster Parents had a right to attend the permanency planning hearing and to proceed with their private TPR and adoption actions. The Volunteer GAL supported intervention but expressed concern about allowing consolidation because different statutes govern the role of a volunteer GAL in a DSS action and the role of a GAL in a private action, and the GAL stated a volunteer GAL should not “be expected to serve in protracted litigation involving contests primarily between private parties.”

Without making any factual findings, the family court denied Foster Parents’ motions to intervene and consolidate. After the family court denied their motions for reconsideration both Foster Parents appealed. The Court of Appeals consolidated their appeals and requested the Supreme Court certify the appeals for direct review. The Supreme Court granted that request. Before oral argument DSS withdrew its opposition to Foster Parents’ requests and joined their requests for relief.

The Supreme Court’s opinion first addressed the family court’s deficient factual finding on Foster Parents’ motions:

We stress that the family court must set forth pertinent findings of fact and conclusions of law when ruling upon motions to intervene and to consolidate, especially when the best interests of children are at stake. The unique facts of each case make it all the more important for the family court to fully set forth its findings when ruling on such motions.

However the Supreme Court did not wish this insufficient fact finding delay resolution of Foster Parents’ motions:

The absence of any factual findings to support the family court’s denial of Foster Parents’ motions makes our review of the family court’s decision difficult. In many instances, a remand to the family court would be appropriate; however, to avoid further delay in establishing permanency for the Children, we have examined the record and will address the merits of each motion.

The opinion next addressed whether Foster Parents’ invention request were as of right or permissive. Interpreting Rule 24, SCRCP, the Supreme Court held their intervention requests were permissive:

Section 63-7-1700(J) provides that a foster parent is a “party in interest” in a DSS removal action. Section 63-7-1700(J) further provides that a “party in interest may move to intervene in the case pursuant to the rules of civil procedure and if the motion is granted, may move for review.” (emphasis added). By using the word “if” in the emphasized portion of the statute, the General Assembly recognized a foster parent’s right to intervene in a removal action is not absolute.

A family court should therefore apply Rule 24(b)(2) when analyzing whether or not to grant a foster parent’s motion to intervene. See Rule 24(b)(2), SCRCP (permitting intervention upon timely application “when an applicant’s claim or defense and the main action have a question of law or fact in common” and upon consideration of “whether the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original parties”).

Given the facts of this case–the Foster Parents has long and enduring relationship with the children in there are and these children were closely bonded to them–the Supreme Court held the family court erred in not allowing intervention:

First, there is no dispute that Foster Parents timely moved to intervene, as required under Rule 24(b)(2). Further, while foster parent intervention will not be appropriate in every removal action, here, Foster Parents have demonstrated their private TPR and adoption actions and the DSS removal actions have questions of law and fact in common. The best interests of the Children are certainly a consideration the private actions and the DSS actions have in common, especially when considering the length of time the Children have been with Foster Parents. Expert testimony indicates the Children are bonded with Foster Parents and that alternative placement would be severely detrimental to the Children.

Under these circumstances, intervention will allow the family court to receive input from Foster Parents that will aid the family court in reaching a timely decision on the merits of both removal actions. We further conclude intervention will not unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the parties to these actions.

We therefore hold the family court erred in denying the motions to intervene. We stress that our decision in this case should not be interpreted as a signal to the family court bench and bar that intervention should be granted to foster parents in every case. The decision to grant intervention remains in the discretion of the family court following its analysis of the facts and procedural posture of each case.

The Supreme Court next decided to remand the Foster Parents’ requests for consolidation of the removal actions with their TPR and adoption actions back to the family court. It cited Rule 42(a), SCRCP regarding consolidation:

Consolidation. When actions involving a common question of law or fact are pending before the court, it may order a joint hearing or trial of any or all matters in issue in the action; it may order all the actions consolidated; and it may make such orders concerning proceedings therein as may tend to avoid unnecessary costs or delay.

In deciding to remand the consolidation issue, the Supreme Court noted the Children’s GAL raised legitimate concerns regarding the consolidation of Foster Parents’ private actions with the DSS removal actions. It further held that “DSS’s consent [to consolidation] and its reasons for such consent would certainly be factors the family court should consider.”

Finally the Supreme Court rejected Foster Parents’ argument that DSS should have been joined in the removal action as moot as the court had granted their motions to intervene. It found one Foster Parents’ argument that the family court should have joined DSS as a party to their TPR and adoption case to be without merit as they had already named DSS as a defendant in that case.

Two takeaways from Cooper. First, family court judges who make procedural decisions regarding children’s rights must make detailed factual findings justifying those decisions. Second, Foster Parents who have a substantial relationship with the children they foster should likely be allowed to intervene in proceedings involving those children’s placement.

There is a clear ambiguity in the South Carolina Rule of Civil Procedure regarding requests for admissions–SCRCP 36. I suspect that many denied requests to admit exploit (or take advantage of) this ambiguity.

Akin to the procedural rule addressing responding to pleadings, the rule regarding responding to requests for admissions states that “when good faith requires that a party qualify his answer or deny only a part of the matter of which an admission is requested, he shall specify so much of it as is true and qualify or deny the remainder.” Thus a request for admission that is partially accurate and partially inaccurate requires a more detailed response than “admitted” or “denied.”

However, unlike pleadings–in which there are no limitations to the number of paragraphs one can allege–Rule 36 limits a party to twenty requests for admissions, including subparts (this limitation does not apply to requests to admit the authenticity of documents). A request for admission that basically asks about two distinct facts might qualify as two requests to admit (reducing the full number of requests one can issue) or it can be interpreted as a conjunctive request. To demonstrate this ambiguity, let’s examine the following requests:

  • Request one: “Admit or deny that you have used marijuana and cocaine in the presence of the minor children.”
  • Request two: “Admit or deny that you have used marijuana in the presence of the minor children and admit or deny that you have used cocaine in the presence of the minor children.”

Are these two requests different? I would contend so. The first request should be admitted only if the litigant has used marijuana and cocaine in the presence of the minor children. It also counts as only one request. The second request requires a partial admission if the litigant has used marijuana or cocaine in the presence of the minor children. However it also counts as two requests (essentially, “Admit or deny that you have used marijuana in the presence of the minor children” and “Admit or deny that you have used cocaine in the presence of the minor children.”). If this request was issued as part of twenty separate requests, there is at least one request too many.

One more typically encounters requests like request one than request two. If one doesn’t consider the implications of using “and” rather than “or” when drafting such requests, one is likely to be surprised by the subsequent denials. I have denied a number of requests looking like request one when I would have partially admitted a request that looked like request two. However, I would likely have objected to answering more than ten requests that looked like request two.

In contrast a request, “Admit or deny that you have used marijuana or cocaine in the presence of the minor children,” will get admitted more often than one that uses the conjunction “and.” However that admission won’t uncover which drug was being used in the children’s presence.

When requests for admissions seek information about separate facts, it is better to break the request out into separate requests. Otherwise, the issuing party will not understand what the denial factually entails. Consider the request, “Admit or deny that you have used cocaine in the presence of the minor children.” If one is unconcerned that the litigant may be using cocaine when the children are not present, this is a fine request. However if one is concerned about any relatively recent cocaine use, one should issue a separate request such as “Admit or deny that you have used cocaine within the past [x] years.”

Given the limitation of twenty request for admissions, one needs to be careful about using conjunctions. A denial of a conjuncted request to admit may be ambiguously hiding an adverse fact.

Probably once a month I attend a contested family court hearing in which the opposing counsel attempts to submit a fee affidavit without including an itemized statement of time. Most often I’ve been able to keep the family court from considering awarding the other party attorney’s fees if I object. Yet this behavior persists.

In 1986, the Court of Appeals, in Johnson v. Johnson, 288 S.C. 270, 277-78, 341 S.E.2d 811 (Ct.App. 1986), indicated that “vague estimations of time and labor devoted to the case and extent of legal services rendered” are insufficient to sustain an attorney fee award. In Johnson a one-half page statement of estimated time devoted to case, totaling 90 hours, coupled with vague testimony of attorney as to time and labor, found was insufficient to support award of attorney’s fees. The Court of Appeals remanded the matter back to the family court.

Twice Johnson has been cited by the appellate courts in published opinions to vacate a family court’s award of attorney’s fees. In Strickland v. Strickland, 297 S.C. 248, 376 S.E.2d 268 (1989), the Supreme Court reversed an award of attorney’s fees because the fee affidavit was insufficient for the family court to determine the fee award factors. In Griffith v. Griffith, 332 S.C. 630, 506 S.E.2d 526 (Ct.App. 1998), the Court of Appeals remanded the award of attorney’s fees because, [t]he conclusory information of total time expended and hourly rate charged which was set forth in the affidavit is insufficient to provide the evidentiary basis necessary to support the award, even with the wife’s testimony confirming the amounts actually paid.”

In South Carolina family court a fee affidavit is incomplete without an itemized statement of time. Failing to include such statements can be fatal to a fee claim. Objecting to incomplete fee affidavits can often prevent an award of attorney’s fees against one’s own client.

At this point in my career, it’s rare I learn anything significant about legal doctrines from opposing counsels. However, earlier this week, I was completely schooled by an attorney, Jeffrey Thomas Watson, three years out of law school about the breadth of the res judicata doctrine.

That doctrine holds that issues that have been completely litigated–either to conclusion or to a dismissal with prejudice–cannot be relitigated again against the same parties. There are two components to this doctrine. The first is that matters literally cannot be relitigated again. For example, if one files for an adultery divorce and fails to prove the adultery, one cannot bring another claim for the adultery divorce if one obtains better evidence–although one could file again if one obtains evidence of subsequent adultery.

The second component is that once a judicial resolution is made regarding some fact, that factual resolution is binding in subsequent cases between the parties. For example, if, in a protection from domestic abuse proceeding, one obtains a finding of domestic abuse, that finding carries over into any subsequent marital dissolution case. That issue was the gravamen of the appeal I handled in Moore v. Moore, 376 S.C. 467, 657 S.E.2d 743 (2008). In Moore, Husband had been served with a domestic abuse proceeding in the evening for a hearing that took place at 9:00 a.m. the next morning. The family court found domestic abuse and he appealed, arguing it violated his due process rights to have a binding judicial determination made on a petition that he had no time to prepare to defend. The Supreme Court resolved this issue by finding that a domestic abuse petition brought on an emergency basis “does not represent a final adjudication of the merits of the action.” Hence an emergency finding of domestic abuse does not carry over to subsequent proceeding between the parties.

Where I was schooled by my younger colleague on the breadth of res judicata is what “facts” are subject to this doctrine. In South Carolina, it is not only issues that were raised in prior proceedings between the parties but any issues that could have been raised. As stated in Taylor v. Taylor, 241 S.C. 462, 128 S.E.2d 910, 913 (1962), “[t]he doctrine of res judicata has been generally said to bar relitigation not only of issues actually decided in the former proceeding, but also of such issues as could have been there presented for decision.” (emphasis in original).

It’s not surprising I was unaware of a doctrine that had last been applied in a family court appeal in 1962, although the doctrine is mentioned in Ashburn v. Rogers, 420 S.C. 411, 803 S.E.2d 469, (Ct. App. 2017). In my case this week, my client had sought contempt in September 2018 regarding uncivil verbal communications. Earlier that year her ex-husband had also engaged in a series of uncivil written communications, but it was the verbal confrontations that had bothered her the most so she didn’t pursue contempt on the written communications. However, when her ex-husband then pursued contempt over allegedly uncivil written communications from the same time period, she filed a counter-rule to show cause over these communications.

At the start of trial, ex-husband’s attorney provided a return alleging res judicata. While the judge took it under brief advisement to review the file, I did some quick research, noted the Taylor case, and determined he was probably correct. After I asked, the court offered me the right to continue the proceeding to give me time to prepare my defense to the dismissal request, I decided my client’s contempt petition was doomed due to res judicata and the judge did dismiss it. Disappointing but correct.

So for attorneys (like myself) who understood res judicata to be limited to factual issues that had actually been litigated, it is useful to know that it also applies to any facts that could have been litigated.

Last week I prosecuted a motion to appoint a guardian ad litem for the child at issue in a custody case (along with requests for other relief). The opposing counsel opposed this request. In support of his opposition he noted that my complaint had not sought a guardian as part of the relief I was requesting. Claiming I was “the guru” of family law–his words, not mine–he alleged that my failure to plead for the appointment of a guardian was fatal to my motion (interesting how I’m only a “guru” when opposing counsels disagree with me). Surely, he told the judge, I should have known I needed to request a guardian in my pleading if I wanted a guardian.

Actually, I don’t “know” this; in fact, I believe just the opposite. Early in my career, when I used older, more experienced, attorneys’ go-bys in drafting documents, I pled for guardians–and discovery–in my initial pleadings. I did so simply because that was what everyone was doing. However, as I’ve gained experience, I’ve tailored my procedures to what I believe are best practices. I don’t really care how everyone else is doing it if everyone else is doing it wrong. And to the extent everyone else is still putting procedural requests in their pleadings (in contrast to their motions) they are doing is wrong.

Rule 8(a), SCRCP is pretty clear on what belongs in a pleading, stating:

A pleading which sets forth a cause of action, whether an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds including facts and statutes upon which the court’s jurisdiction depends, unless the court already has jurisdiction to support it, (2) a short and plain statement of the facts showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a prayer or demand for judgment for the relief to which he deems himself entitled. Relief in the alternative or of several different types may be demanded.

Procedural relief falls into none of those three categories. Rather a pleading only needs to state the basis for the court’s jurisdiction (I include venue information as part of jurisdiction), the facts that give rise to the cause of action, and the relief sought. In contrast, the rule of civil procedure addressing motions, SCRCP 7(b), indicates how one requests procedural or substantive relief:

An application to the court for an order shall be by motion which, unless made during a hearing or trial in open court with a court reporter present, shall be made in writing, shall state with particularity the grounds therefor, and shall set forth the relief or order sought. The requirement of writing is fulfilled if the motion is stated in a written notice of the hearing of the motion.

Requests for procedural relief belong in motions, not in pleadings. If you want to look sharp, don’t include such requests in your pleadings.

Late last month the family court issued a contempt petition against a client of mine in which the petition was a “notice” pleading, not a “fact” pleading. For those unfamiliar with the distinction, a notice pleading (typical in the federal courts as authorized by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8), simply provides the Defendant notice of the Plaintiff’s claims, while a fact pleading (required in South Carolina under its parallel rule of civil procedure), requires specific allegations of the facts that state the basis of the claim(s).

A simplistic example of how these two types of pleadings differ follows. Notice pleading: “Plaintiff is suing Defendant for negligence [details of said negligence forthcoming].” Fact pleading: “Plaintiff is suing Defendant for negligence because the Defendant’s negligence in running a red light caused a motor vehicle accident that caused injury to the Plaintiff.”

If the general rule of pleading in South Carolina requires facts, the specific rule of pleading family court contempt is even clearer on the need for factual allegations. Per Rule 14(c), SCFCR, “No rule to show cause shall be issued unless based upon and supported by an affidavit or verified petition, or unless issued by the judge sua sponte. The supporting affidavit or verified petition shall identify the court order, decree or judgment which the responding party has allegedly violated, the specific act(s) or omission(s) which constitute contempt, and the specific relief which the moving party is seeking. Such court order, decree or judgment shall be attached to the affidavit or certified petition.”

There’s excellent reason for the requirement that contempt petitions delineate “the specific act(s) or omission(s) which constitute contempt.” Per S.C. Code Ann. §63-3-620, “[a]n adult found in contempt of court may be punished by a fine, a public work sentence, or by imprisonment in a local correctional facility, or any combination of them, in the discretion of the court, but not to exceed imprisonment in a local correctional facility for one year, a fine of fifteen hundred dollars, or public work sentence of more than three hundred hours, or any combination of them.” The defending party in a contempt action runs the risk of leaving the court in handcuffs, led by law enforcement to the county jail. It is an essential element of due process that such Defendants receive full notice of the factual allegations that might lead to this result.

Unfortunately, family court judges are not 100% diligent in reviewing contempt petitions for compliance with Rule 14(c), SCFCR. I’ve had a few experiences in which a pro se litigant slipped a non-conforming contempt petition past a family court judge. In those cases, I’ve felt comfortable showing up at the contempt hearing seeking dismissal based on improper pleading. However last month’s contempt petition was drafted by an experienced attorney. It listed three ways my client was allegedly in violation of the court’s order without describing the specific acts for each violation. I did not want to show up at the contempt hearing raising the lack of specificity for the first time. The family court judges who are not 100% diligent about denying contempt petitions that lack specificity are the same judges who are not 100% diligent about following due process requirements–and the consequences of my client going to jail because we didn’t know what facts she was being required to defend was too great a risk for my comfort. Thus, I filed a motion to dismiss the rule (seeking to have the prosecuting party make his complaint more definite and certain as an alternative remedy). How to procedurally file this motion was a quandary that I still haven’t resolved to my satisfaction.

One option is to direct the motion to the judge who issued the rule as a motion to vacate the order (a rule to show cause is an actual court order directing a party to appear and defend the contempt petition). Since the rule to show cause has some of the qualities of a writ, one could possibly bring this motion under the authority of Rule 65, SCRCP. One could also bring this motion pursuant to Rule 60, SCRCP, however the notice provision for such motions to be heard is longer than the notice provisions of Rule 65. Further, neither of these rules of civil procedure clearly fits the rationale of such a motion.

The second option is to file a motion to dismiss the rule for failing to comply with the requirements of Rule 14(c), SCFCR. A motion brought by this procedure may, but is not likely to, be heard by the issuing judge. However Rule 14, SCFCR doesn’t describe the remedy to address improperly issued rules. The closest remedies are Rule 12(b)(4), SCRCP, for insufficiency of process, or Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP, for failing to state a claim for which relief can be granted. Yet neither of those procedural rules are perfect fits for the rationale of such motions.

There are other procedural concerns. No matter how polite one is in filing such motions, no judge wants to be told that he or she issued a rule that failed to comport with due process. Thus bringing this a motion to vacate to the issuing judge runs risks of angering a judge. However, “[t]here is a long-standing rule in this State that one judge of the same court cannot overrule another.” County Dept. of Social Services v. Father, Stepmother, and Mother, 317 S.C. 283, 454 S.E.2d 307, 310 (1995). Bringing this as a motion to dismiss to a different judge may cause the second judge concern that he or she is being asked to overrule the initial judge

I finally decided to bring the motion as one to dismiss, pursuant to the authority of SCFCR 14(c). The extent that the opposing party was required to plead all factual allegations he intended to prove a the contempt hearing, I was granted relief. I remain open to persuasion that there are other, better, methods of addressing insufficient contempt pleadings but I am 100% certain that one should never allow a client to defend a family court contempt petition without having substantial advance notice of the factual allegations that might land him or her in jail.

Put Mr. Forman’s experience, knowledge, and dedication to your service for any of your South Carolina family law needs.

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