People contemplating divorce or other family court actions normally have some idea of what to expect. In spite of “second hand” experience and “well-meaning advice”, facing your own family court matter can be one of the more frightening events in your life. The attorneys at McDonnell & Associates, P.A., have the experience and compassion to help you through this very difficult process. Our experience makes us capable of taking your case to trial or resolving it through negotiation and mediation.
A person can obtain a divorce in South Carolina if both parties have lived in the state for at least three months prior to filing the action. If one party is not a resident, the other party who is a South Carolina resident must have lived in the state for at least one year prior to beginning the action. Divorces are granted on one of five grounds: one-year continuous separation, adultery, habitual drunkenness or drug use, physical cruelty or desertion.
South Carolina does not recognize what is commonly referred to as “legal separation, however, the state does allow and recognize actions for an “order of separate maintenance and support.” Usually, this action is appropriate for individuals who have custody, visitation or other issues that need to be determined during the one-year separation period. A divorce action would be commenced subsequently after the one year separation period has passed.
The goal in all custody matters is to ensure that the arrangement is in the “best interest of the child.” In cases where the parties cannot agree on the custody arrangement, a Guardian ad Litem will likely be appointed by the court, with each parent responsible for half of the expense. Physical custody refers to the time spent with each parent, whereas the terms “sole custody” and “joint custody” refer to each parent’s ability to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as where the child goes to school or what kind of medical treatment the child receives. Custody not only affects the child’s living arrangements, but also the amount of child support paid or received by each parent. South Carolina utilizes the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines, which provide a formula for every type of custodial arrangement. Generally, the amount of child support a parent will pay depends on the gross monthly income of both parents and the amount of time the child spends with the secondary custodial parent. Credit is given to the parent who pays work-related daycare expenses and health insurance coverage. The court order usually governs how support is paid in each individual case and, like custody or visitation, child support is a modifiable issue. Support is normally paid until the child turns eighteen years old or graduates from high school.
Short of major safety concerns or parenting deficiencies, a natural parent may visit with his or her child. The most common visitation schedule is “standard visitation” where the visiting parent has the child every other weekend and a longer period during the child’s summer break and other holidays throughout the year. There can be any number of variations on visitation and parents are highly encouraged to make the child available to the other parent as often as possible.
"Father's First" Law Firm
When a child is born out of wedlock, that is, the parents were not married, the law in South Carolina automatically assigns sole custody to the mother. In order to protect his rights, or to secure child support and other obligations, a party may need to take steps to establish his paternity. Our Family Court attorney has experience helping both sides navigate that process.