Separation

You and your spouse have decided to separate. In South Carolina there is no such thing as a “legal separation.” When couples separate they can petition the Family Court to issue an Order of Separate Maintenance and Support that will control how they care for their children and handle their finances during the separation. Many couples reach an agreement which can then be approved by the court, others need the court to issue a temporary order. Call us as soon as you make the decision to separate and we will guide you through the process. We will help with crafting your temporary agreement or preparing for a temporary hearing. Remember, it is important to think through every element carefully at the outset. It is critical for anyone seeking a separation to obtain support from a skilled and experienced Charleston attorney.

FAQ

Living separate and apart in South Carolina is living under separate roofs. A couple who stays in separate bedrooms in the same house is not separated.
Separate living spaces on the same property may satisfy the Court’s requirement for separate residences. Every case is difference so you should discuss your living arrangements with a qualified Family Court attorney.
Each party’s circumstances are different. Leaving your home does not mean that you are giving up your property. There may be valid reasons for you to move out of the home or it may be important for you to remain there. We advise consulting with a qualified Family Law attorney prior to making any decisions about moving out of your home.
The South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure prohibit one lawyer from representing two opposing parties even if the separation is amicable. The parties can hire one attorney to act as mediator, but in this capacity the lawyer/mediator cannot give you legal advice. It is always best for each party to have independent counsel.
Lady at desk writing on a legal pad

The Law

South Carolina does not recognize “legal separation”; a couple is either married or divorced. Married couples who separate may petition the Family Court for an “Order of Separate Maintenance and Support.”  An Order of Separate Maintenance and Support may establish custody, visitation, and support arrangements and the temporary division of certain marital assets and debts, until the parties’ case is finalized.

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Divorce

Man signing divorce papers with ring on the table

The Law

South Carolina has five grounds for divorce. The four “fault grounds” are adultery, habitual drunkenness or drug abuse, physical cruelty, and desertion.
One may obtain a “no fault” divorce by living separate and apart from your spouse for more than one year. The one-year clock starts to run for a no fault divorce on the day that the parties separate.
Adultery means having sex with someone other than your spouse. In the Family Court one proves adultery by showing your spouse’s romantic inclination towards a third party and then the opportunity for them to have committed adultery. Evidence must be given by a third-party (e.g., private investigator, friend, or colleague) who has personal knowledge of the inclination and opportunity.
Physical cruelty is proven by showing that your spouse’s conduct created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury. Again, you will need a witness to corroborate the grounds.
A divorce on the grounds of habitual drunkenness or drug abuse is proven by showing that your spouse’s consumption is habitual and has caused the breakdown of your marriage. Evidence to support this cause of action may be medical records, criminal records, third party observation, driving records, etc.
Desertion is rarely ever used as a grounds for divorce because the length of time for absence in a desertion claim is the same as the no fault ground of one year.

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If it is time to end your marriage, you need the right Charleston divorce attorney to represent you. The Charleston attorneys of Bleecker Family Law understand the legal challenges that arise from intricate family problems.  Each case is unique and we treat each client with respect and understanding.  You will have the personal attention your case deserves, and our divorce law firm will advise you in a timely and cost-effective manner. It is always best to negotiate a settlement of your case, but if that is not possible we are experienced Charleston divorce trial lawyers and we will take your case to court.

FAQ

To file for divorce in South Carolina, one spouse must have lived in South Carolina for more than one (1) year, if the other lives outside the state. If you both have lived in South Carolina for more than three (3) months, then either of you may file for a divorce in South Carolina.
Every county in South Carolina has a Family Court. If you meet the residency requirements to file in South Carolina, your case should be filed in the county in which you last lived with your spouse or in the county in which your spouse now resides.
In South Carolina there are four fault grounds for divorce and the no-fault ground of living separate and apart for more than one (1) year. The fault grounds are adultery, habitual drunkenness or drug abuse, physical cruelty, and desertion.
If an aggrieved party is able prove that they meet the elements for a fault-based divorce, the Family Court may grant the divorce ninety (90) days from the date that you filed your Complaint for a divorce. A party seeking a “no fault” divorce may be granted a divorce after proving that they have lived separate and apart (under different roofs) for more than one (1) year.
For a fault-based divorce the ninety (90) day clock begins to run on the date that you file your Complaint. For a no-fault divorce, the clock begins to run as soon as you separate, even if you have not yet filed an action in the Family Court. For example, if you separate from your spouse on March 1, 2015, you will be eligible to ask for a no fault divorce on March 2, 1016.
Your spouse cannot stop you from obtaining a divorce if you are able to prove your claim.

Child Custody

If you and your spouse plan to separate and you have children, the most important issues in your case will involve their custody. If you need an initial custody determination or if you want to modify an existing custody order, then you need our experienced child custody attorneys. Each family is unique, and each has distinct custody, visitation, and child support needs and goals. As advocates for the best interest of the children, we have the skills and experience to effectively handle your case. The Charleston attorneys at Bleecker Family Law have decades of child custody litigation experience in both South Carolina trial and appellate courts. They will work closely with you, the court-appointed Guardian ad litem for your children, school teachers, therapists, pediatricians, and any third party working with the children to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your children. We are also experienced in representing third parties, such as grandparents, who have become involved as custodians and need their legal rights established. If you are fighting a custody battle, reach out to Bleecker Family Law to discuss your child custody questions.

FAQ

Once a custody order has been issued by the Family Court, it may be changed by showing that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that warrant a modification of the order. This can be done by filing a complaint for modification.
Alternating weekend and holiday visitation with a non-custodial parent has historically been referred to as “standard visitation.” In crafting a visitation plan, it is important to reflect on what will work best for the Children and the parents considering routines, distance between the homes, school, work, and sports schedules, and cooperation. Each of our visitation plans is specifically tailored to your needs. For example, one family may find alternating weeks will be better for the children, another may like alternating weekends – but their weekend runs from Thursday to Monday, still others may want to rotate days 2-3-3-2.
Father visiting his daughter

The Law

When awarding custody of a child to a parent, the Family Court must consider the child’s best interests. Each parent has full custody rights to children born during a marriage. Mothers have custody of children born out of wedlock until a Family Court issues an order for custody. State law sets out criteria that the court should consider in determining which parent should have custody of a child:

  • temperament and developmental needs of the child; and,
  • capacity and the disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child; and,
  • preferences of each child; and,
  • wishes of the parents as to custody; and,
  • past and current interactions and relationships of the child with each parent, the child’s siblings, and any other person, including a grandparent, that may significantly affect the best interest of the child; and,
  • actions by each parent to encourage the continuing parent child relationship between the child and the other parent, including compliance with court orders; and,
  • manipulation by or coercive behavior by either parent in an effort to involve the child in the parents’ dispute; and,
  • effort by one parent to disparage the other in front of the child; and,
  • ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child; and,
  • child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community environments; and,
  • stability of the child’s existing and proposed residences; and,
  • mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability of a proposed custodial parent or other party, in and of itself, must not be determinative of custody unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interest of the child; and,
  • child’s cultural and spiritual background; and,
  • whether the child or a sibling of the child has been abused or neglected; and,
  • whether one parent has perpetrated domestic violence or child abuse; or the effect on the child of the actions of an abuser if any domestic violence has occurred between the parents or between a parent and another individual or between the parent and the child; and,
  • whether one parent has relocated more than one hundred miles from the child’s primary residence in the past year, unless the parent relocated for safety reasons; and,
  • any other factors that the court may consider necessary and appropriate.
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Child Support

Hands of a family holding a paper cut out of a family.

Both parents are responsible for supporting their children.  In South Carolina, most child support obligations can be calculated using the South Carolina DSS Child Custody Guidelines Worksheet.  In some cases, child support will have to be imputed based on the Guidelines.  Typically, the noncustodial parent will pay their share of the support to the custodial parent.  Remember that support may extend to providing insurance and payment of other needs for your children.  The Charleston lawyers at Bleecker Family Law will work with you and your spouse’s attorney to negotiate the appropriate amount of child support.

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The Law

In South Carolina, child support is typically established based on formulas and tables created by the South Carolina Department of Social Services, called the “Child Support Guidelines.” Support is based on a number of factors: the parties’ incomes or earning capacities, the number of children being supported, a parent’s prior support obligation, the number of additional children living in the home, work-related daycare expenses, the cost of health insurance for the children, and/or any extraordinary medical expenses for the children.

FAQ

Under South Carolina law, unmarried or divorced parents may be required to contribute towards their children’s college expenses. Case law sets out a four-part test in which one must show that the child will benefit from college, that the child has a demonstrated ability to make satisfactory grades, that the child cannot otherwise go to school and the parent has the financial ability to contribute. The child has an obligation to apply for any grants or scholarships which may be available to offset the expenses of college.
There is a shared-custody worksheet that can be used to calculate support if a child is with a parent more than 109 nights a year. The Family Court has discretion as to when the shared-custody guidelines are applied.  It is best for you to discuss your specific needs with experienced child support lawyers at Bleecker Family Law.
If you are under a Court Order to pay child support, it may be modified by the Family Court if you can prove to the Court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since entry of the Child Support Order.
If you are under a Court Order to pay child support you must continue to pay until you are released from the order. A standard order may require the paying-parent to continue to pay until the minor child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later.  However, if your order is silent on when the obligation ends, you may ask the Court to stop your child support payments because your child is emancipated (e.g., your child is 18, is married, is self-supporting, etc.).  Parties may agree to extend child support beyond the age of emancipation.
Child support is typically set based on the South Carolina DSS Child Support Guidelines using the parties’ income information, health insurance information, and work-related daycare expenses. In some cases, there may be reasons to deviate from the Guidelines, so it is important to talk with our experienced lawyers at the Bleecker Family Law about your individual needs.

Alimony

Folder on a desk holding alimony payments

The Law

There are four types of alimony that may be awarded in South Carolina: permanent periodic alimony, rehabilitative alimony, lump sum alimony, and reimbursement alimony.

  • Periodic alimony terminates on the remarriage or continued cohabitation of the supported spouse or upon the death of either spouse. It is terminable and modifiable based upon changed circumstances occurring in the future. This form of support may be ordered under circumstances when the court finds it appropriate to order the payment of alimony on an ongoing basis or where it is desirable to require ongoing support of a spouse which can be reviewed and revised as circumstances may dictate in the future.
  • Lump-sum alimony is a finite total sum to be paid in one installment, or in installments over a period of time, and it terminates only upon the death of the supported spouse. It is not terminable or modifiable based upon remarriage or changed circumstances in the future. This form of support may be ordered under circumstances where the court finds alimony appropriate, but determines that such an award be of a finite and non-modifiable nature.
  • Rehabilitative alimony is a finite sum to be paid in one installment or periodically. It is terminable upon the remarriage or continued cohabitation of the supported spouse, the death of either spouse or the occurrence of a specific event to occur in the future; it may be modifiable based upon unforeseen events frustrating the good faith efforts of the supported spouse to become self-supporting or the ability of the supporting spouse to pay the rehabilitative alimony.  The purpose of this form of support may include, but is not limited to, circumstances where the court finds it appropriate to provide for the rehabilitation of the supported spouse, but to provide modifiable ending dates coinciding with events considered appropriate by the court such as the completion of job training or education and the like, and to require rehabilitative efforts by the supported spouse.
  • Reimbursement alimony is to be paid in a finite sum, to be paid in one or periodic installments. It is terminable on the remarriage or continued cohabitation of the supported spouse, or upon the death of either spouse but is not terminable or modifiable based upon changed circumstances in the future. The purpose of this form of support may include, but is not limited to, circumstances where the court finds it necessary and desirable to reimburse the supported spouse from the future earnings of the payor spouse based upon circumstances or events that occurred during the marriage.
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Alimony is financial support paid to a former spouse after the marriage has been dissolved.  Spousal support is financial support paid during separation.  Alimony may be paid periodically or in a lump sum.  There are many factors that the Court considers when issuing an award of alimony.  Unlike child support, there is no formula for alimony in South Carolina.  Whether you are facing the responsibility of paying alimony or seeking alimony, it is important to have a qualified Charleston family law attorney who can evaluate your financial and marital situation and advise you about alimony.  The attorneys at Bleecker Family Law understand South Carolina alimony laws and have experience fighting for their clients whether they are seeking an alimony award, opposing alimony, or modifying an existing order.

FAQ

If you are paying non-modifiable alimony, then it cannot be changed.  However, if you are paying permanent, periodic alimony it is subject to modification based upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.  The loss of income may qualify as a substantial change.  At Bleecker Family Law, our lawyers have decades of experience dealing with alimony cases, so call us to discuss your particular case.
“Continued cohabitation” means the supported spouse resides with another person in a romantic relationship for a period of ninety or more consecutive days.   The court may determine that a continued cohabitation exists if there is evidence that the supported spouse resides with another person in a romantic relationship for periods of less than ninety days because the two periodically separate in order to circumvent the ninety-day requirement.

Separate maintenance and support is paid periodically, but terminates upon the continued cohabitation of the supported spouse, upon the divorce of the parties, or upon the death of either spouse and is terminable and modifiable based upon changed circumstances in the future. The purpose of this form of support may include, but is not limited to, circumstances where a divorce is not sought, but it is necessary to provide for support of the supported spouse by way of separate maintenance and support when the parties are living separate and apart.

In making an award of alimony or separate maintenance and support, the court must consider and give weight in such proportion as it finds appropriate to all of the following factors:

(1) the duration of the marriage together with the ages of the parties at the time of the marriage and at the time of the divorce or separate maintenance action between the parties;

(2) the physical and emotional condition of each spouse;

(3) the educational background of each spouse, together with the need of each spouse for additional training or education in order to achieve that spouse’s income potential;

(4) the employment history and earning potential of each spouse;

(5) the standard of living established during the marriage;

(6) the current and reasonably anticipated earnings of both spouses;

(7) the current and reasonably anticipated expenses and needs of both spouses;

(8) the marital and nonmarital properties of the parties, including those apportioned to him or her in the divorce or separate maintenance action;

(9) custody of the children, particularly where conditions or circumstances render it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home, or where the employment must be of a limited nature;

(10) marital misconduct or fault of either or both parties, whether or not used as a basis for a divorce or separate maintenance decree if the misconduct affects or has affected the economic circumstances of the parties, or contributed to the breakup of the marriage, except that no evidence of personal conduct which may otherwise be relevant and material for the purpose of this subsection may be considered with regard to this subsection if the conduct took place subsequent to the happening of the earliest of (a) the formal signing of a written property or marital settlement agreement or (b) entry of a permanent order of separate maintenance and support or of a permanent order approving a property or marital settlement agreement between the parties;

(11) the tax consequences to each party as a result of the particular form of support awarded;

(12) the existence and extent of any support obligation from a prior marriage or for any other reason of either party; and

(13) such other factors the court considers relevant.

Property Division

You and your spouse have decided to separate. In South Carolina there is no such thing as a “legal separation.” When couples separate they can petition the Family Court to issue an Order of Separate Maintenance and Support that will control how they care for their children and handle their finances during the separation. Many couples reach an agreement which can then be approved by the court, others need the court to issue a temporary order. Call us as soon as you make the decision to separate and we will guide you through the process. We will help with crafting your temporary agreement or preparing for a temporary hearing. Remember, it is important to think through every element carefully at the outset. It is critical for anyone seeking a separation to obtain support from a skilled and experienced Charleston attorney.

FAQ

Living separate and apart in South Carolina is living under separate roofs. A couple who stays in separate bedrooms in the same house is not separated.
Separate living spaces on the same property may satisfy the Court’s requirement for separate residences. Every case is difference so you should discuss your living arrangements with a qualified Family Court attorney.
Each party’s circumstances are different. Leaving your home does not mean that you are giving up your property. There may be valid reasons for you to move out of the home or it may be important for you to remain there. We advise consulting with a qualified Family Law attorney prior to making any decisions about moving out of your home.
The South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure prohibit one lawyer from representing two opposing parties even if the separation is amicable. The parties can hire one attorney to act as mediator, but in this capacity the lawyer/mediator cannot give you legal advice. It is always best for each party to have independent counsel.
Key on a table representing property division

The Law

South Carolina does not recognize “legal separation”; a couple is either married or divorced. Married couples who separate may petition the Family Court for an “Order of Separate Maintenance and Support.”  An Order of Separate Maintenance and Support may establish custody, visitation, and support arrangements and the temporary division of certain marital assets and debts, until the parties’ case is finalized.

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Pre/Postnuptial Agreement

If you are planning to marry, you may have considered entering into a Prenuptial Agreement with your soon-to-be spouse. A Prenuptial Agreement will identify your pre-marital assets and protect them in the event of divorce.  It can also establish terms for alimony and distribution of assets and debts at the time of divorce.  Or, if you are already married, you may agree to enter into a Postnuptial Agreement to memorialize to address how finances/assets are handled during your marriage or in the event of your divorce.  Or, if you have separated and plan to reconcile the marriage, a Reconciliation Agreement that specifies the conditions of your reconciliation may be useful.

Prenuptial Agreements can be used to:

  • Identify the property that will be shared between the spouses.
  • Declare how property will be divided between the spouses.
  • Clarify payments that will be made for alimony, support, and maintenance should the marriage end.
  • Describe the wills of the spouses and what provisions will be included.
  • In addition, a Prenuptial Agreement can be structured to protect the parties from each other’s debts. Without a Prenuptial Agreement, creditors may be able to turn to marital property to satisfy the debts of just one spouse.
  • A Prenuptial can also be helpful if either party has children from another relationship so that the parties can ensure that their children inherit their share of property.
  • If you have property that you would like to keep in your family, such as a treasured heirloom or a share in a family vacation home, you and your spouse can agree in a prenuptial that it will remain in your family. This can also apply to property that you expect to receive in a future inheritance.
  • Without a valid Prenuptial Agreement, in the event of a divorce you will be subject to state law regarding alimony and division of property. In a Prenuptial Agreement you can make your own set of rules for property division and minimize or avoid disagreements in the event of a divorce.
  • There are countless other matters which can be addressed in prenuptial agreements including the following:
    • Who will pay the bills.
    • Whether to have joint bank accounts and who will manage them.
    • How to handle credit card charges.
    • Agreements on setting aside money for savings.
    • Agreements for putting each other through professional school.
    • Whether to file joint or separate income tax returns and how to handle tax deductions.

The Charleston attorneys at Bleecker Family Law are experienced in family law and have years of experience in drafting Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements.

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Lawyer meeting with her client

The Law

For a prenuptial agreement to be valid in South Carolina, the parties must have each had separate legal counsel advising them at the time that they signed the agreement; there must have been full financial disclosure; and, each party must have had sufficient time to review and understand the agreement.

FAQ

There are many reasons to enter into a Prenuptial Agreement. For example, if you have assets that you would like to preserve in the event of divorce, or if you want to establish what your financial responsibilities will be if you separate, you should consider entering into a Prenuptial Agreement.  The lawyers at Bleecker Family Law are here to help you craft the best Prenuptial Agreement to meet all of your needs.
Not all Prenuptial Agreements will withstand a legal challenge.  If you feel that you were rushed into signing an agreement, if you did not have an attorney advising you, or you believe that you did not receive full financial disclosure, you may be able to challenge the validity of a Prenuptial Agreement.  It is best to discuss these issues with an experienced family law attorney at Bleecker Family Law.

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