The most important thing before starting the divorce procedures, is to ensure that you have all the knowledge and information you need to fully understand how the divorce process could affect your life. There are certain important things that your Greenville divorce attorney will need to know when you start the divorce proceedings in South Carolina.
The Process of Filing for Divorce
South Carolina is an at fault state, which means that there are five instances in which parties can file for divorce. You can file for divorce in case of: adultery, physical cruelty or abuse, habitual drug or alcohol abuse, and desertion for a period of one year. Lastly, you can file for divorce if the partners have lived separately and without cohabitation for at least one year. If you meet any of these faults, then you can start the process of divorce. One of the most common questions in regards to divorce is: Do I really need a Greenville family law attorney? Well it is always better to hire someone that has the experience in the field to represent you. If there are any properties, debts or minor children from your current marriage, then it is extremely important that you make use of an attorney. Alimony and custody battles are best fought by someone that has done this before and has the experience to know what to do.
Alimony and Child Support in South Carolina
Alimony or spousal support is not necessarily part of every divorce, but it is always good to know the details. Spousal support is something that is determined and agreed upon by both parties, and if an agreement cannot be reached, then the court will decide on the matter. Remember that each case is different, however certain common elements are taken into consideration when it is decided.
The following elements are taken into consideration:
(1) the length of the marriage together with the ages of the parties at the time of the wedding 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 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;
(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;
(13) such other factors the court considers relevant. (Code of Laws for South Carolina – Chapter 3; Sections 20-3-120, 20-3-130, 20-3-140 http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t20c003.php )
It is important to see that these elements will be seen in an equable manner. This does not mean equal, rather it refers to fair. If one spouse has been earning more than the other or one was a stay-at-home parent while the other pursued their career, this will be taken into consideration. The main purpose of the court is to ensure that all properties and debt are distributed in a fair way.
Custody of Minor Children (0-18 years)
Both parents have equal rights to the children in a normal situation. However, the court will always take the child’s best interest into account. The gender of the parent will never play a role in the court’s decision. This means that both parents will have equal opportunity to get physical or legal custody of the minor children. Depending on the age of the children, the court will ask them with which parent they prefer to live. There are other determinations that the court will consider before they grant custody to a parent.
First of all, the court will determine the maturity of the child as well as the child’s ability to make decisions. This is usually if the child is 12 years or older, however, with younger children, the court will still take their choice into consideration.
Secondly the court will look at the family dynamic and if there is any evidence of abuse. This includes negligence, any form of substance abuse as well as physical abuse.
Thirdly, the court will take a closer look at the parents. The court usually asks the parents to submit a childcare plan. This plan must include all the factors for childrearing after the divorce. The nature of the divorce as well as the relationship between the parents are also scrutinized. South Carolina is one of only a few states that take the parents’ religion into consideration. Their religion must also be included in the childrearing plan, especially if the parent is planning on raising their child in that religion.
What do I need for a Greenville child custody hearing?
In South Carolina, you can either get physical or legal custody of a child or both. Physical custody includes physical contact with the child as well where the child lives. Legal custody is the parent’s legal right to make choices regarding their children.
The best thing you can do for your case is to hire an experienced family attorney. There are great lawyers in Greenville, South Carolina that will be able to guide you through the process. When you visit your attorney for the first time, make sure you bring all relevant documentation. This documentation includes school reports, social worker reports, hospital and doctor records if the child has special needs, and birth certificates.
If there was any spousal abuse, bring the doctor and hospital records for that as well. Also mention if there were any police reports. The court’s main goal is to act in terms of the best interest for the child. The court will mediate between the parents if they cannot reach an agreement. Always remember that custody agreements are not set in stone and that it can be revised at any time.
Angela Elliot Frazier is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years now. Angela Frazier believes in helping you through one of the most stressful times of your life. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.