Family Law Questions And Answers

1. How Will Our Property Be Divided?

South Carolina Family Court has jurisdiction to "equitably" divide your marital property. Equitably does not mean 50-50 and there is not a hard and fast rule. In South Carolina, the court considers a variety of factors. These factors include:

  • How long you were married
  • How much money you each have and earn
  • Your retirement accounts
  • Whether either of you need additional training or education to be able to get a good job
  • Your debts
  • Taxes you owe
  • If there was misconduct (such as gambling)
  • Other factors unique to your situation

2. What's The Difference Between Marital And Nonmarital Property?

Nonmarital means what you had before you got married, generally speaking. This can also include anything that is inherited or that you got as a gift.

Marital property means what you got as a couple after you were married, again generally speaking. This can include benefits or funds you accrued during your marriage: retirement accounts, pensions and real estate property.

There are always exceptions to these general rules. A family law attorney can answer any specific questions you have.

3. What Are The Four Grounds For Divorce In South Carolina?

The courts in South Carolina do recognize fault. These four "faults" are:

  • Physical abuse or cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Habitual drunkenness, addiction to drugs

4. Is There A No-Fault Divorce?

Yes. There is one "no-fault" ground recognized by South Carolina courts. If you and your spouse live separate for one year without cohabitation, you may be able to get a no-fault divorce.

If you can prove at least one of these grounds with legally sufficient evidence it is likely your divorce will be granted.

5. What is "Legally Sufficient Evidence"?

This is evidence which the court accepts. This can be third-party testimony, a witness or private detective.

6. Do Both Spouses Need To Agree To Get A Divorce?

No. If you can prove your ground for divorce then typically you can get a divorce. There are exceptions that a family law attorney can verify for you.

7. What Does It Mean To Be Legally Separated?

It means you do not live together. If you live in the same house, it means you live together. If one of you lives in the garage, or guest house this may qualify as living separately. A family law attorney can advise you on your specific situation. In South Carolina, we recognize legal separation claims that are undertaken by filing an action for separate support and maintenance.

8. What Does Custody Mean?

Whichever parent has "custody" means that parent has primary control over child care and major decisions relating to your children. Custody includes where the child or children will live, go to school, when they will go to the doctor and what religious activities they will attend.

9. In South Carolina, Does The Mother Get Custody?

Not anymore. Fathers are now being awarded sole or joint custody of their children.

Children benefit from frequent, ongoing contact with both parents. While joint custody (at least 30 percent of time spent with each parent) is encouraged it is not required.

10. Which Statue Lays Out The Law On Custody?

The South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 63, South Carolina Children's Code, Chapter 15, Custody and Visitation has detailed legal information. A family law attorney can answer any questions you have regarding how the law applies to your specific case.

11. How Do I Prove Paternity?

While every child has a biological father, not every child has a "legal" father. To be the legal father of a child in South Carolina you must be married to the child's mother. If you are not married to the child's mother, then your name must appear on the child's birth certificate. You can establish paternity voluntarily or involuntarily.

12. What Is Voluntary Paternity?

This happens when both the father and mother sign a "Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment." This is usually done right when the child is born. This can also be done in front of a notary and sent to the Office of Vital Records.

13. What is Involuntary Paternity?

If either the mother or father disagree as to who the father is, then you can work to establish involuntary paternity. There are two ways to do this in South Carolina:

  • Contact Department of Social Services (DSS)
  • File a petition to establish paternity in court

A DNA (cheek swab) test can also be used to determine paternity. An established family law attorney can advise you on the best route to take given your specific paternity situation.

More questions? Call attorney Ryan Stampfle at 843-353-6152 and schedule a free consultation. Serving Myrtle Beach and the surrounding communities since 2002.