Offit Kurman Opens Law Office in Spartanburg, South Carolina With Leading Family Law Practitioner Ben Stevens
J. Benjamin Stevens has been practicing as a Family Law attorney specializing in high profile and high asset divorce and separation matters, child custody cases, visitation, support, enforcement of prior orders and arbitration for more than 20 years. He is a recognized trial attorney and has achieved the distinction of being one of only two attorneys in South Carolina who is a Fellow in both the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers and a Board-Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.
Trust Our Experienced Team of Family Law Attorneys with Your Divorce Case.
Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina:
In South Carolina, there are five different grounds for getting divorced:
- Physical Cruelty or Physical Abuse
- Habitual Drunkenness or Habitual Use of Drugs
- Desertion for more than one year
- Separation for a period of one year without cohabitation (sometimes referred to as a “no fault” divorce).
divorce and child custody
If a party cannot prove any of the above-listed divorce grounds, he/she may still seek a legal separation, which is called a Decree of Separate Maintenance in South Carolina. In an action for separate maintenance, the Court can still address most issues on a permanent basis, such as asset/debt distribution, alimony and spousal support, child custody, child support, and visitation, etc. However, the key difference between a divorce and a legal separation is that the parties are still married, but their relationship with each other is legally and specifically defined.
Divorce and separation cases can be either contested or uncontested. Of course, contested cases tend to take longer, be more stressful on the parties, and end up being more expensive. However, most cases in Family Court (as in other courts) settle, but some settle much sooner than others. It is very important to have a qualified attorney advise you of your options based on the specific facts of your case as soon as possible so that you can make informed, intelligent decisions as to how best to proceed.
Before a party may file an action for divorce or separation, at least one of the parties must have been a resident of South Carolina for more than one year, or both spouses must have resided in South Carolina for at least three months.
Burden of Proof
Each of the grounds for getting divorced has certain, specified elements that must be proven. For instance, in order to be granted a divorce on adultery, a party must prove by “clear and convincing” evidence that his/her spouse had both “inclination and opportunity” to have intercourse with a person of the opposite sex. However, the law does not require absolute proof of sexual activity.
It is usually necessary to have some corroborating evidence in addition to the testimony of the suing party. There are numerous ways to prove grounds for getting divorced. For example, in cases of physical cruelty, treating physicians can testify about medical treatment rendered or witnesses can testify about marks and bruises they have seen. In adultery cases, pictures from a private investigator of the spouse and lover acting romantically or entering an apartment or motel are sometimes sufficient. In habitual drunkenness cases, the Court can consider things such as prescription records, checks at liquor stores, or pictures of empty liquor bottles.
In rare cases, the Judge may not require corroborating evidence if he is thoroughly convinced there is no collusion. Collusion means the parties have conspired to fake the grounds for getting divorced. Collusion is illegal and leads to perjury, and it is also unethical and improper.
The welfare of our clients’ children is paramount to us at Offit Kurman. In matters involving child custody and visitation, we are always sensitive to the needs of the children, and we work toward a resolution that will minimize the impact of litigation upon them. Our firm handles all aspects of child-related issues, including custody, visitation, child support, determination of paternity, termination of parental rights, enforcement and contempt actions, modification of prior Orders, and defense in cases involving the Department of Social Services. At the conclusion of each case, we do everything necessary to make sure our clients are equipped to prosper in their new lives.
Marital problems can be extremely difficult for the children. Do yourself and your children a great favor by not “poisoning the minds” of your children. Don’t dwell on your spouse’s faults! Realize from the beginning that children and visitation privileges are not tools for bargaining, and you should resist the temptation to use them as threats or attempts to gain leverage. Children understand much more than you may realize, and you should always consider their feelings and best interests when it comes to visitation and “family” matters.
What Can You Do to Increase Your Chances of Getting Custody?
In a hotly contested custody dispute, even if you are a good parent, you may not get custody of your children. Therefore, it is important that you do everything you can to increase your chances of getting child custody. Here are 8 ways that will improve the odds in your favor:
- Keep extensive documentation.
- Understand the law relating to child custody.
- Retain a good lawyer.
- Be prepared to spend a lot of money.
- Have a child custody evaluation done by a reputable professional.
- Emphasize the positive ways you’re a good parent.
- Behave well.
- Stay involved in your children’s lives.
What Steps Can You Take to Reduce the Pain and Expense During a Child Custody Case?
- Stay involved in your children’s lives.
- Talk to a licensed professional.
- Keep a journal.
- Keep your friends close, but don’t overburden them.
- Stay away from life altering changes.
- Try to resolve the most painless issues with the other parent.
- Don’t try to ruin the other parent.
- Imagine the process is complete.