Family Law

Your Legal Anchor in Chaotic Times

The Brough Law Firm understands how deeply and intimately family law matters affect the lives of you and your family. We also know how ugly it can get in family court. Our firm is committed to representing you in your family law matter with dignity and compassion while zealously fighting for your interests.

Child Custody

There is nothing more important than being able to spend time with your children. If you are married while you are contesting custody and your child was born during your marriage, both parties start with equal rights to the child. However, if the mother is not married, then she has sole custody by statute until determined otherwise by the family after an order establishing paternity.

If there is an existing final custody determination, then the party wishing to modify the order must show a change in circumstances that warrants changing the order of the court. In determining who to award custody to, the court will look to the best interests of the child and consider the factors listed in S.C. Code Section 63-15-240.  

In making its decision, the court will also take into account the report of a guardian ad litem,  who is appointed to look after the best interests of the child. The court will also set a visitation schedule and child support for the non-custodial parent.

Divorce

South Carolina is a fault-based divorce state. In other words, you must prove fault on the part of your spouse to be able to receive a divorce. Grounds for divorce in South Carolina are limited to:

  • Adultery
  • Habitual drunkenness or drug abuse
  • Physical cruelty or abuse
  • Abandonment
  • A continuous separation of one year or more with no resumption of cohabitation or marital relations  

In the event that no ground for divorce exists, you can still file for a decree of separate maintenance and support that will act as a court order allowing the division of property and settling the matters of custody, child support, and alimony. After the one-year separation takes place, you can file an additional action for divorce.

In the divorce action, the court will help decide the following matters:

  • Division of property
  • Custody
  • Child Support
  • Alimony
  • Payment of attorney’s fees

Even if you and your spouse already have a tentative agreement that addresses all of these issues, you must still make an appearance in court. In the event your divorce is contested, you will be required to go to mediation to try to work things out.  

If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement at mediation, the case will be set for a contested trial. At a trial, everything from property values to custody will be argued with supporting exhibits. Make sure you have someone on your side that will get you prepared.

Matters Involving the Department of Social Services

If the Department of Social Services (DSS) gets involved, it is because they have received a report of child abuse. Child abuse is defined pursuant to S.C. Code Section 63-7-20, which lays out the different types of abuse that DSS can use to seek a finding of child abuse. If DSS makes a case indicating abuse, it can either issue a safety plan or place the child into its custody.

DSS Removal Process

If a child is removed into DSS custody, the parents and/or legal guardians will be served with a removal petition that lays out the department’s basis for the removal and the findings it is seeking in court. In the event of court proceedings, there will be a probable cause hearing set within 72 hours from the time the child was taken into emergency protective custody.  

If probable cause for the removal is found, a merits hearing on the allegations will be set within 35 days from the service of the removal petition. At the merits hearing, the court will determine whether or not the Department has proven its case and what if any treatment plan the parents or legal guardians must complete in order to secure the return of the child.

A permanency planning hearing will be set after the merits hearing to determine what will happen to the child in the future. If the parent or guardian has completed the treatment plan, they may petition for the return of the child to the home. In the event that the treatment plan has not been completed, the court will then determine where the child will be placed long-term,  which could be with another relative or in the foster care system.

Don’t fight DSS, navigate your child custody battle, or handle your divorce alone – get experience on your side by retaining The Brough Law Firm.