Family Law Attorney Aiken SC

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When your family is going through some major changes, such as adopting a child or a divorce, it’s important to involve a family lawyer to help you navigate the legal side of things. Family law matters are often complicated, but our team can help make the process seamless for you.

The family lawyers at Johnson, Johnson, Whittle, Lancer, and Staggs in Aiken, South Carolina have extensive experience in helping families like yours achieve successful outcomes in their legal matters. Whether you’re filing for divorce or seeking child custody, we’re here to provide the counsel and representation you need to protect your family’s best interests.

Call us at (803) 649-5338 for a free consultation with a Family law attorney in Aiken SC.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Family Law

Family law is a subsection of civil law that essentially governs the legal obligations between individuals who are related by blood or marriage. Most family law proceedings involve a domestic partnership or marriage.

For instance, couples may be looking for a prenuptial agreement before marriage, or other services such as legal separation, annulment, or divorce. Child support, custody, and visitations are also regularly disputed and determined in family law courts.

How Can a Family Law Attorney Help?

Family lawyers handle everything pertaining to family law. Some lawyers specialize in areas like adoption or divorce, while others have diverse experience in many aspects of family law in a given location. Generally, family lawyers can represent you in any of the following family law matters:

  • Divorce
  • Property division
  • Legal separation agreements
  • Domestic violence issues
  • Child custody and support
  • Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
  • Enforcement and modification of court orders

If you have any questions about any family law issue that needs a professional and legally sound approach, consider consulting with the family lawyers at JJWLS to get you started on the right path from the start.

What Are the Types of Family Law Cases?

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

Without postnuptial or prenuptial agreements saying otherwise, South Carolina law considers all property acquired by both parties during their marriage communal property.

A prenuptial agreement is signed before marriage and it specifies the property rights of both parties in the event of a divorce. It also lists any separate property that either party brings to the marriage and specifies terms such as limitation or waiver of spousal support.

Postnuptial agreements are entered into after marriage. These agreements can benefit both parties if they acquire significant debts or assets following the marriage. Some postnuptial agreements may require updating throughout the marriage as circumstances change.

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are governed by rather strict laws, and both parties should consult with a family lawyer to guide them through the entire process and oversee the signing of the agreement to ensure its validity.

Divorce

When divorcing your spouse, your lawyer can have a significant impact on the efficiency of the process and the speed at which it’s finalized. Our divorce can work to ensure your divorce goes as smoothly as possible, and that your best interests are well protected, including division of assets and awards of alimony.

What Are the Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina

South Carolina law recognizes both at-fault and no-fault-based grounds for divorce. For a no-fault divorce, both parties should have lived separately without cohabitation for more than a year. For at-fault divorce, adultery, desertion, physical cruelty, and habitual drug use are all grounds for divorce.

The divorce process and what to expect

While every case is different, the divorce process and how long it takes will depend on whether it’s contested or uncontested. If both parties agree on child support, custody, finances, and property division matters, the divorce is “uncontested”.

Contested divorces typically have a dispute, and will often last for more than a year. The court will mandate certain processes such as discovery to obtain evidence and parties will need to participate in subpoenas and depositions.

Uncontested divorces usually involve a separation period of at least one year. When the necessary paperwork has been filed and the final hearing date set, the divorce can be finalized.

While you’re not legally required to have an attorney when pursuing a divorce, working with an attorney will help you protect your rights and put your best interests forward. Our divorce lawyers have the knowledge and expertise to handle even the most complicated divorce cases, including high-net worth divorces.

Child Custody and Support

Determining child custody in South Carolina?

SC laws require that the family court considers the best interests of the child when determining child custody and support. Some of the factors used to determine child custody include:

  • The developmental needs and temperament of the child
  • The capacity and disposition of parents to meet their child’s needs
  • The wishes of the parents
  • The preferences of each child
  • The child’s spiritual and cultural background
  • The ability of each parent to be involved in the life of the child
  • The past and current relationship of the child with each parent, siblings, and other family members
  • The actions of each parent to encourage the continuing relationship with the other parent
  • The physical and mental health of everyone involved, except a disability of the proposed custodial parent
  • And many other factors the court may consider necessary.

Child support guidelines in SC

SC uses the income share models when establishing child support amounts. With this model, child support will be calculated based on the combined monthly gross income of both parents that would have been spent on the children if the family was still living together.

The process of modifying child custody or support orders

For the court to consider modifying child custody or support obligations, there have to be valid substantial changes in circumstances that make the current arrangement unworkable. The change could be something affecting any of the parties involved in the child support or custody.

Adoption

Any interested party can adopt a child. In most cases, the foster parents adopt a child when the South Carolina Department of Social Services terminates the parental rights of the parents whose kids are in their care. In other cases, siblings of one parent or foster parents may seek adoption when neither other child’s parents are interested in or fit to raise the child.

There are several forms of adoption available. The most common types include domestic, international, foster care adoption, and step-parent adoption. Keep in mind that they are always filed in the family court, and are under seal to protect the identities of the parents, children, and adoptive parents.

Alimony/Spousal Support

Alimony is the spousal financial maintenance of support that one spouse pays to the other spouse. Since alimony is ordered by the court, if you fail to pay alimony, you can be held in contempt of court.

Criteria for awarding alimony in SC

For the judge to award alimony, the receiving spouse has to meet certain eligibility criteria. The court must also consider certain factors when deciding alimony, including:

  • Ages of each spouse and length of marriage
  • The physical and mental health of each spouse
  • The earning potential and level of education of each spouse
  • The standard of living during marriage
  • Property owned by each spouse
  • Current and future expected expenditure for each spouse
  • Whether child support will affect the custodial parent’s income
  • Any other factors the court deems important.

It’s also worth noting that the law authorizes five types of alimony, each designed to meet different needs and types of situations. They include periodic alimony, lump-sum alimony, reimbursement alimony, and separate support and maintenance.

Property Division

How property is divided during a divorce in SC?

SC follows the equitable distribution of property doctrine, where the marital property is divided equitably, but not necessarily evenly. To determine equitability during the division of property, the court will look at the contribution of each spouse to the marriage and the acquired property. This is different from community property distribution, where the marital property is divided evenly.

Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders

The Domestic Abuse Act is a law in South Carolina aimed at protecting husbands and wives, children, former spouses, and other close relatives from physical harm, threats of harm, and criminal sexual conduct through protective orders.

A victim of abuse or threats of abuse can seek help from the family court under this law. If the victim of domestic violence or a threatened person is under the age of 18, another family member can seek help from the family court.

How to obtain a restraining order

You don’t need a lawyer to get your protective order. You can simply visit the clerk of the court in the county where the abuser lives or where you live if you can’t find the abuser. The clerk will give you a form to fill out and schedule a hearing on the issue. If you can’t afford the filing fees, they will show you how to file for free.

In case the court is closed, you could visit a magistrate to get a protective order. A protective order will essentially tell the abuser to leave the home and stop abusing you. It could also order temporary child support, custody, or visitation rights.

Choosing the Right Family Law Attorney

Factors to consider when selecting a family law attorney

We hope that your research will lead you to work with JJWLS. With that out of the way, we understand that this is a personal decision and an inflection point in your family matter. Your lawyer will be essential when it comes to guiding your decisions, listening to your goals, and advocating for your best interests.

Some of the factors to consider in a family law attorney include:

  • Does the lawyer set reasonable expectations?
  • What is the level of experience of the lawyer and their track record?
  • Is the lawyer responsive in their communication?
  • Do you personally feel comfortable working with the lawyer?

It’s important to note that family laws differ from state to state, and it’s wise to get a lawyer with experience handling family law matters in South Carolina, and preferably in your locality. This way, you can be sure that the lawyer knows the ins and outs of almost every family law scenario, and how they can deliver the best outcome.

Questions to ask a potential family law attorney

Before you settle on a lawyer, it’s important to ask them some important preliminary questions. The following are some of the questions you should ask before you hire them:

  • How long have you been practicing law?
  • Will you communicate with me directly during the process, and how often?
  • What’s your track record with these kinds of cases?
  • What kind of resolution do you expect for my case?
  • Do you work alone or with a team?
  • How long do you think the case will take to resolve?
  • Can you provide a cost estimate for the case? How can I keep my costs down?
  • What potential problems do you foresee in my case?

Working with Your Family Law Attorney

How to prepare for your first meeting

To make the most out of the initial consultation with your lawyer, it’s important to prepare based on what you want to achieve from the exchange. For instance, are you hoping to get some clarity with regard to separating from your partner? You should ideally have a good idea of the potential outcomes of the meeting to help make the meeting productive and settle any questions or concerns you might have.

What information and documents to bring

It’s important to bring any relevant paperwork with you, including notices, current court orders, any documents that have been served on you or filed, and any communication shared by the other party’s attorney. Other documents such as prenuptials might also be helpful.

Setting realistic expectations

Your family law attorney will essentially provide legal guidance and help you set realistic expectations with your case. They will help you understand your rights, and what to expect at every stage of the case, and advocate for your best interests in court.

Talk to a Family Law Attorney in Aiken, SC

The family lawyers at JJWLS take pride in providing exceptional legal representation and charging affordable legal fees. If you have any family law matters you need help with, call our Aiken office at (803) 649-5338 for practical legal advice.