Do you need a Charleston Divorce Lawyer to resolve your divorce case?

People sometimes feel that they can resolve the issues in their pending separation and divorce without legal help. Here are some thoughts regarding what issues you must consider if you want to keep a Charleston Divorce Lawyer out of your life.

The laws governing divorce are very complicated and unlike any other area of law. Not only are the statutes and rules nuanced and often difficult to understand, the high emotions experienced by all participants make reaching a resolution very difficult.

All issues between you and your spouse need to be addressed in a written document. This document is often called a Settlement Agreement, Property and Custody Agreement, or Marital Separation Agreement. An experienced Charleston Divorce Lawyer will have prepared many of these documents over the years and here are the most important issues that we routinely address. 

Dealing with the child related issues is often the first issue to be addressed and involves creating a “Parenting Plan”. While the term “Parenting Plan” sounds all warm and fuzzy, if drafted correctly is a very detailed court order that addresses all issues involved in raising kids from infancy through high school or even college. A detailed daily schedule needs to clearly state which parent the children stay with, when they will get there, how they will get there, how long they will be there, how they will get to the other parent for their parenting time, and where the exchange will take place. Don’t forget to plan for all holidays: winter break, Thanksgiving, Easter, summer break, etc.  Issues relating to children can be found in the SC Code of Laws here

One parent needs to be designated the primary decision maker for major decision affecting medical and educational decisions. The parents can split this responsibility, but one party needs to be named as the default decision maker for either or both these issues.

What expenses will be paid and by whom? Will child support be owed, if so, how and when will it be paid, how will medical expenses be paid? You must also consider day care and summer camp expenses, extra curricular activities and mandatory school supplies. Don’t forget medical insurance.

If have assets and debts to divide, you must make a list of everything acquired during the marriage. If property came to either you or your spouse separately during the marriage by either inheritance or gift, it may not be marital property subject to division. If you own a home, will it be sold or refinanced, and what will be the specific responsibilities of each party during the sale or refinance process. If you have retirement accounts, they must be divided. Be mindful of any pre-marital portion of a retirement account, because the pre-marital amount and any passive gain may be separate property. How will credit card debts be resolved, as well as other debts perhaps not paid monthly, such as loans to family members?  Asset division and support issues are addressed in the SC Code of laws here.

Will one party need financial support (alimony) either indefinitely or on an interim basis once the separation begins? This is very difficult. The statute for alimony and support does not provide us much guidance. You may want to first look at your respective incomes and expenses post separation. If one party has a net income loss and the other party a net income gain, there may be a support obligation. Support may or may not be taxable to the recipient and deductible to the payor and you need to state as much in your agreement. How long will support be paid? In some instances in SC it can be permanent. Support can also be paid for a relatively short period of time to permit the supported spouse to “rehabilitate”; i.e., get further education, find a decent job, etc… Sometimes a lump sum may also work given the financial circumstances of each person.

Alimony must be directly addressed. If you and your spouse have agreed it will not be paid, you must says so. If support is to be paid, the agreement must set forth very specific terms: when and how it is to be paid, the duration of payments, whether it is taxable and deductible, can it later be modified and, if it can be modified under what circumstances will modification be permitted, will it ever end, will there be a responsibility to share incomes information annually for the purpose of making later adjustments?

Finally, you must consider the issue of Life Insurance. Do you want each of you to maintain a term life insurance policy to secure child support or alimony payments? If so, how much and for how long of a term?

So you can see this is complicated! Given time, patience, and a clear head, you may be able to work this out yourself. If not, I guarantee there is a Charleston Divorce Lawyer willing to help!

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