Why Understanding the Family Court is Important
Understanding the Family Court in South Carolina is critical if you are facing the prospect of a divorce or separation. Knowledge is power, and if you understand the system, you will be a great help to your attorney.
South Carolina has excellent family court judges who show up on time for work every day, do their very best, and sincerely care about how the decisions they make affect the litigants. The employees of the Clerk’s office are helpful and knowledgable about their jobs. The security personnel (several of whom I have spent many a long night waiting for a jury verdict!) are also pleasant and efficient at their jobs. When a trial lawyer or a litigant has to work with the judges or personnel of our judicial system, there is very little about which to complain.
In South Carolina, we have a judicial system that worked very well about 300 years ago when the state was sparsely populated. Larger counties needed judges more often, but not full time. The result was that judges literally rode a “circuit”. It was an efficient use of shared resources that enabled counties to pay judges when they were needed. This was a system utilized throughout the United States.
Virtually every other state and the Federal Courts have long ago abandoned the circuit system. However in South Carolina our judges still ride the circuits even though virtually every county can use at least one full time judge. Several years ago I was appearing in General Sessions Court before a judge from the Upstate. Where was our local judge? Holding court in the Upstate!
What this means is that it will not be possible for you to know which of our 56 Family Court judges will decide your case until just a few days before your hearing or trial. Given this fact, it is simply not possible to predict how a judge will rule on your case while you are preparing for the hearing or trial.
It is critical that you provide your divorce lawyer with as much detail as possible concerning the facts of your case, and with all corroborating evidence that supports your facts. For example, if you are requesting alimony, know the statutory factors that a judge is required to consider in making an award, and then provide your attorney with the facts in support of each and every factor. If you are alleging infidelity, then provide your divorce lawyer with all witnesses that can provide any evidence in support of your claim.
In other words, understanding the family court in South Carolina will cause you to leave nothing to chance. You don’t have the option of knowing your judge and that he/she “liberally” awards alimony. Every claim that you have and every defense that you make must be supported by facts based upon the applicable law.
This sounds like a lot of work, but it is not only the right way to handle your case. It will also help level the field and avoid certain prejudices that judges invariably bring with them from negatively effecting you.