Myth Buster: Divorce and Fault Grounds in South Carolina

Family Court Myth-Buster Series: Part 1
What to Expect in a Divorce Case

Family Court is a frustrating, expensive, and emotionally painful place. Divorce litigants come to Family Court already distraught, because their marriage has failed. Often attorneys are focused on the “nuts and bolts” and getting the paperwork done and arguing to the Court. We neglect to pause and consider the human component and the possible pains, worries and even wants or expectations that a client may have. To attempt to combat that, I try to always ask my clients: “what are you worried about?” That is a different question than “what is your goal in litigation?” Another important question is “what is your expectation of the Family Court?”

A very smart, analytical, well-read friend who endured a divorce some time ago recently commented to me that he was most taken aback by the Family Court’s apparent lack of interest in which spouse was at fault in the break up of the marriage. He stated that his attorney had simply advised him that the Court assumes both parties are lying to some extent. While that may or may not be true, depending on the specific Judge, it points out a common frustration: the Court does not put much weight on marital fault in questions that solely involve division of assets and debt.   Other clients have echoed my friend’s frustration.  Even a 30 year marriage, broken up by an adulterous relationship with a paramour half the adulterer’s age, will most likely result in an approximately equal division of the marital estate.

So when does marital fault matter? It matters in what type of divorce is granted. Fault can save a party having to wait one year to get divorced. If the fault involves alcoholism, drug use or violence, it can impact custody and visitation of children. Adultery is an absolute bar to alimony. So, fault does matter, the situations in which it matters vary. This nuance is lost on the litigant who simply expected the Family Court Judge to vindicate him and declare his spouse an adulterer. As attorneys, we need to do a better job of finding out what our clients are expecting. An experienced attorney goes to Family Court several times a week and should know what to expect. Telling our clients the truth is what they deserve.

If you need to know what to expect, if you are worried about some aspect of your possible Family Court litigation, or if you have tried to start this process yourself and are frustrated, I would love to talk to you. You can schedule a consultation with me by emailing: mj@mjgoodwin.com I handle cases in Anderson, Abbeville, Pickens and Oconee Counties in South Carolina.

I will tell you the truth, even if it is not what you want to hear.

M. J. Goodwin
April 5, 2018

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