The Importance of Keeping Family Court Documents

The Importance of Keeping Family Court Documents

By M. J. Goodwin


An Amber Alert was issued in Greenville, SC yesterday following a birth mother appearing at a third party custodian’s home and demanding a child for whom she had a birth certificate. Law enforcement required the child to be turned over to the birth mother because the third party custodian could not produce a Family Court Order that gave her custody and more importantly, denied custody to the mother. Such an Order did apparently exist, but was not on hand to be reviewed by the responding officers. Once the order was produced, at a later time, an Amber Alert was issued and the child subsequently located in Georgia.  This scenario was surely extremely stressful for all the parties and resulted in the arrest of the biological mother of the child.

I routinely see people in my office who do not have a copy of their important Family Court documents. It is important to remember that while these documents are public records, there is not a readily searchable database or other mechanism to search for and locate the documents in a short period of time. To get a copy of a Family Court Order requires a trip to the county courthouse where the order was filed. In some instances, such as DSS cases and adoptions, the files are sealed and litigants can’t just go to the Clerk of Court and get a copy. The only copies are distributed by the Clerk of Court at the conclusion of the proceedings.

I provide copies of my clients’ important documents when the document is received back from the Court. It is the client’s responsibility to keep up with the paperwork, long term. In cases involving children, I recommend that clients keep their custody and visitation orders where they can be located quickly. If the third party custodian had kept her custody order close at hand, the trauma and turmoil associated with the Amber Alert being issued could have been avoided.

Another important document to keep handy is an Order of Protection.  If an Order of Protection is violated, it can result in the immediate arrest of the offender.  But again, law enforcement cannot review what is not preserved by the litigant.

The lesson is to keep your important paperwork where you can access it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  A safety deposit box is not a good option for this, because banks keep banking hours.  Violations of Court Orders occur at all hours of the day and night.

If you need assistance with a Family Court matter, contact me at ; email inquiries are typically be answered within twelve hours.




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