On October 30, 2008, I made an ethics presentation to our Anderson, South Carolina Inn of Court during which I presented 18 different “scenarios” of varying fact patterns regarding real-world issues encountered in family court litigation. What remains fascinating to me, however, is that in the 6+ years following that presentation, I still continue to see (and to encounter in my mediations) those identical problems and pitfalls. So I thought it might be interesting to share these “scenarios” with a wider range of family law attorneys to see whether and how you address them in your family law practices. At the very least, I hope that some of you will find this informative (and maybe, at times, even helpful). Here’s the first one:
Scenario No. 1:
The husband and wife are both represented by attorneys in their divorce action. You represent the wife. The parties have reached an agreement which is approved by the family court judge at their final, uncontested hearing. The judge signs the divorce decree which provides for a merger of the agreement into the decree.
The agreement provides, in part, that the parties will sell “by owner” a 20-acre tract of land and divide the net sales proceeds equally. This tract is titled solely in the husband’s name. Aside from this “marital asset”, which is the most valuable one to the parties, the other marital assets were several bank accounts and the furnishings, all of which have already been divided between the parties prior to their final divorce hearing.