Monthly Archives: January 2015

“Scenarios” To (Almost) Insure You Will Need To Insure That Your Professional Liability Policy Is Current (Read At Your Own Peril) – Scenario No. 1

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.

Continue reading

Practicing Family Law In The 21st Century – Series Post No. 5: Swimming In The Mediators’ Pool

On March 14, 2013, the South Carolina Supreme Court had ordered that, effective June 1, 2013, family court mediation would now become mandatory in 33 counties [South Carolina Supreme Court Court-Annexed Alternative Dispute (ADR) Rules]; however, I would bet the ranch that, mandatory or not, there is not a single attorney practicing family law in any one of the 46 counties in South Carolina who has yet to participate in a family court mediation.  Mediation has now become not only an integral part of the family law lexicon in South Carolina, but it also is very much at risk as being viewed and considered merely another stage in the arc of the family court litigation process.

“Mediation is the art of recovery”.  The objective of mediation is, and always should be, to return your clients’ futures to them by wresting control of those “futures” from the hands of strangers (i.e., judges, attorneys, guardians ad litem, mediators, etc.); mediation is, and always should be, intended to keep your clients as far away as possible from the vagaries and uncertainties of the “family courtroom experience”; mediation is, and always will be, intended to stop the creation (or formation) of your clients becoming lifelong enemies of one another, while allowing your clients to settle and resolve their conflicts on their terms, not yours, and by doing so, enable them to recover from the exquisite, indescribable pain of divorce.

An excellent Upstate family law attorney and close friend told me she was delighted to know that, even in my semi-retirement, I would still remain part of the “mediators’ pool”.  I know she meant that as a compliment, and I took it as such.  But the larger point is the most obvious one …

Continue reading

In Tribute To My Child

There is a quiet, almost unspoken bond of devotion which a parent has for a child.  No one on earth knows the heart and soul of a child in the way a parent knows.

I adore my child.  And I remain just as adoring a parent as the day my child was born.  If truth be told, I am also in constant wonderment of my child as my child, day-by-day, grows older.  My child’s gentle spirit will remain strong; my child’s willingness to be caring is God-given; and my child’s creative and inquisitive personality is self-acquired.

Yet, as my child grows older, I can still search for and find in that face that same child which I have prayed for every day since my child’s moment of birth.  And I already miss my child … because just as a meandering stream carries a single leaf ever onward and away from its point of beginning, so does each passing day carry my child towards a life joined in spirit with, and yet separate from, mine.  Although I try to remember that we are all children, with some of us simply older than others, I also know that I shall be a parent forever, and my child shall always be my child.

I pray that my child always has a strong sense of home.  My child should always know and feel that the love of this parent is everlasting, timeless … and unconditional.

I write this in tribute to my child.

“Consider These Tax And Social Security Consequences When Splitting Assets In A Divorce” – an article by Liz Skinner for Investment News

Several days ago my CPA, Thomas W. Cox, of Cox, Cauley & Richardson in Anderson, SC, sent me an article entitled “Consider These Tax (And Social Security) Consequences When Splitting Assets In A Divorce”.  The article is written by Liz Skinner for Investment News, and although brief, it provided several interesting and helpful “points for consideration” for family law attorneys who may have clients currently, or close to, falling into these “tax and Social Security categories” (for the family law attorney, these areas are often the “black holes” of family law).

It will only take you a few minutes to read this article, and you may find it immediately beneficial regarding your currently pending cases.

Here’s the link to the article: “Consider These Tax Consequences When Splitting Assets In A Divorce”.

And, as always, good luck out there.

Comprehensive Parenting Plan Format – As Revised – 2015

This blog will be atypically brief so that I can get to the point and purpose of it.

As I have stated (and often repeated), the practice of family law in South Carolina – and, indeed, across this nation – requires that in your representing families and children in crisis at perhaps the most vulnerable times in their lives, you must constantly put into play a dazzling array of personal and professional traits and skills; and because family law attorneys cannot foretell the future nor guarantee perfection in the “results”, the best we can ever hope to achieve is to practice our craft at the highest levels of performance.

We do that by our constant search for the right answers.

There’s a passage in a longer quotation to which I often refer – “make your decisions as wisely as possible and then forget about them, because the moment of absolute certainty never arrives”.  And to this quote I can add: in life, you’ll never learn anything by just asking questions … it’s only when you’ve searched for, and found, your answers will you have truly learned something.

Family law attorneys learn by:

  • never being satisfied that you’ve found the “right” answer;
  • always researching all available legal references and resources, including frequent visits to the internet;
  • attending CLEs where you can actually learn something new, and not just “get your hours”;
  • never hesitating to contact your colleagues for advice and information;
  • constantly trying to keep abreast of new statutes, appellate court decisions (both published and unpublished), court rules, administrative rules, and the local trial and procedure practices favored by the judges in your judicial circuits; and
  • constantly gathering and gleaning information and materials from the work product of your fellow attorneys.

In 2013, I added a “parenting plan format” to the “articles” menu of my website, and over the past several years that form has received a pretty good number of “hits”.  However, several months ago I began working on a revised and much more comprehensive format with an objective of creating something more extensive and detailed, while still trying to keep the format “user friendly”.  And today, January 1, 2015, I’m posting this blog and inviting any of you who might be interested to visit this link and use these materials in any way you believe they will be beneficial to you and your family law practice.

And let me add my standard “disclaimer” that, as with anything written, I always consider these forms a “work in progress”; and, consequently, over time and as the law or circumstances change or warrant, I will always be making modifications to them, and I will always welcome, respect, and benefit from, your comments and criticisms.

Here is the link:  Comprehensive Parenting Plan Format – As Revised – 2015