FAMILY LAWYERS - AIKEN, SC
PLEASE READ THIS FIRST
This site applies to the state of South Carolina law only.
This site is not and should not be considered a comprehensive explanation of any area of law and should not be relied upon as such.
The information on this site is not legal advice because we do not know the facts of your case. If you need or are seeking legal advice, you should meet with a qualified attorney. Only your attorney can give you legal advice.
Reading this website or sending documents to our Firm does not create an attorney-client relationship.
DIVORCE, SEPARATION & ALIMONY
One of the most difficult and hurtful of life events is a divorce or separation. Tempers run high and both the financial and emotional costs of separation and divorce can be considerable. We have been representing husbands and wives in the Family Courts of South Carolina in simple, uncontested cases as well as complicated, bitterly-contested cases for over thirty-five years. Our goal in each case is to obtain the best possible outcome for our clients while doing our best to minimize the emotional and financial impact to our clients' children and extended families.
Surasky Law has a wonderful and caring staff to assist us throughout the process, and each client deserves and receives the individual and personal attention of our experienced attorneys. Phone calls, emails, or other messages with requests, questions, or concerns will be either answered or returned as soon as possible.
We believe that the best way to minimize the cost of litigation and diminish the negative impact of divorce and separation on all parties, including, and most importantly, to the children, is to make every effort to reach a fair settlement between you and your spouse and/or the parent of your child instead of leaving life-changing decisions up to a family court judge after a lengthy and costly trial. While an amicable and fair settlement is certainly preferable and in everyone’s best interests, unfortunately, this is not always possible. If that is the case, we will aggressively and zealously pursue the best possible outcome in the trial of your case.
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Frequently Asked Questions
“How much is my case going to cost me?”
Cost is certainly a legitimate concern, but the question cannot be easily answered until I know the facts of your particular case. Each case is unique because of the issues that may be in dispute, the people involved, and the difficulty that is anticipated in obtaining the desired outcome.
We offer a consultation in which we will discuss your concerns and your goals and I will tell what I believe to be the best way to meet your goals. Generally within that time frame both you and I can tell whether or not we will be a “good fit” for one another. If so, I will then quote an initial retainer, which will be credited as a deposit toward your total fees.
Some uncontested cases can be handled on a flat fee basis, but almost all contested cases are billed on an hourly basis. The number of hours billed depends on many things, including the issues that will be contested and how easily or difficult it will be to resolve those issues. I know you would like a more definitive answer and I would like to give you one. I would expect to be able to do so after our initial interview.
In addition to attorney’s fees you should expect to incur additional costs and expenses such as Court filing fees. The cost and expenses can vary greatly, depending on the complexity of the case.
“My spouse and I are still living together but I am thinking about a separation or divorce. Should I seek legal counsel now or after we separate?”
The earlier you obtain legal counsel the better. Your decision on when and under what circumstances the separation will take place may have long lasting and irreversible financial consequences.
Of course, if either your or your children’s health or welfare are in danger due to abuse at the hands of another in the home, you should vacate the home immediately and call either the Aiken County Sheriff Department or the Cumbee Center for Abused Persons. The Cumbee Center can offer you and the children a safe haven, counseling, and can assist you in obtaining a Protective Order from the Court if you do not yet have an attorney representing you.
“What are the grounds for divorce in South Carolina?”
The fault grounds are physical cruelty (mental or emotional cruelty is not a ground for divorce in South Carolina but such abuse certainly may and will be relevant and considered by the Court in deciding your case), adultery, habitual drunkenness, and desertion for one year (seldom used). The only no-fault ground for divorce is separation without cohabitation for at least one year.
“What is a 'Legal Separation?'”
In South Carolina what most people think of as "legal separation" is really an "Action for Separate Maintenance and Support.” This term can be misleading since such an action may or may not include an obligation for support. All issues of the marriage (but not dissolution of the marriage) such as property and debt division, alimony, custody, attorney’s fees, visitation and child support can be addressed in an Action for Separate Maintenance and Support just as it would be in a divorce action.
“Do I need to file anything with the Court or have a 'legal separation' when my spouse and I separate in order to later obtain a divorce on the ground of one year separation?”
No. At a hearing for divorce on the ground of one year separation, you must merely convince the Court that you and your spouse have in fact been separated continuously and uninterrupted for one year. This is almost always accomplished by a witness who can verify this fact under oath.
"I want a separation/divorce but my spouse will not leave the home. What can I do?"
Family Courts generally do not have the ability to hear domestic disputes if the parties are still residing together in the home. The only exception to that rule is if you are filing for a divorce or separation on a “fault” ground such as physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness, or adultery. The Court then may order one of the parties to vacate the home and award temporary possession of the residence to the other party while the case is being litigated. Otherwise, you will have to leave the residence, at least temporarily, before a family court action can be initiated. You should obtain legal counsel before you do so.
“If I leave my home and spouse, will the Court consider that I am guilty of 'abandonment' or will I risk losing my interest in the home?”
Not at all; however, it would be wise to consult with an experienced family law attorney before doing so, unless your or your children’s safety is at risk.
“Can one party be made to pay the other party's attorney fees?”
The family court judge has the authority to award attorney’s fees. Whether or not fees and costs will be awarded will depend on several factors that the judge must consider.
"Will I be entitled to receive (or ordered to pay) alimony?"
Whether or not spousal support (also known as alimony) will be awarded will depend upon several factors, the most important being the length of your marriage (the longer the marriage, the more likely the court will award alimony), the ability of the person seeking alimony to adequately support himself or herself without support, the ability of your spouse to pay alimony, and, to some extent, the fault of the break-up of the marriage. For a comprehensive list of factors that the court must consider, see S.C. Code § 20-3-130. There are currently thirteen factors.
IMPORTANT FACTOR TO CONSIDER
FOR ALL WHO WILL BE SEEKING ALIMONY
You should keep mind that if you are in need of alimony, adultery is a complete bar to your receiving alimony unless certain defenses to adultery are available to you, such as:
your spouse condoning the conduct or reconciliation after the adulterous conduct,
or the adulterous conduct taking place after a formal written separation agreement is signed,
or the adulterous conduct taking place after a final court order issued.
This law is often unfair because only the spouse in need of alimony may suffer from adulterous conduct, but until the law is changed the Court will have no choice but to apply it.