Posts tagged #Divorce

"You Get What You Pay For" - Self-Representation in Family Law

Recently, there has been a noticeable increase in self-represented cases or “Pro Se” litigants appearing in Family Court. It appears that many people are concerned about the cost of paying an attorney to represent them in their divorce, custody, or family law case and they believe that going it alone is a great way to save money or they feel like they can handle their legal matter on the advice of “a friend” or something they read online… In college, I once decided during final exams that it was a great time to make decisions about changing my hair color… Due to my attempt to exercise frugality, I allowed my (completely unqualified/ nursing student) roommate to apply drug-store-purchased boxed brunette color to my blonde hair. She was smart and could read the instructions on the box. I am sure you are not surprised to learn that I soon found myself panicked to book an appointment with an experienced hair stylist to help me remove that fabulous green tint. I was desperate to have a professional correct my mistake (immediately), and I paid the price in multiple corrective treatments to get me to the condition I would have otherwise been in easily - had I paid for the professional services from the beginning. Legal decisions are obviously far more important than hair color, but the same general premise is true for any professional service. If you cut corners in an area where you are not professionally qualified, more likely than not, “You get what you pay for.”

While beginning your case unrepresented may save you the initial retainer, it can cost you big time in final results. Your marital assets, the custody and visitation that you maintain with your child(ren), initial awards of spousal or child support, and many other major legal decisions are not wise to gamble in such highly emotional times. Consider the following benefits of hiring a knowledgeable and competent family lawyer:

1. Knowledge and Understanding of the Law: A great family lawyer understands the law as it relates to almost every element of your case. There are filing deadlines, practice procedures, objections, court rules, and rules of evidence. You may not understand them, but they do.

2. Case Strategy: The best family lawyers will think strategically from the initial filing until the last detail in order to get you the best results. This often includes having a big picture approach for your future while managing the smaller details of your current situation. Waiting until the “fourth quarter” to develop your strategy can cost you the whole game; just as failing to realize that some future event is a big deal until after the Final Order is signed sometimes cannot be undone.

3. Ability to Keep Emotions Separated: An excellent family lawyer is empathetic to your emotions while keeping their objective and rational point of view as your advocate. Take comfort in knowing that the advice of your attorney is coming from a third party who does not have an emotional interest in the results of your case during a time when it is expected that you will experience a range of feelings.

4. Advice on Final Decisions: A great family lawyer has a real understanding of the advantages, disadvantages, and potential outcomes from taking your case to court as opposed to maintaining control and negotiating an agreement. You should definitely grasp and understand the information for yourself, but trust an experienced family lawyer to be honest with you about the legitimacy of your expectations.

5. Communication: The best family lawyer communicates with you through each step of the process and keeps you informed, answers your questions, and listens to your thoughts and ideas.

Invest in excellent representation from the beginning of your legal situation if you are faced with a family law issue. With the right counsel, the cost of representation will be money well spent.

Posted on February 20, 2019 .

Is Spousal Support appropriate in my case?

During any divorce or separation of a marriage there is frequently a question of whether one spouse or the other is entitled to receive spousal support or alimony from the other. The answer to this question depends on a number of factors and is in the complete discretion of the trial judge. The Court of Appeals in South Carolina has determined that:

Alimony is a substitute for the support which is normally incident to the marital relationship.” Lide v. Lide, 277 S.C. 155 S.E. 2d 832 (1981). Ordinarily, the purpose of alimony is to place the supported spouse, as nearly as is practical, in the position of support she [he] enjoyed during the marriage. See Voelker v. Hillock, 288 S.C. 622, 344 S.E.2d 177 (Ct. App. 1986).

Section 20-3-130, Code of Laws of South Carolina, 1976 defines six types of spousal support than may be awarded by the family court: (1) periodic alimony; (2) lump sum alimony; (3) rehabilitative alimony; (4) reimbursement alimony; (5) separate maintenance and support; (6) such other form of spousal support, as the court determines just and appropriate under the circumstances. Lump sum and rehabilitative alimony awards are not favored and may require special circumstances to justify departing from the normal preferred permanent, periodic alimony or if done by informed consent of the parties.

Factors for the trial court to consider in awarding alimony were established by the Supreme Court as follows[1]:

(1)               Financial condition of the parties;

(2)               Needs of the party seeking alimony;

(3)               Age and health of the parties;

(4)               Respective earning capacities and individual wealth;

(5)               Contributions to the accumulation of their joint wealth;

(6)               Conduct of the parties;

(7)               Standard of living of the parties at the time of the divorce;

(8)               Duration of the marriage

(9)               Ability to pay alimony; and

(10)              Their actual incomes;

Other South Carolina case law added the following additional factors for consideration:

(11)               Special circumstances that might justify some other form of alimony;

(12)                 Tax consequences;

(13)                 The Equitable distribution award.

Alimony or spousal support must be requested in the pleadings when a complaint for Divorce and/or Separate Support and Maintenance is filed with the court. Do not enter into a binding agreement without knowing your legal rights. If you are going through a divorce or considering a divorce or separation, consult with an attorney to learn your rights as it relates to alimony and spousal support.


[1] Id. Lide v. Lide, 277 S.C. 155, 283 S.E.2d 832 (1981).

Posted on June 21, 2017 and filed under Divorce.

The Financial Strain of Divorce

I recently came across an article in the New York Post titled “How to Handle the Financial Pitfalls of Divorce”. Naturally, I was intrigued as this is one of the main areas of concern for anyone going through a divorce or thinking about separating from their spouse. As the article summarizes, it is nearly impossible to go through a divorce without financial frustration. Dividing assets is a cumbersome and often lengthy process. One way to potentially ease the pain of the process is by becoming familiar with both your and your spouse’s assets and debts and gathering as much information regarding the assets and debts as you can. Once parties separate, gathering information is one of the biggest and most expensive parts of the divorce process. Beginning the separation or divorce process with as much knowledge of your assets and debts is one way to handle the financial frustration that often accompanies divorce.

Posted on March 13, 2017 and filed under Divorce.

Does Fault in Divorce Effect Child Custody?

In South Carolina, the best interest of the child is the controlling factor in child custody determinations. Our family courts are routinely working with families in an effort to create child custody and visitation schedules that benefit both the parents and the child. Child custody should not be granted to reward or punish parents, but the fitness/unfitness of a parent or a parent’s ability to care for a child certainly play a role.

Typically, adultery does not have an impact on child custody determinations in South Carolina (other than in circumstances where the adultery directly effects the children).

Other fault-based grounds for divorce (i.e. Physical Cruelty, Habitual Drunkenness or Drug Abuse, and Desertion), however, can definitely impact a child custody determination. These fault-based factors often speak to characteristics of a parent that could be detrimental to a child’s welbeing. Sometimes, a parent exhibiting behaviors that would put a child at risk may be given an opportunity for rehabilitation in order to have a chance to regain custody or visitation rights. Courts can also place restraining orders on parental conduct to limit parent behavior and protect the best interest of the child. A parent who has previously been denied custody rights or has had their custody or visitation rights limited, may petition the court for a modification of child custody if there has been a substantial change in circumstances.

If you have questions about divorce, child custody, or visitation call our office to set up a free consultation.

The Cost of Divorce

One of the first questions we are asked in our initial consultations is "How much is a divorce going to cost me?" Our answer is and always will be the depends on the specific facts. Each family is different and thus each divorce is different. So much will depend on the grounds for filing for divorce, whether children are involved, and the complexity of dividing the marital assets and debts.

Recently, we read an article written by Susan Caminiti on CNBC's Today show blog that echoed the same messages we often tell our clients.


The more willing the parties are to compromise and fully disclose their information, the less expensive the divorce process can be.

The Today show article lists four major mistakes people make that can create more expensive legal fees, which include:

1) Fighting about minor parenting issues;

2) Not being flexible;

3) Treating your lawyers like a therapist; and

4) Not being financially prepared

At Christophillis & Gallivan, we work closely with our clients to ensure that each client's goals are fully heard and are kept as the focus of the case. Divorce is difficult and there is no easy road when it comes to your most personal issues. However, we expect the best from our clients and implore each and every client to stay focused on the big picture. We walk each client through the issues that commonly arise with divorce, child custody, child support, and division of assets. We firmly believe that the best resolutions are the ones that can be reached by compromise between the two parties

We want our clients to know that there is not a "one-size fits all" approach to the divorce process.  At the end of the day, our job is to help you through the divorce process and create a new "normal" that allows you to look towards the future with hope.