Posts tagged #child custody

"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 .

Who claims the children on taxes during a Family Law case?

During the beginning of each new year, our clients often have questions regarding how their family law case will impact their taxes. One of the issues that parents going through a divorce or child custody case must resolve is which parent will claim the children on their tax return. The dependent exemption can result in big tax savings to the spouse or parent who is able to claim the children on their tax return.

The dependent exemption reduces the party’s taxable income. For the 2016 tax year, the dependent exemption is $4,050 for each child which is a substantial decrease in taxable income, especially if there are multiple children.

The IRS has clearly defined guidelines that answer the question of who will claim the children on their tax return. It is the “custodial parent” who will be able to claim the children on their tax return.

A custodial parent is defined by the IRS as:

“The custodial parent is generally the parent with whom the child lived for the greater number of nights during the year. The noncustodial parent is the other parent. If the child was with each parent for an equal number of nights, the custodial parent is the parent with the higher adjusted gross income”

During a divorce or child custody case, the custodial parent may release their claim to the dependent exemption. The custodial parent may desire to do this for various reasons. For instance, the custodial parent’s taxable income may be too high and thus the exemption is phased out or the parties may have agreed to alternate the exemption each year. If the custodial parent is releasing their claim to the exemption, then the custodial parent must fill out IRS Form 8332. This form allows the custodial parent to release their claim for one individual year, certain specific years (i.e. even or odd years), or for all future years. The noncustodial parent must attach Form 8332 to their return each year that they are claiming the children on their taxes. 

The issue of dependency exemptions in a divorce or child custody case is a complex issue. Family law cases can last over a year before there is a final resolution. Both parents may feel entitled to claim the children while their case is pending but absent a written agreement and a signed Form 8332, the custodial parent as defined by the IRS will be the parent who claims the children on their tax return.

It is best to discuss this issue with both an attorney and an accountant. If you would like to set up a consult with Christophillis & Gallivan, please call our office at (864)233-4445.


Best Interest of Your Child

At Christophillis and Gallivan, we strive to help families develop custom child custody arrangements that fit your specific needs. Whether you are seeking an original custody order or a modification of your current custody situation, our attorneys work within the bounds of sole custody or shared custody arrangements to reach your goals.


South Carolina law, §63-15-240(B), requires the court to consider the best interest of the child in issuing an order for custody. The best interest of the child includes consideration of factors such as:

(1) the temperament and developmental needs of the child;
(2) the capacity and the disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child;
(3) the preferences of each child;
(4) the wishes of the parents as to custody;
(5) the past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child's siblings, and any other person, including a grandparent, who may significantly affect the best interest of the child;
(6) the actions of each parent to encourage the continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, as is appropriate, including compliance with court orders;
(7) the manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents' dispute;
(8) any effort by one parent to disparage the other parent in front of the child;
(9) the ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child;
(10) the child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community environments;
(11) the stability of the child's existing and proposed residences;
(12) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability of a proposed custodial parent or other party, in and of itself, must not be determinative of custody unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interest of the child;
(13) the child's cultural and spiritual background;
(14) whether the child or a sibling of the child has been abused or neglected;
(15) whether one parent has perpetrated domestic violence or child abuse or the effect on the child of the actions of an abuser if any domestic violence has occurred between the parents or between a parent and another individual or between the parent and the child;
(16) whether one parent has relocated more than one hundred miles from the child's primary residence in the past year, unless the parent relocated for safety reasons; and
(17) other factors as the court considers necessary.


If you have questions about child custody or visitation, contact us to set up your free consultation.

Posted on March 11, 2015 and filed under Child Custody.