Family Law Attorneys

With over 61 million marriages in the country, some of them require legal aid for family law matters. Some situations are painful, like divorces or custody decisions. Other family law issues are joyful, like adoptions. Our job is to take care of all kinds of families who need help.

Burriss & Ridgeway has over twenty years of experience in handling all types of domestic cases in the Family Courts of South Carolina. Through this experience, we have learned that the most important thing we can do as your family law attorney is— to listen. Our compassion and concern for your wellbeing and your family’s best interests truly set us apart from other family law offices.

Our Process

When you contact Burriss & Ridgeway concerning a Family Court matter, we will schedule a face-to-face consultation with you to discuss all of the issues of your case. We will listen to your concerns and find out your goals. We will then explain to you the process, how the law of South Carolina applies to your case, all likely outcomes and the cost-benefit of fighting over certain issues. 

We believe our experience gives us the ability to help our clients define realistic goals. We will explain to you the projected costs of your legal matter, the expected length of time to resolve it, and the ends and outs of the process. Our goal is to help you make the best decision for you and your family and avoid wasting money and time. 

In this consultation, you will have a clear direction and understanding of where you need to go. If you decide to move forward with Burriss & Ridgeway as your legal representation, we will promptly begin working on your case and keep you informed along the way.

Divorce

No one gets married hoping to divorce later. We all long for our own happily-ever-after. Unfortunately, in certain difficult situations, a divorce can be the healthiest way forward for everyone. Divorce is one of the larger areas of family law and involves issues like child custody rights, alimony, visitation, and child support, as well. 

If you find yourself facing the painful reality of a potential divorce, you need legal advice from an attorney in family law you can trust who understands the law well. We are a family law firm that knows how to protect your rights and help you navigate this difficult, and often very stressful, time.

Grounds for Divorce in South carolina

There are five possible grounds for divorce in SC:
  1. Adultery
  2. Desertion (for one year)
  3. Physical cruelty
  4. Habitual drunkenness/drug addiction
  5. No-fault

Each state has its own laws regarding divorce and the legally acceptable reasons for divorce. A family law attorney near you can answer your questions about the laws in your particular area.

If you can prove one of the first four grounds, you don’t have to wait a year to file for divorce. These four are considered “fault-based grounds.” And if you file for one of these reasons, you will want to consult the best family law attorney. Expect a lengthy, difficult process if you are seeking a fault-based divorce. 

With a “no-fault” divorce, neither party blames the other or accuses the other of having responsibility for the dissolution of the marriage. One party applies for a divorce and the couple must show they have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for one year. It is still possible that some fault grounds may be considered as the judge makes decisions about alimony, child custody, child support, and visitation rights.

Under certain circumstances, couples may be eligible to apply for a simple divorce which is faster and easier. If you are in the Columbia, South Carolina area, you are welcome to schedule a free consultation with us to see how we may be able to assist you, if not, please check with a family law attorney about a free consultation in your area.

Divorces may be granted in Family Courts. Family Court Judges make the final decisions over all of the issues surrounding divorce.

Filing a Divorce Action in South Carolina

One spouse, the Plaintiff, has his/her attorney file a Summons and Complaint to officially state the grounds the spouse has for divorce and how that spouse would like the couples’ assets and debts to be divided. Details about child custody, child support, and child visitation would be included in the Complaint, as well. This begins the process of the divorce action.

Someone personally delivers a certified copy of the Summons and Complaint to the other spouse. Then the spouse and his/her attorney have 30 days to file an Answer.

Cost of a divorce in South Carolina

A divorce is not something to jump into lightly for just any reason. There are significant financial costs to consider. The average cost of a divorce in the US ranges from $15,000 to $30,000. And that does not include the cost of splitting assets, establishing two separate households, alimony, or child support.

There are emotional and relationship costs to the marriage, the children, and the extended family to consider. It will be up to you to decide whether pursuing a divorce is the more costly or less costly option for all involved.

If you are thinking about a divorce, be sure to speak with your family law lawyer to find out what to reasonably expect for financial costs for your divorce case.

Dividing Assets and Debts

A family law judge will generally approve an agreement you and your spouse make together if it is a fair and equitable division of all of your property, assets, and debts. But if you can’t agree, the judge will decide for you. It’s important to remember that “equitable” doesn’t necessarily mean “equal.”

The judge will make every attempt to provide an equitable apportionment so that you each receive an equal, fair portion of the marital property. The judge will take into account many factors, including any nonmarital property that each spouse brought into the marriage. Each spouse is generally able to keep his or her own nonmarital property.

It’s important to have accurate records so that you can provide them to your divorce attorney for the court to review.

Alimony in south carolina

In South Carolina, the judge may grant alimony as part of the divorce agreement. Alimony is a court-ordered amount of financial support that one spouse provides to the other for a definite or indefinite time frame.

Factors Involved in a Court’s Alimony Decision

Ideally, the divorcing couple would agree upon the alimony amount on their own. If they can’t, the judge will consider several variables when deciding whether one spouse deserves alimony from the other. 

  • Financial resources of both spouses
  • Which spouse has custody of the children
  • Whether one spouse needs to stay home to take care of the children
  • Whether one spouse was financially dependent on the other spouse
  • Marital fault (if one spouse was at fault, the court may decide to have that spouse pay more in alimony as a punitive measure)
  • Standard of living
  • Length of the marriage

 

In South Carolina, if you have been married for as little as two years, one spouse will often be awarded permanent alimony. Alimony is often ⅓ to ½ of the payor’s income.

Custody, Child Support, and Visitation

When a child’s parents are married in South Carolina, they both have equal rights, duties, and power under the law. If a child’s parents were not married when the child was born, then the mother has sole custody of her child unless the father takes her to court for his paternal rights. 

And if the parents were married but then divorce, the divorce agreement determines the custody arrangements for any minor children in the family.

Custody in south carolina

There are four main types of custody parents can have of their children: physical custody, legal custody, sole custody, or joint custody.

Physical custody means the parent has the legal right for the child to physically live with him or her. This parent is called the “custodial” parent and the other parent, if they have joint custody, has visitation rights.

Legal custody is the legal right of a parent to make decisions about how to raise the child. It involves all the decisions about where the child goes to school, religious training, medical care, and other large and small parenting decisions. If parents share joint custody, they must involve each other in child-rearing decisions. Most courts prefer joint legal custody, although exceptions can be made if one parent is deemed unfit.

Sole custody means that only one parent has the right for the child to live with him or her and that parent, alone, has legal custody. The other parent may still have visitation rights, but only one parent is considered to be the primary caretaker of the child.

Joint custody is the ideal situation where both parents share legal custody and/or physical custody of the child. If the parents can’t agree on a schedule, the court will decide for the family, seeking the best interests of the child.

Child Support in south carolina

During divorce proceedings, often the judge will require one parent to pay child support until a child is 18 years old (although different states may have different ages and there can be exceptions). Generally, the parent the child lives with the most receives child support from the other parent. However, if the parents have a 50/50 split for sharing time, no child support payments may apply.

In SC, the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines determine how much child support a parent must pay. The guidelines consider factors like the number of children, daycare costs, health insurance costs, the income of both parents, and alimony.

If a parent has a court order to pay child support and does not pay, there are consequences. The parent is held in contempt by the court and is subject to fines for the other parents’ legal fees. The parent who willfully refuses to pay child support can even have his or her driver’s license suspended, passport denied, and may eventually have to serve jail time.

Child support issues can be a bit daunting, but with a strong attorney-client relationship, your lawyer can help you understand and comply with all the appropriate laws.

Visitation in South Carolina

Sometimes one parent receives primary physical and legal custody but the other parent still usually has visitation rights. This means, the non-custodial parent usually still gets to see his or her child, even if the parent doesn’t share joint-custody.

Parents are required to work out a “reasonable visitation” schedule. Most often, a custody order provides a fixed visitation schedule that determines where the child lives, which parent the child will be with on certain days, where the child will spend special holidays and vacations, and where the parents will meet to transfer the child.

This helps to prevent conflicts between the parents about who gets to spend time with the child when. 

Grandparents may also have rights to seek visitation with their grandchildren if the court deems it is in the child’s best interest.

Divorce Statistics

In 2018, according to the CDC, there were over 2.1 million new marriages in the US in 2018 and over 780,000 divorces.

 

Cost of an average divorce

 

Length of time it takes for an average divorce to be final

Family Law Areas of expertise

Burriss & Ridgeway has seen all types of family matters and legal issues in the Family Courts of South Carolina. Nothing will surprise or intimidate us. We are experienced and have handled cases that have dealt with the following issues:

  • Actions involving Relocation of parents
  • Adoptions:
    • DSS
    • Private
    • Out of State
    • International
    • Stepparent
    • Domestication of foreign adoptions
    • Interstate Compact
  • Alimony
  • Annulment
  • Child Support
  • Custody
  • Divorce-contested and uncontested
  • DSS-Abuse and Neglect cases
  • DSS-child support
  • Health Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Mediation
  • Military Retirement
  • Modification Actions involving child support, custody, visitation, alimony
  • Paternity
  • Property and Asset division
  • Retirement
  • Settlement Agreements
  • Termination of Parental Rights
  • Visitation

Our Lawyers can Assist Your Family with Compassion

At Burriss and Ridgeway, we care about your well being and the needs of your family. If you need to find a family lawyer South Carolina, please contact us today. We’re honored to see if we can help.