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Family Law

Supreme Court Enjoins Probate Judges From Issuing Same Sex Marriage Licenses Pending Decision From U.S. District Court

In State ex rel. Wilson v. Condon, No. 002121, 2014 WL 5038396 (S.C. Oct. 9, 2014), the supreme court enjoined probate judge Irvin G. Condon and all South Carolina probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses pending a decision from United States District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs in Bradacs v. Haley, 3:13­–CV–02351–JMC. Id. at *1.

The supreme court ordered the injunction after Probate Judge Irvin G. Condon accepted a marriage application from a same-sex couple and indicated he would issue a marriage license following expiration of the twenty-four hour waiting period, id.; see also S.C. Code Ann. § 20–1–220 (2014), relying on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Bostic v. Schaefer, 760 F.3d 352 (4th Cir. 2014).

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Admission of Video Tape Hearsay Warranted Reversal

In South Carolina Department of Social Services v. Pringle, the supreme court held that a family court erred in admitting video tape hearsay where the interviewer was not a qualified person under Section 19-1-180(G) (Supp. 2012) of the South Carolina Code of Laws.

After Father and Mother divorced, two of their daughters alleged that Father sexually abused them.  The Department of Social Services (“DSS”) had the children interviewed by a child forensic interviewer.  DSS sought to introduce the video testimony of the two daughters through use of video tape under Section 19-1-180.  For the video tape testimony to be admissible under section 19-1-180(B), the family court must (1) find the child is unavailable due to a statutory reason and (2) the hearsay has “particularized guarantees of trustworthiness.” Continue reading

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South Carolina Does Not Recognize the Putative Spouse Doctrine

In Hill v. Bell, the supreme court held that South Carolina does not recognize the putative spouse doctrine.

In 1979, Thomas Sullivan, a former NFL player, married Lavona Hill.  A few years later, the couple separated but never got divorced.  In 1986, he married Barbara Sullivan in South Carolina, and they obtained a marriage license.  Barbara did not know of the previous marriage. Thereafter, Thomas submitted pension forms to the NFL that indicated Barbara was his spouse. Continue reading

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Supreme Court Orders the Family Court to Finalize the Adoption of Baby Girl

As previously discussed in a post entitled “SCOTUS Reverses South Carolina Supreme Court in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl,” the United States Supreme Court reversed the South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision that the Indian Child Welfare Act prevented the termination of Birth Father’s parental rights.

The South Carolina Supreme Court has ordered the family court to finalize the adoption of Baby Girl.  The court stated that the case needs an expeditious resolution because “[t]here is absolutely no need to compound any suffering that Baby Girl may experience through continued litigation.” Continue reading

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SCOTUS Reverses South Carolina Supreme Court in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

In Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) held that the South Carolina Supreme Court erred in all three central holdings of its 2012 decision.

In this case, Birth Father refused to help Birth Mother with Baby Girl unless Birth Mother was willing to marry him.  Birth Mother refused, and Birth Father relinquished his parental rights via text message.  Birth Mother then decided to put Baby Girl up for adoption.  Adoptive Couple agreed to adopt Baby Girl and attended the birth.  Four months after Baby Girl was born, Adoptive Couple served Birth Father with a notice of adoption in South Carolina. Up until this point, Birth Father demonstrated no relationship with and showed no interest in Baby Girl. Continue reading

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Nothing Good Ever Results When the Same Case Is Filed in and Decided on by Two Different States

In Ware v. Ware, the supreme court held that Wife was not entitled to bring a claim in South Carolina where she contested personal jurisdiction in an Alabama case and did not challenge the Alabama court’s erroneous assertion of jurisdiction over her and the marital property.

The parties got married in Berkeley County, and they lived, during their marriage, in Berkeley County.  Husband and Wife separated in 2001, and Husband moved to Alabama.

In January 2007, Husband filed a summons and complaint for divorce and a property division in Alabama; he alleged that he was a resident of Alabama.  Wife signed a certified mail receipt acknowledging service. In February 2007, Wife filed an action in South Carolina seeking an equitable division of marital property, but she did not request a divorce.  Continue reading

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Marital Property Division Gone Bad

In Wilburn v. Wilburn, the supreme court examined the equitable division of marital property in a divorce.

Husband and Wife were married in 1978.  After their first child, Wife stopped working to take care of their first child and their second son who came later; she never returned to work.  Husband was an attorney, and he became the assistant United States Attorney.  In 1990, Husband’s father passed away, and Husband inherited some stocks.  When husband’s mother died the following year, he inherited more stock and several parcels of land. Continue reading

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The Failure to Appoint Counsel Is Non-Prejudicial if Mother Retains Counsel Herself

 “This would be a straightforward appeal in a termination of parental rights action but for the fact that the mother whose rights were terminated was erroneously denied counsel.”  In Broom v. Jennifer J., the supreme court adopted a deprivation of counsel rule that states: “where a parent is deprived of counsel for some time prior to the final TPR hearing, but has counsel at the final hearing, the decision will only be reversed where the denial of counsel prejudiced the parent.” Continue reading

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