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When should you seek modification of your child support?

A while back, I made a rare visit to the county jail to meet with a client.  Several years ago, he and his former wife reached an agreement in their divorce about custody, visitation and child support.  Things were pretty good – as far as divorces go.

Fast forward a few years…his dependable job and income went away with the recession along with his income.  He wasn’t able to keep his bills current and he quickly fell behind in his child support.  He kept in contact with his former wife and did other things to try to help when he couldn’t make a child support payment.  But he continued to fall further and further behind.

One day, his wife had enough and filed a Rule to Show Cause with the Family Court because my client had fallen nearly $20,000 behind in his support.

At the rule to show cause hearing the presiding judge found him to be in willful contempt of court, sentenced him to 90 days in county jail, ordered him to pay all of his former wife’s attorney fees, and before he could purge his jail sentence he would have had to pay all of the arrears and attorney fees.  To add insult to injury, even after finishing the jail sentence, he will still owe the arrears and his new support payments will include some extra amount to be applied to his child support arrears.

He never called a lawyer until he had been served with the contempt complaint.  Even when served with the complaint he failed to make an appointment to discuss the case and did not take a lawyer with him to the rule to show cause hearing.  He did retain me after being sentenced to jail.  At that point we had very limited options to get him out of jail, get the future child support worked out, and get some of the arrears paid for, and to pay for his former wife’s attorney fees.  They really had a lot of leverage.

So, what should he have done?

Any issue related to children: custody, visitation and child support – are subject to modification by the Family Court upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.  This particular client should have consulted with a lawyer as soon as he lost his job and especially after he was unable to quickly find a new job.  It only worked against him to continue to fall further and further behind.  Rather than looking out for himself, it looked like he was a deadbeat dad and didn’t care about supporting his children.

If you find yourself falling behind in child support, meet with a lawyer now.  You should obtain some legal advice about your options.  If you like, you can set up a consultation to discuss your case now.

What do I do about custody, visitation, property, and other issues while the divorce is proceeding?

Oftentimes, there are issues that must be addressed early on in a case.  Some of those issues include custody of minor children, child support, visitation, determining who gets to reside in the marital home and spousal support.  This relief comes through a Temporary Order.  Either party may file what is called a Motion for Temporary Relief.  Once filed, a hearing will be scheduled and the motion must be served on your spouse at least five business days prior to the hearing.  South Carolina Family Court Rule 21 states that the only evidence the Judge will consider at the temporary hearing will be: “pleadings, affidavits, and financial declarations”.

These hearings are short.  They are typically scheduled to last approximately 15 minutes.  At the conclusion of the hearing the Judge will issue his or her ruling which will become the Temporary Order.  This order will remain in place throughout the pendency of the case; however, it is important to note that this order has no effect on the judge who hears the case at the final hearing.

Because these orders may be in place for over one year, it is important that you work with your attorney from the very beginning by being honest and upfront with him/her and provide all of the documents and other affidavits they request.  I have written more about Temporary Hearings and Affidavits here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Almost Daily Inspirational Post: Happiness

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As you go through a separation or divorce mindset plays a key role in determining how you view the process, the outcome, and how you come out on the other side.  I plan to begin a new series with inspirational quotes to help keep you in a great mindset as you make your way through […]

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SC Separation and Divorce Essentials: Live Webinar

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On February 26th at 12 PM, I’m hosting a free webinar about the essentials of Separation and Divorce in South Carolina, so: 1. You’ll discover the basics of South Carolina separation and divorce law so you can feel confident as you enter the process. 2. You’ll discover the legal process and timeline so you know […]

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Potential Income Used for Calculating Child Support

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Sometimes potential clients for issues of alimony or child support ask about what would happen if their spouse quit their job or was fired or laid off and their income dramatically changed. Typically, the other spouse threatens you by saying if you file for child support or alimony I will just quit my job and […]

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