Separation and divorce lead to a very difficult time in the lives of couples and their children. It is an emotional time which leaves many questions about the couple’s financial future and parental rights. How will I provide for the children? How will a divorce affect my medical insurance? What will happen to the family home, my retirement accounts, and my investments? Who will get custody of the children? An experienced Myrtle Beach and Conway divorce lawyer can help you to answer these questions and can help you to navigate the complex rules governing South Carolina family law. The Johnny Gardner Law Group can help you to make sure that your rights are protected and your family’s needs are met during this turbulent time.
Family Law Matters
The Johnny Gardner Law Group offers family law solutions to our clients in areas including:
- Contested or uncontested divorce.
- Division of property.
- Spousal maintenance, spousal support, or alimony.
- Child custody, visitation, and modification of child custody agreements.
- Child custody, visitation, and modification of child custody agreements.
- Child support and child support modifications.
- Assistance for victims of domestic abuse.
- Adoption proceedings.
- Enforcing compliance with court orders.
At your initial consultation, we will gather information and identify your goals. We will explain your rights to you and begin work on a strategy to achieve your goals and make sure that your needs are met. Depending on the situation, we can help you to begin gathering documentation that we may need in court, file for a restraining order, or begin the process of seeking spousal support, child support, and custody on your behalf to help you protect yourself and your children. We can discuss the legal grounds that you may have for divorce, a change of custody, or any other family law related issues that you are facing.
The Johnny Gardner Law Group has a very active family law practice, and we will accept select domestic cases following an initial consultation. Because of the volume of inquiries that we receive, we charge a $125 fee for the initial consultation. This fee will be immediately applied to your retainer if we accept your case and if you decide to go forward.
Johnny Gardner has more than 20 years of legal experience in the Myrtle Beach, Conway, and Horry County area, and he is a zealous advocate for his family law clients. He knows the courts, the procedures, the law, and the attorneys that will be involved in deciding the issues in your case. He understands the need to be a hard negotiator and still resolve disputes amicably whenever possible. The Johnny Gardner Law Group works hard to keep your case out of court whenever possible, but we also will aggressively fight for you in court to protect your rights and to make sure that your interests are protected.
The Myrtle Beach and Conway divorce lawyers at the Johnny Gardner Law Group understand the emotional pain, confusion, and uncertainty that the prospect of divorce causes for our clients. We also understand the need for an aggressive advocate who can protect you and your children in this vulnerable time. Horry County divorce lawyer Johnny Gardner has over 20 years of experience handling family law matters in the Grand Strand area. When the Johnny Gardner Law Group takes on your case, we work fast to protect your interests. We will help you to identify your goals, your needs, and how our office can help you to accomplish them
The Johnny Gardner Law Group will guide you and help you to determine what is needed to protect you and your children at each step of this process. We have handled all types of family law matters ranging from simple uncontested divorces to complex cases involving high-asset property division. Divorce also involves legal issues such as property division, child support, alimony, child custody, and child visitation that must be resolved before there can be a final order of divorce. We want to help you and your spouse resolve these issues amicably and with a minimum of emotional stress to yourself and your children, and we will work with your spouse’s counsel and through mediation to accomplish this whenever it is possible. Despite this, we are also trial lawyers who will aggressively fight for you in court to make sure that your interests and your children are protected.
Legal Separation in South Carolina
There is no “legal separation” in South Carolina. However, if you and your spouse are living separately, either of you may apply to the family court for an order of separate maintenance and support which will temporarily determine issues such as child support, visitation rights, alimony, division of property, and who will live in the family home. An order of separate maintenance and support is not necessary to obtain a no-fault divorce in South Carolina, but it is a valuable tool in many cases to protect our clients’ finances and to resolve emotionally charged child custody and visitation issues during a period of separation. Although an order of separate maintenance and support does not mean that the couple will ultimately get divorced, in many cases it is critical because the terms of a final order of divorce may be influenced by the terms of the temporary order.
Contested or Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce is always possible in cases where there are no major disputes as to child support, child custody, spousal support, and property division. Even in an uncontested divorce, your interests must be protected. All too often, the emotional trauma of divorce can lead to one spouse simply giving in to the other’s demands and agreeing to unreasonable terms. Although it is possible to later obtain modifications of a divorce decree, it is your divorce lawyer’s duty to make sure that you and your children are protected and that we are not creating future litigation for yourself and your spouse.
On the other hand, there are going to be situations where the spouses cannot agree. When all attempts at mediation and an amicable resolution have failed, a family court judge will make the decisions for you and you will need an experienced and determined advocate who knows how to fight for you in the courtroom.
Child Custody and Visitation
One of the most emotional and difficult issues to navigate for many couples is child custody and visitation rights. You may have legitimate concerns about the health and safety of your child. The thought of not living with your child and the influence that others may have on your child when you are not present can be terrifying. You may be justifiably concerned about the effect that the separation and legal proceedings will have on a child’s development and well-being. When children are involved in a divorce proceeding, our goals are to ensure that your rights as a parent are protected while minimizing the negative impact on your children.
In South Carolina, the family court can order joint custody, sole custody, or shared custody of a child. In some cases, the court can award custody to a third party or another family member. In most cases, in the interest of providing a stable home for the child, the court will choose one parent as the primary caregiver and residence. The best interest of the child will always be the court’s primary concern when deciding custody and visitation issues. The court will take into consideration a number of factors which include the child’s preference, whether there is any history of domestic violence or abuse in the home, which parent has been the primary caretaker in the past, the character and any immoral conduct of each parent, the parent and child’s religion, and any written agreement between the parents. Courts are not allowed to consider race, gender, or the “tender years doctrine” which, before it was abolished in South Carolina in 1995, created a presumption that a younger child should be placed with the mother.
When determining visitation rights, the best interests of the child is the court’s primary consideration. The parent who does not have primary custody has the right to reasonable visitation with their child, but, when it is shown that a parent is engaging in conduct that may be harmful to the child, the court may place restrictions or conditions on visitation such as requiring supervised visits. In extremely rare cases, the court may deny visitation to a parent for the child’s protection.
Modification of Child Custody and Visitation Rights
Any child custody or visitation order is modifiable by the family court if a parent can show that the circumstances have changed considerably and substantially. The changes must have occurred after the initial custody order was issued by the court, and they must substantially affect the welfare and best interests of the child. The burden of proving a change in circumstances is on the parent who is seeking the modification, and disagreement with the terms as ordered by the court will not be enough to obtain a modification unless there is a substantial change in circumstances that happened after the court’s initial order.
Child Support and Alimony
Child support and alimony payments can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce. Whether child support or alimony are awarded and how much the payments will be are issues that will ultimately be decided by the court although any prior agreements by the parties will be taken into consideration. The Johnny Gardner Law Group’s Myrtle Beach and Conway divorce lawyers take your financial future and that of your children seriously, and our goal is to ensure that our clients are receiving the support they are entitled to and that our clients are not paying out more than is reasonable and necessary.
South Carolina Child Support
Child support payments are determined in part by South Carolina law, and a parent’s responsibility to provide financial support to their child is taken very seriously by the family courts. In most cases, the parent who does not have custody of the child will be required to pay some amount of child support. The amount is determined in part by the “child support calculator ,” but it may be adjusted up or down based on a parent’s ability to pay and the amount of each parent’s income. Although parents may agree on the amount of child support in a written agreement before the final divorce decree is entered, courts can and sometimes do change that amount based on the court’s view of a parent’s ability to pay and what is reasonable.
South Carolina Alimony
Alimony is not automatically awarded in divorce cases and it is largely in the discretion of the family court. The court may award temporary alimony, permanent alimony, or no alimony at all. The court’s guiding consideration will generally be what is fair and equitable under the circumstances taking into consideration the duration of the marriage, each party’s age and health, the standard of living that they are accustomed to, their earning capacity, how their assets will be divided, and any agreement that the parties reached prior to the final hearing. The purpose of alimony is often to provide support for a financially dependent spouse in order to maintain their standard of living or to provide them with the opportunity to get the education and training that they need to transition into the workforce and support themselves.
Modification of Child Support or Alimony
No amount of planning or negotiation can account for unanticipated changes that would make it difficult or impossible to comply with a court’s child support or alimony order. If you can demonstrate why the change is necessary, the court can modify child support or alimony payments. Although it is best to first reach an agreement as to the modification with your former spouse, that agreement will not be enforceable until a petition is brought in the family court to modify the divorce decree. The divorce lawyers at the Johnny Gardner Law Group regularly handle petitions to modify support payments and are prepared to help you make these changes.
A large part of our job at the Johnny Gardner Law Group is to help our clients through some of the most difficult and trying times in their lives. Going through divorce, child custody disputes, and division of marital assets sometimes feels like your world is being ripped apart, and our job is to guide you through this painful process. When we are privileged enough to handle an adoption for our client, we see the other side of the family court where we can help bring a family together and participate in what is truly a feel-good moment for most families and children. No two adoptions are the same. There are many different situations where adoption is the right choice for a family, and each carries its own set of challenges and legal issues. We have helped many of our clients through the adoption process and we urge you to contact the adoption lawyers at the Johnny Gardner Law Group if you are considering making this very important choice in your life.
Step-parent and Grandparent Adoptions
Many step-parents who have married a previously divorced parent decide to adopt their spouse’s children. Once you have carefully considered this decision, its permanency, and the effect it will have on your step child’s future, there may be other factors that we need to consider. As a general rule, you must have the consent of the biological mother or father before you can adopt their child. In some families, where the biological parent is present and participating in the child’s life, adoption may not be the right choice. However, there are many situations where committing to the adoption of your spouse’s child may be in the best interests of the child and parents. You may decide to adopt a child out of financial or inheritance considerations or when a child was born out of wed-lock. The biological parent may be absent from the child’s life.
In situations where the biological parent does not support or communicate with the child and has been ruled unfit by the court, notice of the proceedings must be given to the biological parent but their consent is not required. The Johnny Gardner Law Group can help you to file the right paperwork, serve the biological parent, and bring your new family together through adoption.
Grandparent adoptions are common as well and are sometimes the best option to bring stability to a child’s life in a variety of situations such as when the parent is no longer able to care for their child.
Foster Care Adoptions
Foster parents sometimes make the difficult decision to adopt a foster child. There are often special challenges that an adoptive foster parent will face, including the possibility of emotional and psychological issues that a foster child may need to work through, the difficulty of the child’s transition to a new family environment, and complications that may arise from the child’s previous home environment and upbringing. Once you have made the commitment to work through any issues like these that may arise, you may be faced with the additional challenge of terminating the parental rights of the biological parent if they refuse or are unable to consent to the adoption. The attorneys at the Johnny Gardner Law Group are prepared to guide you through this process and help you to bring stability, love, and a new family to your foster child.