What state is this in?
Were all assets acquired during the marriage in both your names?
How long was the marriage?
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South Carolina is an "equitable distribution" state, so the marital property shall be divided in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not necessarily mean equal, but rather what is fair. The court will encourage the parties to reach a settlement on property and debt issues otherwise the court will declare the property award. So there is nothing that states that everything has to be split 50/50.
If you can enter into a written agreement signed by both parties as to any property distribution, that would be a binding agreement during the divorce.
The default custody award in SC is joint custody with each parent having equal time unless there is something that would make a parent unfit or unable to care for the child.
As part of any divorce action, you would also file a petition for joint custody. So as long as there is nothing negative in your history (drug, alcohol, or physical abuse) and you can care for the child, it is likely that you would be awarded joint custody.
In determining the best interests of the child, the court must consider the child's reasonable preference for custody. The court shall place weight upon the preference based upon the child's age, experience, maturity, judgment, and ability to express a preference. The court will also consider evidence of domestic violence, the current situation and nature of the divorce, and the religious faith of the parents. The court will not award custody based upon the gender of the parent. (Code of Laws for South Carolina - Chapter 3; Sections 20-3-160, 20-7-100, 20-7-1520).
Well, this would depend on the judge, but I doubt it. But to be perfectly honest, at that age, judges tend to favor the mother when the child is an infant as they feel that the mother is better able to care for the child. That doesn't mean that you wouldn't be able to do so, just that their tendency is to favor the mother at that age as the primary custodial parent with the father having visitation/custodial rights. It is unlikely that either parent would get some extended unbroken period of custody as the court wants both parents to bond with the child.
As for the letter, that was from her father and wouldn't have any legal bearing on the divorce. Even if it was from her, I don't think it could be held against her as it would be an offer for you to relinquish your parental rights in exchange for some type of payment. A parent may choose to voluntarily terminate their parental rights if they choose to and the court accepts the termination.
Well, you will have to detail out a custody schedule that sets out what you are seeking when you file your petition. You can set it out on a separate page that you draft up and attach it to the petition as an attachment. But I don't know that a judge would do a full week at a time, it is more likely that he would do a 2, 2, 3 schedule that would roll each week. This means that Mom gets child 2 days, Dad 2, Mom 3, Dad 2 Mom 2 Dad 3, etc. This is the most common split for a child that age with an exactly equal custodial arrangement. Typically Thanksgiving and Christmas would alternate.
But it will boil down to you convincing the judge that this is in the "best interests of the child" as that is the standard that he has to decide on. What does that mean? Whatever the judge decides it means. He will look at both parents work schedules and determine if it is realistic for a parent to have custody if they have to work 5 days a week, or overnights, or out of town, etc. But your commitment and dedication to your daughter will come through in any testimony before the court.
As for the division of assets, the judge will place some value on being a homemaker if she did that. Doing household chores, laundry, preparing meals, etc. all have some value in a judge's opinion. So it is extremely unlikely that he would base it strictly on income.
That is pretty encouraging about the support and the visitation as it looks like he is leaning toward you for being a stand up dad and wanting to be in your child's life. And yes, typically once one judge begins a case, he will keep it from then on so another judge doesn't have to "learn" the case each time.
Anything you can do to ensure that you can care for the child if you get her more will help. Having mom close to care for her while you are at work will definitely help as it shows you are already making arrangements for care and aren't just figuring it out as it goes along.
As circumstances change, there is nothing that would prevent you from asking the court to modify the custodial agreement to give you more time. But obviously you would want to strenuously explain to the judge that you want to spend as much time as possible with your child and are willing to do whatever it takes to do so. As the child gets older and moves to formula it will be much more likely you can get more time.
That would be true in an entirely equal division. But it is unlikely that her lawyer has promised her a set figure. He might have said we will shoot for around 80K, but I have never seen a lawyer pin himself down by promising a figure.
I hate to bring this up, but with you earning over 4x what she earns (70 vs. 300), there will likely be some spousal support as well as child support awarded even if you got custody exactly split evenly. This is because the judge uses a formula that takes into account both parents incomes and figures out an amount for child support. Spousal support may be awarded for some limited time to allow her to seek a better job or more education to get a better job.
So I would be prepared for this. If you don't have an attorney fighting for your interests, you are kind of bringing a knife to a gun fight.
Ok, that changes things a bit. If the judge has already ruled that it is not "alimony worthy" then that should be resolved.
It sounds like she it trying to get some "buy out" from you so she has some spending money. So since she is supported by her parents it is much less likely that she will get anywhere near half as she doesn't need it to pay for living expenses.
The judge will decide who gets to claim the child on their taxes, but I would opine that you have a much stronger claim due to the fact that the parents aren't the legal guardians and she is being supported by her parents so equitably doesn't need the deduction. But the judge will make the final decision. But at any rate, I don't see the parents being able to claim her because the child is not their dependent.
Well, that is why you should have your attorney push for the 2, 2, 3 schedule I mentioned earlier. But as the child gets older, it is typically easier to get more time.
You don't have to be represented as you can file your own motion pro se, but if you can't get in contact with your lawyer and he isn't returning your calls, you might consider sending him a letter certified mail asking about the status of your case so you can see if he is at least getting his mail.
I would have to agree with you that it isn't fair for one horse to pull all the load while the other rides in the cart.
Yes you should have time to present your side if you have it all organized in a concise manner. Typically the judge will set aside about a half hour for these type cases so you have to be ready to present your case and arguments pretty quickly. There is nothing that says a hearing can't take longer if there are lots of issues but the judge will have reviewed the case before the hearing and will pretty much know what is going on. Additionally he will have read your motion and supporting evidence beforehand so will know what you are going to argue. Unless some new evidence is brought out at the hearing, the judge pretty much knows which way he is leaning even before the hearing.
But if you don't get everything resolved, you would get another court date to continue it or the judge would just extend your time that day. If you get a ruling that you don't agree with, you would then have to appeal it to the next higher court.
Yes, the judge would determine who is liable for debts the same way he assigns assets. She wouldn't just get assets and not be responsible for any debt unless the judge already factored the debt into consideration when deciding what assets she gets.
Based on what you have said so far about the judge, yes.
I wouldn't think that would be far enough away to have an effect on the custodial award.
That would be extremely odd, to be perfectly honest. It appears that you have a "dad sympathetic" judge which definitely plays in your favor.
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But yes, in equitable distribution states such as yours, it is common for there to be a property settlement that is not exactly 50/50. Any custody/visitation order is case and fact dependent so there is not really a "normal" order. But typically, absent any negative factors that count against either parent, the order would be 50/50 with parents alternating weekends. I have seen one week on one off custody, 2, 2, 3 visitation and alternating weekends (although this is usually when the child is very young).
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