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Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Custody & Support – Attorney’s Fees – Contempt

By: South Carolina Lawyers Weekly staff//September 25, 2023//

Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Custody & Support – Attorney’s Fees – Contempt

By: South Carolina Lawyers Weekly staff//September 25, 2023//

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The family court found that the defendant-Father had the information about his finances that the plaintiff-Mother sought, yet he continued to give evasive and vague answers. Further, throughout trial, Father failed to update discovery responses or to provide supporting documentation for many of his arguments and claims. Considering Father’s credibility problems and failure to be forthright, along with the other relevant factors, the family court’s award of attorney’s fees and costs to Mother was appropriate.

We modify and affirm the family court’s income determination, and we reverse the family court’s ruling holding Father in contempt. Otherwise, we affirm.

The family court erred in holding Father in contempt for enrolling the parties’ Oldest Son in summer school at Chapin High School. The language of the temporary order needed to be clear and certain rather than implied. The family court’s temporary order specifically required the children to finish the remainder of the school year in Richland School District Two and noted that the case was to be “fast-tracked” to determine future school enrollment.

While it can be implied that this order restricted the parties from enrolling the children elsewhere, it does not specifically say so. As such, the evidence fails to demonstrate that Father willfully disobeyed the court’s order. Therefore, we reverse the family court’s finding that Father was in contempt for enrolling Oldest Son at Chapin High School for summer school and the following school year.

In determining Father’s annual income, the family court adopted Mother’s expert’s proposed figure only after finding (1) Father failed to provide credible evidence supporting a lower income and (2) the expert’s figure was consistent with expenses it reviewed on Father’s 2017 bank records. Therefore, the family court did not err in relying on Mother’s expert’s testimony when determining Father’s income.

However, in its order, the family court found Father’s gross income for 2017 to be $203,067 and that his income for 2018 and 2019 “should remain on track as it was in 2017,” as he still owned and operated the same business he did in 2017 along with new income streams from his father’s business and other real estate holdings he inherited. This finding is not in alignment with the expert’s conclusion that Father’s income for 2017 was $202,234.46 and for 2018 was $124,743.3 Thus, we modify the family court’s income determination for 2017-2019 to match the expert’s 2017 determination of $202,234.46.

Affirmed in part, affirmed as modified in part, and reversed in part.

Brantley v. Brantley (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-070-23, 14 pp.) (Bruce Williams, C.J.) Appealed from Richland County Family Court (Monét Pincus, J.) Gregory Forman for appellant; Peter George Currence and Jordan Christopher Calloway for respondent. South Carolina Court of Appeals

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