How to Change a Custody Agreement in SC

Modifications To Custody Agreement

Contrary to what many divorced or separated parents believe, a change to a custody agreement is possible. Lives and circumstances change, and sometimes an agreement that made sense in the past no longer serves the parents or children. Informal custody changes are not considered an order of the court so a parent may have trouble with schools, doctors, or others recognizing the changed custody or authority of the custodial parent. To ensure you protect your rights, and those of your children, you must follow the legal process to make a change.

How to Change a Custody Agreement

The first step to a change in custody agreement is to submit a petition to the family court. Most of the time, the petition, or complaint, will be filed in the same county that initially had jurisdiction over the first agreement. If both parents agree to the changes, the process is straightforward, but there are still formal steps which must be taken to get your new agreement before a judge for his or her approval, and ultimately obtaining the new court order.

If the parents are not in agreement, the parent requesting the change must  submit the petition and include a compelling reason why the change should be ordered, including the substantial and material change in circumstances that occurred since the initial agreement. The family courts will evaluate whether substantial changes have occurred, and determine what is in the children’s best interest. There is no specific time one must wait to seek a change in custody; rather, the crux is what circumstances have changed since the original agreement was approved by the court.

Child Support Formula

Modifications to a custody agreement many times also require reconsideration of child support. The formula used in South Carolina considers, among other things,  the gross income of each parent and the amount of overnights the child spends with each parent. Support obligations would also change if the custody modifications included a change to the amount of time spent with one or the other parent.

In every custody change request considered by the courts, the child’s best interest is a top priority. As a parent, you know what’s best for your child, and as family law attorneys, we know how to help. Contact McCutchen and McLean LLC to find out how we can help you navigate these important legal modifications.

3 Estate Planning Tips for Families with Beneficiaries with Special Needs

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All children deserve the thought and foresight that goes into estate planning, but estate planning for a special needs child takes on a special kind of significance. Whether you have a child with a physical, medical, or intellectual disability, planning for their future is a priority. Pay attention to these three tips for estate planning when your beneficiaries have special needs.

Tip #1: Understand the Impact of Money and Assets

Many individuals with special needs take advantage of government programs that aid in their support and care, including medical care. Leaving an inheritance, assets, or financial benefits to your child could leave them ineligible for the government assistance they need. Without thoughtful estate planning, your child could find themselves running through their inheritance quickly due to the cost of their care and loss of the government assistance they need.

Tip #2: Think About a Special Needs Trust

There are different trust structures for different circumstances, and when you have a special needs child, a special needs trust is worth considering. The primary benefit of this type of protection is that the trust and the assets within aren’t factors when qualifying for public assistance. The assets and financial support from the trust can cover needs not met by that assistance.

Tip #3: Consult an Estate Planning Lawyer

There are many legal considerations and ramifications of inheritance and trusts, so it’s critical to set them up correctly. This is especially true when your beneficiary is a child with special needs. Consulting an attorney with experience with estate planning is the best way to ensure your plans will work in your child’s best interest.

Estate planning for a special needs child requires care, consideration, and a legal team on your side. Contact McCutchen McLean, LLC to schedule your consultation.

Name Change in SC- What Is the Process Like?

How To Change Name In South Carolina

There are many reasons to change your name. The process in each state can vary, but a name change in SC is relatively straightforward. Here’s what you need to know so you can get it done.

What’s Required

You need to petition the family court to legally change your name in any state, including South Carolina. Whether you’re changing your last name due to marriage, divorce, or other life circumstance, or changing your first name, there is a process that you must follow. According to the South Carolina Legislature, the process includes the following:

  • Petition the court in writing and include the reason for the change.
  • Complete fingerprinting and a criminal background check.
  • Provide a statement from the Department of Social Services to prove you are not on the child abuse and neglect registry.
  • Proof from State Law Enforcement that you are not on the sex offender registry.
  • Provide information and documentation on court orders, including child support or alimony.

There are additional steps and considerations depending on the petitioner’s age, whether there is a criminal background, and sometimes the reason for the name change.

Why You Should Consider Hiring an Attorney

The documentation required, and elements that must be pled in your petition, are governed by South Carolina statute. Some steps in the name change process are easy to complete on your own, but others can be more complicated. Anytime you deal with the court system, issues and questions can be challenging to manage. This is especially true when you need consent from another parent for a child’s name change, when there may be a criminal history or prior court orders, or if someone contests the name change. Additionally, the documentation required can be overwhelming to assemble. An attorney can help you navigate all these areas, simplify the process for you, and help you reach your goal of attaining your brand new (or former) name.

Contact the experienced family law team at McCutchen McLean, LLC today for a free consultation regarding how to change your name in South Carolina.

Your Spouse Left with Your Kids, Now What?

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During a separation or divorce, especially a contentious one, your spouse may leave the state without telling you, taking your kids along with them. When this happens, your first question should be, are there custody lawyers near me? Here’s what to do when you find out your kids and your spouse are no longer in the same state as you.

If They Plan to Leave

If you learn that your spouse plans to leave the state with your children, the first thing you need to do is contact a lawyer. Unfortunately, unless there are drastic circumstances where your child’s life may in danger, a parent wanting to relocate with the child, by itself, is generally not enough for an emergency hearing in South Carolina. Therefore, timing is critical in getting your matter before a judge as soon as you can.

If They’ve Already Left

If your spouse has already left the area with your child, don’t panic. You may have legal recourse to get them back. First, call your divorce or custody lawyer for assistance. Depending on your particular circumstances, you may be able to file for an emergency hearing, requesting the return of your child and seeking a change of custody. It may be very beneficial if you have proof the other parent removed the child without your permission.

Don’t Wait to Contact Your Lawyer

If your spouse plans to leave or has left the state, don’t wait to contact your divorce lawyer. Waiting to act may create the perception that you agreed to the move or that you don’t have concerns about the child being away from you for an extended period with your spouse in another state. A favorable court ruling requiring the other parent to return the child to South Carolina will take careful planning between you and your attorney. As with all family court matters, but particularly relocation cases, the court will scrutinize why the parent left with the child and will decide what is in the best interest of your child.

If your spouse takes your children out of the state without your permission, we’re here to help. Contact the experienced legal team at McCutchen McLean, LLC, for help navigating the family courts for custody.

Discussing Long-Term Care Planning with Your Parents

Nursing homes near me

Everyone hopes to live well into old age, but no one wants to think about when it’s time for assisted living. If your parents are older, there’s no time like the present to start the conversation about long-term care with them. Planning is critical and having their input before they need care can make all the difference for them and you. Here’s how to talk to them about long-term care planning.

Starting the Conversation

Even if it’s tough, the conversation about long-term care, assisted living, and nursing homes is necessary. Starting the conversation is the hardest part. It’s essential to be caring and respectful, and acknowledge the difficulty of the topic. Express your desire to do what’s best for them and want them to have input into where they’ll live and what kind of care they’ll receive.

What to Talk About

When discussing long-term care for your parents or loved ones, there are some must-cover issues to include.

  • Where they’ll live and receive care – your parents might want to stay in their own home for the rest of their lives, but in some cases, that isn’t practical, realistic, or safe. Discuss nursing homes nearby, assisted living facilities, and other options they’re comfortable with.
  • Who will care for them – some elderly couples can care for each other well into their senior years, while others need assistance from healthcare professionals. Discuss the options and create a plan b.
  • Discuss the finances – long-term care, including independent living, assisted living, nursing homes, and memory care facilities, can be very costly. Do they have savings to cover the costs or assets they can sell to cover them? Do they have long-term care insurance coverage or Medicaid? This important part of the conversation can mean the difference between a standard facility and someplace that feels like home.

When you’re ready to talk with your parents about long-term care, let an experienced legal team help. Contact McCutchen McLean, LLC for help with estate planning to ensure your parents get the care they need when they need it.

Estate Plan (Trusts) Vs. Will – Ensure Your Assets Are Taken Care of After Death

Assets After Death

Do you know the difference between an estate plan vs. a will? Most people default to thinking that a will is the only document needed for planning what happens after your death. However, if you ask a reliable source, they’ll tell you that it’s beneficial to have a will and an estate plan.

What is a Will?

A will is a legal document that clearly defines how you want your assets and belongings divided that’s used by the courts and your heirs after your death. It can also detail guardianship for your children and will name an executor responsible for ensuring administration of the will. One of the most significant benefits of a will is to prevent the courts from determining how to divide your property, which is what happens if you die without one.

What is an Estate Plan?

An estate plan goes deeper than a will when allocating and managing your assets. It can allocate what happens while you’re living should you become incapacitated and details distribution of your assets after your death. It also helps with other considerations besides just your assets, including medical power of attorney, advance directives, trusts for living heirs, power of attorney for businesses and investments, and more.

Why Have Both?

The guidance shouldn’t be estate plan vs. will but should be estate plan and will. Because they can work together to create a broader arrangement that can more completely assure the preservation of your assets, carrying out of your wishes, security for your family and loved ones, and protection for your business ventures and investments.

No matter the size and breadth of your estate, if you have any assets to protect and family to take care of, having an estate plan and a will in place will benefit them both before and after your death. Talk to the experienced family law team at McCutchen and McLean LLC for a consultation to find out how you can take care of your family, even when you’re gone.



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