Mediation | Beaufort, SC

Mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that allows litigants to reach an agreement to their issues in an informal setting, through the help of a neutral third-party, known as a mediator.

In South Carolina, mediation is commonly used to resolve legal disputes, including Family Court issues. In many South Carolina Counties, parties are required to attempt to resolve their disputes through the mediation process prior to requesting a final hearing.

Mediators are generally experienced attorneys who have received additional training focused on mediation. As neutrals, mediators are ethically prohibited from offering legal advice to the parties. The cost of the mediation process varies and is generally split by the parties.

During mediation, the parties and their respective attorneys gather together to try and figure out a solution to the various issues of the case. Depending on the mediator’s preference, the parties can either meet in the same room or the mediator can go back and forth between separate rooms. In most family law cases tensions are such that separate rooms are preferred.

Mediation | Beaufort, SC

Ultimately it is up to the parties as to whether or not an agreement is reached. The mediator is only there to facilitate the negotiations and perhaps offer perspectives based on their experiences. No one can be forced into reaching an agreement during a mediation and everything shared during the mediation is prohibited from being introduced later at a trial.

Mediation is generally the litigants one and only chance to have a say-so in the ultimate resolution of their issues and thus their futures. The parties generally are encouraged to compromise on the issues that they may have some flexibility on. During mediation, creative solutions are often explored outside of what a Court may order after a costly trial.

At the Fender Law Firm, we have skillfully represented many clients during the mediation process. In our experience, mediation is a valuable tool in helping our client reach their goals.

Strange Laws

Many laws that were created back in the day were regarding violations relevant to the time. As we’ve progressed into modern day, many of these laws still remain “on the books”, even if they seem obsolete.

Strange Laws

Enjoy some of the strange SC laws:

  • Horses may not be kept in bathtubs.
  • It is illegal to change your clothes at a gas station without permission of the owner.
  • A permit must be obtained to fire a missle.
  • It is unlawful for any person to sleep on the beach between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and sunrise.
  • It is perfectly legal to beat your wife on the court house steps on Sundays.
  • You must be at least 18 years old to operate a pinball machine.
  • It’s an offense to inadvertently kill someone while trying to commit suicide.
  • Musical instruments may not be sold on Sunday.

Enjoy some of the other strange U.S. laws:

  • If someone in Mohave County, AZ, is caught stealing soap, they must wash themselves with it until the soap is gone.
  • If two trains meet at a crossing in Kansas, “both shall come to a full stop and neither shall start up again until the other has gone”.
  • By law, only the first four firemen to arrive at a fire will be paid in Zeigler, Illinois.
  • Ohio made buying ice cream on Sundays illegal, so local vendors put fruit on top to make it different and resulted in the modern day ice cream sundae.
  • In Paulding, Ohio, policemen are allowed to bite a dog if they think it will keep it calm.
  • It is illegal to throw a banana peel onto the street in in Waco, Texas, because a horse could slip.
  • Bingo games may not last longer than five hours in North Carolina.
  • You can be fined for harassing Bigfoot in the state of Washington.

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Beaufort Elementary | Career Day

On Friday April 3rd, we had the honor and pleasure of being asked to participate in Beaufort Elementary School’s Career Day. We were met by a highly enthusiastic group of 4th and 5th graders with who we thoroughly enjoyed spending our afternoon. The students asked some truly thought provoking questions and we can tell you that the future is a bright one for this group.

Fender Law Firm Career Day Beaufort SC

Big thanks to Beaufort Elementary School for having us, and we are already looking forward to the chance to participate again next year.

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Animal and Pet Rights

We’re all about family at Fender Law Firm and as a third generation practice, we find great satisfaction helping our beloved community of Beaufort, SC. Our two mascots, Bosco and Ramona, are some of the first friendly faces you’ll meet when visiting us and they’re always there for a hug or to receive a nice belly rub.

Fender Law Firm Mascots Beaufort SC Lawyer

They wanted to let everyone know that animals and pets can be entitled to rights as well. Please do report any circumstance involving neglect or abuse to an animal and if you feel you need guidance, please contact us! We’re here for all of our furry friends.

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National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April | National Child Abuse Prevention Month | Beaufort SC
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Fender Law Firm sponsored a CAPA 24-hour “pinwheels garden” to help raise awareness. Throughout the month of April, communities are encouraged to work together to spread the word and this year is especially important as it’s the 40th anniversary of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

Help support the prevention of child abuse and neglect by having a CAPA pinwheel garden planted in front of your business or home. Any effort big or small is appreciated.

For more information visit: CAPA of Beaufort

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Criminal Law | Beaufort SC

South Carolina is a very friendly place, but in cases when crime is involved, so is criminal law. Punishment for criminal acts and those who violate the law are determined by federal and state laws. Each state has its own penal code and South Carolina’s criminal law handles unlawful conduct from theft and assault to DUIs and drug possession. Laws do change, which is why it’s always important to seek legal guidance when it comes to handling a criminal case.

Criminal Law Beaufort SC Fender law Firm

Criminal law can be broken into three categories, misdemeanors, felonies and infractions. Misdemeanors are cases prescribed no more than 1 year of imprisonment, felonies are cases prescribed more than one year of imprisonment and infractions are smaller offenses, like traffic tickets.

Criminal law statutes can be broken into two categories, mens rea, the mental state the person committing the crime must be in for it to have been intentional (“the act is not culpable unless the mind is guilty”) and the actus reus, the action taken by the perpetrator (the objective element of a crime).

An experienced defense attorney can mean all the difference when it comes to criminal cases. Like Superman, they can be your advocate, protect and guide you through the process. Whether you are a victim of a criminal act or you have broken the law in some form and need representation, contact Fender Law Firm for more information.

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Child Adoption in Beaufort SC

When practicing primarily in the South Carolina Family Court, a majority of what we do involves representing clients in bitterly disputed litigation in which there are no winners, and if children are in any way involved, they are generally the ones who lose out. Adoptions are the exception to this unfortunate reality, and adoption proceedings are some of the most rewarding and gratifying cases that we as attorneys could ever be involved with. Adoptions are generally joyous occasions that expand or complete a family unit and rival childbirth in terms of their celebratory effect.

Tens of thousands of adoptions take place in the United States every year. Adoption generally requires the participation of both the birth mother and biological father of the child, although there are exceptions to this when the circumstances dictate. An adoption attorney represents the prospective adoptive parents, and the Court generally appoints a Guardian ad Litem to protect the child’s best interests. As with any South Carolina Family Court case involving child related issues, the best interest of the child is the predominating factor that a Court will look at when placing a child through the adoption process.

A common form of adoption is when a family member or step parent seeks to adopt a child they are related to by either blood or marriage.

Each State maintains their own adoption laws as well as how the adoption process is administered. In South Carolina, when becoming an adoptive parent, there are certain steps one must take and requirements that must be met for the Court to consider placing a child in the home. For example, one must be at least 21 years of age, be able to show a financial and physical ability to care for the child, and it must be determined that the adoption is in the child’s best interest. Processes, like home studies, personal exams and background checks are often times required to help create the best match between parents and child.

Adoption | Beaufort, SC

While it is possible to represent yourself in the South Carolina Courts during adoption proceedings, establishing your rights as an adoptive parent can be a confusing and technically difficult process. If you are considering adoption,If you are considering adoption, please contact us today to help assist you and your child on this journey. South Carolina has a Safe Haven law, which allows parents to take their infant (up to 30 days old) to a hospital. We strongly recommend letting us help educate you and guide you to becoming an adoptive parent. If you have any questions or would like to inquire about adopting, please feel free to contact us!

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Guardian ad litem – Fender Law in Beaufort SC

Over the past years, Guardians ad Litem have taken on an ever increasing role in the South Carolina Court System. When an infant, minor, child, or otherwise incapacitated person can’t represent themselves, the court will usually appoint a “Guardian ad Litem”, or “guardian of the suit” to represent the child or persons best interests and help preserve their rights and well-being for a specified duration of time. South Carolina Family Courts often appoint Guardians ad Litem in cases including Divorce with Child Custody, Adoption, Child Support, and Emancipation.

A Guardian ad Litem works for the Court, on behalf of the “ward” for a certain duration of time, which is usually confined to the pendency of litigation. Guardians Ad Litem are not to be confused with a “Guardian of the person”, who has custody or takes care of the child or person.

Fender Law Firm Beaufort Attorney Family Law Guardian Ad Litem

Guardians ad Litem must be appointed by a Judge and their duties, and responsibilities are outlined and regulated by state or local law. In the South Carolina Family Court S.C. § Code Ann. 63-3-810-70 discuss the role that private Guardians ad Litem have in cases which custody or visitation of a minor child is an issue. In some cases, the Guardian Ad Litem is an attorney, and in other cases a “layperson”. In most cases, they are trained and already have experience.

As part of their responsibilities, Guardians ad Litem perform independent investigations and often times, based on these investigations, make recommendations to the Court regarding the best interest of the child or person. During their investigation Guardians ad Litem may talk to the minor child, their parents, friends, school teachers, law enforcement and/or care-givers.

They may visit the home or school of the child, and request the child’s school and medical records.

At Fender Law Firm, we have extensive experience, both in serving as Guardian Ad Litem, and working with clients on cases in which a Guardian Ad Litem has been appointed.

For more information, please contact Fender Law Firm directly or call us at: (843) 379-4888

 

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Rights of Unmarried Fathers

“Your daddy never, meant to hurt you ever’
‘He just don’t live here, but you’ve got his eyes”

John Prine…  Unwed Fathers

There was an interesting, and somewhat concerning, article in the news paper this past weekend about the number of unwed mothers giving birth in the various parts of South Carolina.  According to several statistics, upwards of 50% of births in South Carolina are to unmarried parents.  This raises several issues related to a father’s rights concerning a child, when he and the mother were never married.

This is really a tough situation that many unwed South Carolina fathers find themselves in and which The Fender Law Firm fields questions on a weekly basis.  It can be confusing and frustrating for unmarried fathers to navigate the South Carolina legal system especially when all they want is to be a part of and play a role in their child’s life.  Some of the more frustrating facts that unmarried fathers face are:

  • Unmarried fathers are often times left off of the child’s birth certificate
  • Unmarried fathers have no inherent rights to visitation or custody
  • Unmarried fathers have no say-so in major decisions regarding their child such as education, medical treatment or religion
  • Unmarried fathers may not, in some circumstances, receive notification if their child is being adopted by a third-party.

Establishing the father’s paternity of the child is generally the 1st step in protecting one’s rights as an unwed father.  An unmarried father who has not established paternity of their child has no legal recourse should the child’s mother choose to not allow him access to the child.  In other words, without an establishment of paternity, an unmarried fathers’ rights are solely dependent of the mother’s discretion.

Another issue facing unmarried fathers is their ability/inability to have visitation with their child. The fact is that often times unmarried father are faced with a situation where the child’s mother is not allowing them any type of meaningful contact with their child.  This is most unfortunate for not only the child, who is not allowed the opportunity to foster a positive relationship with their father, but also for the father as there is nothing more painful in life than the being denied access to your own flesh and blood.

Part of being a parent includes the responsibility to provide support for your child.  Often times for unmarried and estranged fathers, this support is in the form of monthly child support payments.  One common misconception that many people have is that child support is somehow connected to visitation.  In South Carolina, the responsibility to pay child support is not linked to a person’s visitation with their child.  In other words, the South Carolina Family Court’s view child support and visitation as two separate issues.

The good news is that there are steps that can be taken for unmarried fathers to establish paternity, establish accurate child support obligation amounts, as well as gain visitation with or even custody of their children.

If you find yourself in a situation where your rights as a father are being interfered with, based simply because you and your child’s mother were never married, contact The Fender Law Firm today for a consultation to discuss your options.

web source: http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20140706/PC16/140709583/1177/paternity-acknowledgements-vary-widely-across-state-data-shows

 

 

Family Law in Beaufort SC

Family Law involves family matters and domestic relations, which can include marriage, divorce, abuse, child custody, guardianship, adoptions and a wide range of other circumstances in which it’s great to have legal guidance.

This body of law defines familial relations, attaches legal consequences and directs the transitions of individuals into new family formations. Family Law is all about relationships, whether that be between a parent and child, spouses or families.

Complicated issues that require a judicial involvement means finding a great lawyer to give important legal advice and help resolve the issues during the difficult time.

Fender Law Firm | Third Generation Beaufort Lawyer

If you’re in the Beaufort SC area and need asistance or have questions regarding Family Law, Fender Law Firm is here to help. As a third generation practice, we offer the best legal advice and guidance in the area. Don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to support you.
 

Marriage-related Family Law includes:

Divorce, Separation, Child Custody, Child Support, Pre and Postnuptial Agreements, Name Changes, Spousal Support

Family Law can also include:

Adoptions, Dependency Law, Visitation, Restraining Orders, Emancipation, Guardianship, Juvenile Delinquencies/Dependencies


 
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Fender Law Firm | 1307 Prince Street, Historic Beaufort SC | (843) 379-4888

Newest Member of Team Fender Law Firm

IMG_1443Everyone please make welcome the newest member of the Fender Law Firm team. Say “hi” Bosco. He wanted me to pass along He looks forward to joining Tracy and myself in zealously representing our clients. Thinking were going to put him in charge of the PR department for the time being.

Who can prosecute cases in the Magistrate Courts of South Carolina?

Obviously Solicitors and County Attorneys have the authority to prosecute cases at the Magistrate court level, but what about the officer that did the investigation and made the arrest?  Even a more interesting question is what about an officer from the arresting department who was not involved in either the investigation or the arrest?

There is an Attorney General’s opinion regarding this question, and while this opinion would not supersede a decision of a court of competent jurisdiction, this document does provide a wealth of information regarding the proposed question.

The question posed in the opinion was, “whether a deputy sheriff who conducts the investigation should be the officer prosecuting the case in magistrate’s court.”  My interest in this topic has led me to take this analysis one step further and additionally look at the question of whether or not a deputy, with no connections to the case, can step in and act as a prosecutor for the State. This is exactly the issue that arose in a recent magistrate court case I had the opportunity to observe.

As a sort of blanket statement, the Attorney General’s opinion acknowledges that Article V, §4 of the South Carolina Constitution declares that it is the duty and right of The South Carolina Supreme Court to regulate the practice of law in this state.  This notion is also set forth in In re Unauthorized Practice of Law Rules Proposed by the South Carolina Bar, 309 S.C.304,422 S.E.2d 123,124 (1992).

According to the opinion, “no South Carolina statute addresses the ability of law enforcement officers to present cases on behalf of the State at the magistrate’s court level,” however, the following cases provide guidance with respect to the prosecution of traffic or traffic relate offenses in magistrate and municipal court by persons other than attorneys: State v Messervy, 248 S.C. 110, 187 S.E.2d 524 (1972); State ex rel. Mcleod v. Seaborn, 270 S.C. 696, 244 S.E.2d 317 (1978); and State v. Sossamon, 298 S.C. 72, 378 S.E.2d 259 (1989).

In summary, the above cases provide that the arresting law enforcement officer, who is prosecuting his own case, would fall within the South Carolina Supreme Court guidelines and that officer would be allowed to prosecute the case on behalf of the State.  The rational seems to be that the arresting officer, who makes the case to arrest the subject or procures the arrest warrant, is able to testify regarding the events surrounding the investigation, and said officer would not be holding himself out as an attorney in this type of situation.  Additionally, allowing this process promotes “the administration of justice by allowing cases to be disposed of in a timely manner.”

The opinion concludes by stating that it is unclear whether a court would agree with this opinion and that such determinations would need to be made on a case-by-case basis, and the truth is that every judge may look at this issue a little different.

I recently had the opportunity to observe this issue play itself out in the courtroom and the result was that a deputy, who was not involved in either making the case against the defendant nor the arrest, was not allowed to simply step in and prosecute the case on behalf of the State.  I thought this was the right decision for many reasons.