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  • Initial Consultation Questions & Answers
  • How do I make an appointment for an initial consultation?

    Call us at 843-769-0311, to talk to our receptionist, who will set you up with an initial appointment. You can also email one of us to have our receptionist contact you.

  • How much will an initial consultation cost?

    We charge our hourly rate for initial consultations. If you meet with either of our partners, Natalie Parker Bluestein or Jane Nussbaum Douglas, you will be charged $350 an hour. If you meet with our associate you will be charged $200 an hour. It is often possible to complete your consultation in one hour.

  • What should I bring to my initial consultation?

    You should bring all of your court paperwork, such as pleadings from prior cases, or any pleadings and correspondence which has been sent to you or served on you. You should also bring any paperwork which you think is important to your case. For example, if you want advice about a separation or divorce, you should bring any financial information you have, such as recent bank statements, income records for your spouse and for you, and asset and debt records. If you want advice about custody issues, you should bring any medical, educational, or therapy records you may have on your child or children.

  • What will happen at my initial consultation?

    You will meet alone with the attorney to talk about what brought you to our office, what is happening in your life, and what we can do about it. We will ask you specific questions to get a feel for what the issues might be for you, and will talk to you about the law as it relates to your situation, and what your options are.

  • How long will my initial consultation take?

    Initial consultations usually last at least an hour, but can last several hours if your situation is complicated or you feel you need to spend more time.

  • Is the information I give you confidential?

    Absolutely. We will not disclose the information you give us to anyone without your knowledge and consent.

  • Why do I need to be alone when I meet with the attorney?

    It is important that all of your meetings with any attorney be private. Any attorney meeting which includes a third person, even if the third person is your current spouse, an adult child or a parent, is not confidential. This means that your opposing party will have access to what was said and done at this meeting.

  • What if I am not sure that I need to talk to an attorney?

    If you have any questions about your marriage or about what your financial or legal situation might be if you were to separate or divorce, you should consult an attorney. It is always important to have this information, whether you decide to separate immediately, or you end up remaining married for months or even years.

  • What if I am not sure I want to get a divorce?

    Meeting with one of our attorneys provides an opportunity to ask questions and obtain information about your rights and possible obligations. We are a confidential resource of information.

  • Will my spouse know I have met with an attorney?

    Your spouse will not know that you have been to our office, unless you reveal this information either directly or indirectly. The information will not be revealed by us until and unless you retain us and you decide, with your attorney, to move forward with your case.

  • What if the opposing party in my case calls your office for an initial consultation after I have seen an attorney in your office?

    Once you have had a formal meeting with an attorney in our office, we will be conflicted out of talking to or meeting with your opposing party.

  • Will you be able to tell me how long my case will last or what will happen?

    We will be honest with you, which means we will not be able to predict how long your case will last, how difficult your litigation might be, or whether you will “win.” We will do everything we can to give you some idea of what we think are the strengths and weaknesses of your situation, what you should do and not do to make your situation as favorable to you as possible, and how complicated or lengthy your litigation might be.

  • What if my family finances are complicated?

    We often deal with complicated financial situations. We also frequently involve a forensic accountant to provide expert advice on complicated financial situations.

  • Will my case go to trial?

    We go to Court for temporary hearings and other motion hearings in many of our cases. But the vast majority of our cases are resolved without trial, either through mediation or other settlement negotiations.

  • What if my spouse and I have reached an agreement but neither of us has an attorney?

    You should schedule an initial consultation, and we will review the terms of your settlement and will let you know if there are more effective ways to accomplish some of your and your spouse’s goals. If you retain us, we will put your agreement into writing, and you can then take the written agreement to your spouse for revisions.

  • If we have an agreement, will my spouse need to hire a separate attorney?

    While it is not necessary, it is often a good idea for your spouse to have the agreement reviewed by a separate attorney so that the resulting agreement is fair and enforceable.

  • Will we have to go to Family Court if we have an agreement?

    Yes. A simple written and signed agreement is not enforceable until it is approved by the Family Court and made a Court Order. This means that we will need to file an action and have a brief hearing so that the Family Court Judge can ask you and your spouse questions about the fairness of your agreement and about whether you have entered into the agreement voluntarily, and can approve the agreement and make it into a Court Order.

  • Can I get alimony? Can I avoid paying alimony?

    These are questions we cannot answer until we have had an opportunity to meet with you and talk to you.

  • How can I prove grounds for divorce?

    This is a question we cannot answer until we have had an opportunity to meet with you and talk with you.

  • Should I schedule an initial consultation even if I am not sure that my case belongs in South Carolina, or in one of the local counties?

    Absolutely. It is important that you have information about where your case should be filed. We will tell you If your case needs to be filed in another state or a distant county, and will try to help you find an attorney in that place.

  • What if I have a question about interstate custody?

    We can give you the necessary information about your custody situation, even if you, your child, or your spouse or ex-spouse live outside of South Carolina. We will advise you about the appropriate place to file your case.

  • What if I have been served with pleadings from out of state?

    You should schedule an initial consultation and bring your pleadings, and depending on jurisdiction, we will advise you either about finding counsel in the state in which the pleadings were filed to contest out-of-state jurisdiction or to represent you, if jurisdiction belongs in the state in which the pleadings were filed.

  • What if I have lived in a foreign country, or my spouse or children lives in a foreign country?

    A foreign divorce or custody case may be heard in federal court. You should schedule an initial consultation with Jane Nussbaum Douglas, who is a member of the local federal district court bar, to find out whether the foreign country is a member of the Hague Convention, and how to proceed.

  • What if I am looking for a mediator?

    Natalie Parker Bluestein is a certified Family Court mediator, and can mediate your case. If you are looking for a mediator, you will not have an initial consultation, but will make a mediation appointment, and will come to our office with your opposing party to meet with Ms. Bluestein to try to resolve your case.

  • What if I want to do Collaborative Law?

    Both of our partners, Natalie Parker Bluestein and Jane Nussbaum Douglas, are certified in Collaborative Law. You should schedule an initial consultation without your spouse or opposing party, and Ms. Bluestein or Ms. Douglas will give you a list of other certified Collaborative lawyers so that your spouse or opposing party can schedule an initial consultation with that attorney, so that your case can move forward.

  • If I retain Bluestein & Douglas, LLC, who will work on my case?

    The attorney you retain will be your primary attorney. Our partners will not pass your case off to an associate attorney under any circumstances, unless you agree for specific tasks or simple hearings.

  • What happens after my initial consultation?

    Unless you are coming in for information only, we will give you a client information packet during your initial consultation which you can complete and return if and when you want. If you decide to take action or go forward more than a year after your initial consultation, you will need to schedule another consultation with us.

  • When does Bluestein & Douglas, L.L.C., become my attorney?

    Bluestein & Douglas, L.L.C., does not become your attorney until and unless you sign a retainer agreement and pay your complete retainer fee. You are under no obligation after your initial consultation, nor is Bluestein & Douglas, L.L.C., under any obligation to you. (We will, not, however, meet with or talk to your opposing party.)

  • What if I have additional or follow-up questions after my initial consultation?

    Unless you have made special arrangements with the attorney during your initial consultation for follow-up questions by email or telephone, you will need to schedule another meeting, and pay our hourly rate, to have your questions answered.

  • Can I continue to meet with the attorney from time to time for information without retaining Bluestein & Douglas, L.L.C.?

    Yes. You can schedule additional appointments with the attorney as often as you need.

  • Paths to a Resolution Questions & Answers
  • What happens if I want to get a second opinion during my case?

    Our retainer agreement specifically states that you are welcome to get a second opinion from another attorney during your case, without notification to or permission from us.

  • Mediation Questions & Answers
  • What if I am looking for a mediator?

    Natalie Parker Bluestein is a certified Family Court mediator, and can mediate your case. If you are looking for a mediator, you will not have an initial consultation, but will make a mediation appointment, and will come to our office with your opposing party to meet with Ms. Bluestein to try to resolve your case.

  • Collaborative Law Questions & Answers
  • What if I want to do Collaborative Law?

    Both of our partners, Natalie Parker Bluestein and Jane Nussbaum Douglas, are certified in Collaborative Law. You should schedule an initial consultation without your spouse or opposing party, and Ms. Bluestein or Ms. Douglas will give you a list of other certified Collaborative lawyers so that your spouse or opposing party can schedule an initial consultation with that attorney, so that your case can move forward.

  • What if I Need a Divorce?
  • What is it like to go through a divorce?

    Going through a divorce can be as difficult as facing a major illness. It is often a life- Getting a divorce does not just mean the dissolving your marriage. You often have to also confront the issues of equitable division of property, maintaining or providing continuing health insurance, custody of your children, spousal support and alimony, and child support.

  • What are the grounds for divorce in South Carolina?

    • Adultery
    • Desertion for a period of one year
    • Physical cruelty
    • Habitual drunkenness or drug abuse
    • One year continuous separation.

  • Will my divorce be complicated?

    Your divorce may be simple and straightforward or incredibly complex. You might not know whether your issues are simple or complex until you have talked to a knowledgeable divorce attorney.

  • Do I have to have a court order or separation agreement to start my one year separation?

    You do not need to have a court order or a separation agreement for your one year separation to begin. You and your spouse need to be living in separate residences without any periods of getting back together. You will need at least one witness who is not a minor child who has independent knowledge that you and your spouse are living separately.

  • Alimony Questions and Answers
  • Will I get alimony in my divorce?

    Whether or not you get alimony in your divorce depends on many factors, including:

    • The length of the marriage and ages of the parties;
    • The physical and emotional health of each spouse;
    • The educational of each spouse and whether the supported spouse needs additional education;
    • The employment history and earning potential of each spouse;
    • The standard of living established during the marriage;
    • The current and future earnings and expenses of both spouses;
    • The marital and nonmarital properties of the parties;
    • Custody of the children,
    • Marital misconduct or fault of either or both parties
    • The tax consequences to each party;
    • The existence and extent of any support obligation from a prior marriage

  • Are there different kinds of alimony?

    There are several different kinds of alimony that can be awarded by a South Carolina Family Court Judge. These include:

    • Permanent periodic alimony
    • Lump sum alimony
    • Rehabilitative alimony
    • Reimbursement alimony
    • Separate support and maintenance
    • Other alimony as appropriate

  • How much alimony will I get?

    Unlike with child support, there are no guidelines to assist in determining how much alimony should be paid. You may not know whether or not you might have to pay alimony, or whether you might be entitled to receive alimony. Talking to a knowledgeable divorce attorney can help you make this determination.

  • If I think I might get alimony or might have to pay alimony, is there anything I should know?

    Yes. Adultery is a bar to alimony in South Carolina. Adultery can be established by proving opportunity and inclination. This means that if there is proof that you or your spouse has spent some amount of time alone with a member of the opposite sex to whom they have shown a romantic inclination, there may be proof of adultery. If you think you may be entitled to alimony, you need to be extremely careful about spending time alone with members of the opposite sex, even if you are not romantically involved because proof of one incident of adultery may possibly bar alimony forever. If you think you might have to pay alimony, it is very important to remain aware of any signs that your spouse might be committing adultery.

  • Child Custody
  • What is a child custody case?

    If you have and your spouse have children, and you cannot decide on who they should live with, you may have a custody case. The most important issue in a custody case is the welfare of the parties' child or children. Custody cases are often extremely complex, and require the involvement of a Guardian ad litem and various therapists.

  • What is joint custody?

    Joint custody as a legal concept which gives the parents the right to any and all information about the children. One of the parents is usually the primary custodial parent in a joint custody arrangement, which usually means that they have the final say-so in major decisions about the children.

  • What is shared custody?

    Shared custody means that the non-custodial parent has at least 110 overnights with the children each year. Child support is adjusted downward when there is shared custody.

  • Can I change an existing custody arrangement?

    Child custody and visitation can be changed either by agreement of the parties or by Order of the Court. To get the Court to change custody, one of the parties must be able to show that circumstances have substantially changed since the previous custody arrangement was ordered. You may not know whether the circumstances of your child custody and visitation arrangement have changed enough to warrant a modification of child custody of visitation. Talking to a knowledgeable divorce attorney can help you make this determination.

  • What is a guardian ad litem?

    A Guardian ad litem is a person, usually an attorney, appointed by the Court to represent the interests of minor children in custody litigation. We are providing a link to the Guardian ad litem statute for more information on the role of the Guardian ad litem.

  • What is interstate custody?

    Interstate custody cases arise when the parents live in different states, or when the children have moved from state to state. These cases are quite complex. We are attaching a link to South Carolina's version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

  • What if I have a question about interstate custody?

    We can give you the necessary information about your custody situation, even if you, your child, or your spouse or ex-spouse live outside of South Carolina. We will advise you about the appropriate place to file your case.

  • Child Support
  • Will I get child support?

    Unlike alimony, there are clear guidelines to help determine child support amounts. However, the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines do not apply in cases where the parties' combined monthly income is more than $20,000.00. We often employ a forensic accountant to extrapolate a child support amount when the parties are high-income.

  • Marital Property
  • What is marital property?

    The only property that can be divided by the parties is marital property. Generally, marital property is any property you buy during your marriage, even if only one of you is the listed owner. Usually, property brought to the marriage or inherited by one of you is not marital property. Any inherited property or individual gifts should be kept separate to insure that it remains non-marital.

  • How does the court decide how to divide marital property?

    Many factors are involved in the equitable apportionment of property. These include:

    • Length of the marriage and ages of the parties;
    • Marital misconduct
    • Value of the marital property.
    • Contributions of each spouse to the property;
    • Incomes and earning potential of the spouses;
    • Physical and emotional health of each spouse;
    • Need for additional education;
    • Nonmarital property of each spouse;
    • Whether alimony has been awarded;
    • Custody of the children
    • Tax consequences
    • Other support obligations
    • Encumbrances on the property

  • Prenuptial Agreements
  • What is a prenuptial agreement?

    Couples often sign prenuptial agreements before they are married. These agreements are binding if they are done properly. A prenuptial agreement usually governs the rights of the parties if they separate and/or divorce.

  • Do I need a prenuptial agreement?

    It is often difficult for couples who are in love and know they want to spend their lives together to consider a possible divorce. However, having a prenuptial agreement often removes some of the potential conflict from an otherwise happy marriage. These agreements do not have to be approved by the Family Court to be valid, and do not require that a case be filed in Family Court at the time the prenuptial agreement is signed.

  • Postnuptial Agreements
  • What is a postnuptial agreement?

    Sometimes after a lengthy separation or even after a case has been filed in Family Court, a couple decides to attempt a reconciliation. In those situations, we often recommend that they sign reconciliation agreements setting out the conditions of their reconciliation, including property distribution and support obligations. We often call these agreements "reconciliation agreements." These agreements are binding if done properly. These agreements do not have to be approved by the Family Court to be valid, and do not require that a case be filed in Family Court at the time of signing.

  • Separation Agreements
  • What is a separation agreement?

    Most of our clients reach an agreement on the issues involved in the breakup of their marriage. These agreements are frequently put into a written document which is signed by the parties. These signed agreements are not enforceable until and unless they are approved by the Family Court and made into a Court Order. After this has happened, the terms of such a written agreement are enforceable by the Court.

  • Do I need a separation agreement for my one year separation to begin?

    You do not need to have a separation agreement for your one year separation to begin. You and your spouse need to be living in separate residences without any periods of getting back together. You will need at least one witness who is not a minor child who has independent knowledge that you and your spouse are living separately.

  • Costs Questions & Answers
  • How does your billing system work?

    The attorney will usually quote you a retainer amount at the time of your initial consultation. When paid, this retainer goes into our escrow account, to be used only when we work on your case. We will bill against your retainer, and take money out of our escrow account to pay ourselves on a monthly basis. We will also send you monthly activity and billing statements.

  • What are your billing rates?

    Our partners, Natalie Parker Bluestein and Jane Nussbaum Douglas, charge $350 per hour. Our associate charges $200 per hour. We charge $125 per hour for all other office staff.

  • What time will I be billed for?

    When we work on your case, the smallest increment of time charged is one quarter of an hour, or 15 minutes. Our attorneys and office staff bill for all of the time they spend on your case. This includes, but is not limited to, client meetings, all communications (telephone calls, text messages, emails and letters) to you, all communications with opposing or associated counsel, all communications with the court, and all communications with potential witnesses and experts. We also bill for drafting pleadings and letters, reviewing and revising pleadings and letters, legal research, and fact research, file organization, document review, and discovery. We also charge a $50 administrative fee when we open your file.

  • What expenses will I be billed for?

    The Family Court’s current filing fees are $150 for initial pleadings and $25 for motions and most rules to show cause. You are responsible for these costs, and usually for the cost of a process server to serve your opposing party. You are responsible for the costs of any experts, therapists, mediators, arbitrators, and other litigation costs.

  • Will I be billed for routine costs?

    You will not be billed for routine copying and for routine postage. However, if volume copying needs to be done, we send the documents out to a professional copying company, for which you will pay. You will be billed for the cost of certified mail, overnight express deliveries, and process servers.

  • What happens after my retainer money has been used up?

    Our retainer agreement requires you to replenish your retainer when the amount in our escrow account drops below $1000.

  • What happens if I still have money left after the end of my case?

    We will reimburse all money paid by you which remains in our escrow account at the conclusion of your case.

  • Can my spouse or ex-spouse be court ordered to pay my attorney’s fees?

    We often include a request for attorney’s fees and costs in your pleadings, and the Family Court may order that these payments be made. However, you remain personally responsible for your own attorney’s fees, even if a court order requiring payment by another party is in effect. You will be reimbursed by our office for any fees you have paid which are subsequently paid pursuant to a court order.

  • What if I have questions about my bill?

    You should feel free to question your bill. Our office will not charge for time we spend answering your billing questions.

  • What happens if I decide to switch attorneys?

    The attorney-client relationship is incredibly important to both you and us. If either you or our attorney comes to believe that this relationship is not working, we are both free to terminate representation. If the case is pending and our attorney has appeared as attorney of record in your case, a court order is necessary to relieve us as counsel. You will be reimbursed any money left in your escrow account after we stop work on your case. Likewise, you will owe us for any outstanding balance due at the end of your attorney-client relationship.

  • What happens if I owe money to Bluestein & Douglas, or if I believe Bluestein & Douglas owes me money?

    Our retainer agreement provides that fee disputes are submitted to the Resolution of Fee Disputes Board of the South Carolina Bar Association.

  • Cooperative Law Questions & Answers
  • How do I know my case should be handled cooperatively?

    You cannot know this with any certainty until you meet with us. Because we try to avoid formal discovery when we do Cooperative Law, we believe that one of the first requirements is that both parties have full knowledge of their overall financial situation, including assets, debts and incomes. There must be some degree of trust between the parties to reduce the fear that one or the other is hiding assets or income. There also should not be a glaring power imbalance between the parties. This means that there are no allegations of domestic or emotional abuse or complete over-control by one of the parties.

  • Arbitration Questions & Answers
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of arbitration?

    The advantages of arbitration include:

    • Arbitration can be scheduled whenever it is convenient. The parties do not have to wait to get court time.
    • Arbitration is often less formal than trial, and often takes far less time.
    • Arbitrated decisions are usually not appealable.
    • You can choose your arbitrator.

    Disadvantages include:

    • The parties have to pay for the arbitrator when they would not have to pay a judge.
    • The arbitrator’s decision is usually final, meaning that the parties lose their right to appeal the arbitrator’s decision.