Issues on Appeal
Mr. Brown appealed the family court's equitable division of the marital estate, the award of custody of the minor children to Mrs. Brown, the award of attorney's fees to Mrs. Brown, and the apportionment of guardian ad litem fees.
Equitable Division of the Marital Estate
Mr. Brown appealed the family court's division of the marital estate citing the short duration of the parties' marriage (8 years) and financial contributions of each party as factors that were improperly considered by the family court, citing Crossland v. Crossland, 408 S.C. 443, 759 S.E.2d 419 (2014) and Fitzwater v. Fitzwater, 396 S.C. 361, 721 S.E.2d 7 (Ct. App. 2011) to support his argument. The Court of Appeals upheld the family court's division of the marital estate, agreeing with the family court's application of the S.C. Code Ann. § 20-3-620 factors, distinguishing the facts of Crossland and Fitzwater as inapplicable to the Brown's case.
Custody of the minor children
Mr. Brown also appealed the family court's award of custody of the minor children to Mrs. Brown on the specific basis that the family court failed to consider the testimony of the minor children's pediatric endocrinologist and Mrs. Brown's alleged failure to recognize or treat a medical condition experienced by two of the minor children.
Upholding the family court's award of primary custody to Mrs. Brown, the Court of Appeals found that Mr. Brown failed to produce any witnesses or evidence to substantiate his allegations that Mrs. Brown was neglectful of the minor children's' medical condition; and the absence of any reference to the testimony of the pediatric endocrinologist in the family court's order did not require a reversal of the custody determination.
Award of attorney's fees and GAL fees
Mr. Brown's final issue on appeal concerned the award of attorney's fees to Mrs. Brown and the apportionment of the GAL fees.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the family court's award of attorney's fees, which required Mr. Brown to pay 61% of Mrs. Brown's attorney fees on the basis that the matter had been pending for 2 years, the trial lasted 3 days, the necessity of the time devoted by Mrs. Brown's attorney (considering the nature, extent, and difficulty of the matter, together with the fact that Mr. Brown hired 3 different attorneys), Mrs. Brown secured 49.60% of the marital estate and custody of the minor children, and Mrs. Brown's fees and costs were reasonable.
Turning to the apportionment of GAL fees, the Court of Appeals also upheld the family court's order requiring Mr. Brown to pay 60% of the GAL fees as proper. While Mr. Brown alleged that Mrs. Brown should be required to pay an equal portion of the GAL fees because she was uncooperative and lacked candor during the litigation, the Court of Appeals found his claims to lack credibility. The Court of Appeals also held Mr. Brown failed to provide any evidence that the family court's decision was impartial.
A copy of the Court's opinion in Brown v. Brown can be found here.
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