Like most court proceedings, South Carolina divorces and child custody cases require the parties to showing up at court at least once – sometimes many times. However, life can sometimes intervene and make it difficult or impossible for a person to make it to court at times. So what happens if you miss a Family Court date?
Failure to appear
Technically, “failure to appear” happens when a person skips a previously scheduled court date without bothering to alert the court to your absence. If a person fails to appear for a contempt hearing (called a Rule to Show Cause), the Court can (and often does) issue a bench warrant for that person's arrest. Failing to show up for other types of hearings is discussed below.
Why should you show up?
The main reason to show up at hearings in Family Court is to ensure that your interests are being represented and protected. If you don't show up, the hearing will almost always go forward anyway, and you will lose the chance to advocate on your behalf. Put another way, if you are not there, the judge will only get to hear one side of the story (the other party's side) before making a decision. So, the other party could walk away with everything they wanted because you weren't there to tell your side of the story. Therefore, unless it is absolutely impossible to do so, you should always make every effort to be at scheduled court dates. Period.
What happens if you are unable to appear?
If there is some legitimate reason that you cannot appear at the scheduled time, you should let your attorney know as soon as possible, so that he can attempt to have the hearing rescheduled or postponed (called a continuance). For this to happen, the opposing attorney must agree to the continuance, the judge must order it – or both. Sometimes this is easier to accomplish than others, and the likelihood of getting it done will obviously depend on the specific circumstances surrounding the request. The bottom line is that it is critical that you should make every possible effort to attend each and every hearing that your lawyer says you need to – period.