When it comes to Domestic Violence, which is one of the most serious issues in the State of South Carolina a question has been asked in the past year. Why is it when allegations of Domestic Violence are brought into Family Court Rooms is it not elevated to Criminal Court as Domestic Violence is a Criminal Charge in South Carolina?
South Carolina Title 16 Chapter 25. Title 16 is the South Carolina portion of laws that list Crimes and Offenses and within that is Chapter 25: Domestic Violence. An entire chapter devoted to the criminal law on domestic violence, including definitions and penalties. But yet when this issue is raised in Family Court rooms it is simply used to separate a parent from their children or estranged spouse for profit.
In Section 20-3-10 which are the ground for divorce in South Carolina, it gives one of those grounds as Physical Cruelty (Domestic Violence). And in Section 63-7-370 it states that DSS may investigate allegations of Domestic Violence to see if the child has been harmed. And again in Section’s 63-15-40 and 63-15-50, Consideration of Domestic Violence in Child Custody/Visiation.
But to answer the overall question from above, Why is it when allegations of Domestic Violence are brought into Family Court Rooms is it not elevated to Criminal Court as Domestic Violence is a Criminal Charge in South Carolina? We have to look at a few things:
- The requirements to prove Domestic Violence in Criminal Court
- The requirements to prove Domestic Violence in Family Court
- The Cost of trial in Criminal Court
- The Cost of Trial in Family Court
In Criminal Court Domestic Violence is heard in General Sessions Court, the burden of proof lies with the State to show factual evidence of Domestic Violence as defined by State Law in Section 25-16-10. This means that actual proof/evidence must be presented to the Court to show Domestic Violence did occur.
As we have all seen on TV in Criminal Courts you must prove beyond reasonable doubt that a crime did occur, with real evidence and testimony. That is because criminal courts use a “Clear and Convincing Rule” when it comes to burden of proof.
In Family Courts Domestic Violence is much easier to get by the Judge. That is because Family Courts use a much lower standard of proof called “Preponderance of the Evidence“, which basically means one can simply use the allegations of Domestic Violence without factual proof, to convince a Judge it happened. This practice is usually done with unclear testimony and police reports stating that Law Enforcement were told by a party they were abused (without any investigation).
It’s also important to note here that the “Preponderance of Evidence” is considered the lowest standard in the law.
Next, let’s look at the cost aspect of both Courts.
In a Criminal Domestic Violence case heard in General Sessions Courts here in South Carolina a Defendant is afforded legal counsel by appointment if he is unable to hire his own Counsel. Which means the accused can get a Public Defender if he can not afford to hire a lawyer himself. This in itself is one of the many protections which is contained in the U.S. Constitution. It also raises the chances for the Defendant to prove his innocents.
The costs are commonly very low in these criminal court cases for an individual, but can take a lengthy amount of time.
While in Family Court cases with allegations of Domestic Violence a defendant is not afforded the protection of an attorney if he can not pay for one. There is a saying heard in Family Courts that defines it’s purpose to one aspect, “You Pay to Play”. Also, there are no U.S. Constitutional protections for an individual in Family Courts.
The cost of these allegations in Family Courts comes down to what is called “Billable Hours”, the longer a case is dragged out the more money is gained by attorneys and Courts. As some know Family Court cases can be dragged out for years and one always has the option of continuing the case in the Appeals Court or Supreme Court, which again more “billable hours” for attorneys.
Let us state here not all attorneys lower themselves to this level of law practice. There are some who truly do value the law and its protections for their clients, they do represent the truth in many cases.
The answer to our beginning question comes down to this: If Domestic Violence is raised to Criminal Courts, where there are protections from wrongful prosecution and factual evidence is needed, then it can not be continued in Family Courts, which is the lowest Courts in South Carolina with the lowest standards. In other words, there goes the money train…
Is Domestic Violence a serious issue in South Carolina? YES! But how many of these cases are used simply for profit and how many are used to simply separate a loving parent from their children?
In a case we have become very familiar with Doran vs. Doran in Kershaw County, Mr. Doran was found by Judicial Verdict “Not Guilty” of any Domestic Violence against his wife, Liliya Moroz-Doran, in a General Sessions Court. But the Family Courts continued to hear the case on allegations, not proof and his wife was given a divorce on “Physical Cruelty” based on the allegations even though a higher Court found him innocent using the same evidence.
Mr. Doran is not the only one in South Carolina who has dealt with the “Pay to Play” aspect of Family Courts for billable hours going to attorneys. We also want to remark here that Family Courts hold no U.S. Constitutional existence and are merely a Court of Equity (Property Court).
Thousands of individuals both men and women are accused of Domestic Violence in Family Courts but very few of them are ever taken to criminal courts in South Carolina. This could be blamed on a few Attorney/Legislators who profit from these double standards in our Courts.