Miller v. Miller, No. 23076

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtTOAL; GREGORY
Citation299 S.C. 307,384 S.E.2d 715
PartiesMaria MILLER, Appellant, v. Christopher MILLER, Respondent. . Heard
Decision Date20 March 1989
Docket NumberNo. 23076

Page 715

384 S.E.2d 715
299 S.C. 307
Maria MILLER, Appellant,
v.
Christopher MILLER, Respondent.
No. 23076.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Heard March 20, 1989.
Decided Sept. 5, 1989.

Page 716

[299 S.C. 309] Robert T. Williams of Williams & Brink, Lexington, for appellant.

Jean P. Derrick of Rogers, Duncan, Fullwood & Derrick, Lexington, for respondent.

TOAL, Justice:

Mrs. Miller appeals a family court decree which terminated alimony, modified child support and visitation, and required Mrs. Miller to assist in transporting the children for visitation. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

The Millers were divorced in Virginia in 1985. The Virginia court awarded custody of the couple's two young children to Mrs. Miller, and required Mr. Miller to provide support for the children in the amount of $300.00 per month per child and alimony to Mrs. Miller in the amount of $300.00 per month. Mr. Miller had been employed earning $50,000 per year until approximately one month before the final hearing in Virginia, at which time he was earning approximately $1,600 per month, or $19,200 per year.

The Virginia court had before it both the financial information concerning Mr. Miller's prior higher paying job and the financial information concerning his more recently acquired job, in determining the amount of child support Mr. Miller was required to pay.

Mr. Miller moved to South Carolina following the parties' divorce. Mr. Miller failed to return the children following his 1987 summer visitation. Mrs. Miller petitioned the South Carolina Family Court for their return, and Mr. Miller answered requesting a reduction in child support and other relief. The Family Court ordered the children returned to Mrs. Miller by Order dated September 4, 1987. The remaining issues were heard February 3, 1988, and decided by Order dated February 19, 1988. It is the February Order which is the subject of this appeal. Mr. Miller has continued to be unable to obtain employment compensating him at levels commensurate with his earlier employment. The financial declarations submitted below showed Mr. Miller's income was still approximately $1,600 per month, but his [299 S.C. 310] monthly expenses had been significantly reduced since the Virginia decree. Despite his improved financial situation, Mr. Miller had fallen behind in his support obligations.

Mrs. Miller went to live with her parents in Pennsylvania following the divorce. The financial declarations submitted below showed Mrs. Miller's monthly income had improved slightly and her expenses had remained fairly stable since the original award.

The Family Court judge relieved Mr. Miller of the obligation to pay alimony, reduced Mr. Miller's child support obligation from $600 per month to $358 per month, and required Mrs. Miller to come to South Carolina, or make arrangements, to transport the children home following their summer visitation with Mr. Miller. Mrs. Miller appeals only the issues of the reduced child support, and the requirement that she provide transportation to the children following the summer visitation; she agreed below to a termination of alimony.

A family court has authority to modify the amount of a child support award upon a showing of a substantial or material change of circumstances. Thornton v. Thornton, 294 S.C. 512, 366 S.E.2d 37 (Ct.App.1988); Calvert v. Calvert, 287 S.C. 130, 336 S.E.2d 884 (Ct.App.1985); S.C.Code Ann. § 20-3-160. The burden is upon the party seeking the change to prove the changes in circumstances warranting a modification. See, Garris v. Cook, 278

Page 717

S.C. 622, 300 S.E.2d 483 (1983) (failure to prove changed circumstances supports the denial of request for increased support).

A substantial or material change in circumstances might result from changes in the needs of the children or the financial abilities of the supporting parent to pay among other reasons. Smith v. Smith, 275 S.C. 494, 272 S.E.2d 797 (1980). Generally, however, changes in circumstances within the contemplation of the parties at the time the initial decree was entered do not provide a basis for modifying a child support award. Calvert v. Calvert, 287 S.C. 130, 336 S.E.2d 884 (Ct.App.1985); Nelson v. Merritt, 281 S.C. 126, 314 S.E.2d 840 (Ct.App.1984).

A downward modification in child support based upon a decrease in the noncustodial parent's income is not warranted absent a strong showing by the party seeking[299 S.C. 311] the change that he is no longer in a condition to make the support payments prescribed by an earlier Family Court order. Calvert v. Calvert, 287 S.C. 130, 336 S.E.2d 884 (Ct.App.1985).

In appeals from the Family Court, this Court has authority to correct errors of law and find facts in accordance with its own view of the preponderance of the evidence. Clinkscales v. Clinkscales, 275 S.C. 308, 270 S.E.2d 715 (1980).

The Family Court found there had been a substantial and material change in circumstances in that Mr. Miller's income dramatically decreased, while Mrs. Miller's income had increased and her expenses had decreased. The finding with respect to the decrease...

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42 practice notes
  • Lafrance v. Lafrance, No. 4158.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 2, 2006
    ...and many assets from which she could contribute to her child's support. Id. at 525, 405 S.E.2d at 822-23. Citing Miller v. Miller, 299 S.C. 307, 312, 384 S.E.2d 715, 716 (1989), the Court listed the following factors to be considered in determining child support obligations: both parents 1)......
  • Hudson v. Hudson, No. 3154.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 24, 2000
    ...As such, we find the family court erred by including usual and customary expenditures in the pro rata division. See Miller v. Miller, 299 S.C. 307, 314, 384 S.E.2d 715, 719 (1989) ("In instances where the [Child Support] Guidelines are utilized, they must be used properly."); but see RGM v.......
  • Bauckman v. McLeod, Appellate Case No. 2017-000885
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • December 31, 2019
    ...to modify the amount of a child support award upon a showing of a substantial or material change of circumstances." Miller v. Miller , 299 S.C. 307, 310, 384 S.E.2d 715, 716 (1989). "A substantial or material change in circumstances might result from changes in the needs of the children or ......
  • Burch v. Burch , No. 27060.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • December 1, 2011
    ...for the needs of the children and to maintain the children at the standard of living they would have been provided but for the divorce.” 299 S.C. 307, 312, 384 S.E.2d 715, 717 (1989). This may include contributing to private school expenses where appropriate. See Rabon v. Rabon, 288 S.C. 33......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
42 cases
  • Lafrance v. Lafrance, No. 4158.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 2, 2006
    ...and many assets from which she could contribute to her child's support. Id. at 525, 405 S.E.2d at 822-23. Citing Miller v. Miller, 299 S.C. 307, 312, 384 S.E.2d 715, 716 (1989), the Court listed the following factors to be considered in determining child support obligations: both parents 1)......
  • Hudson v. Hudson, No. 3154.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 24, 2000
    ...As such, we find the family court erred by including usual and customary expenditures in the pro rata division. See Miller v. Miller, 299 S.C. 307, 314, 384 S.E.2d 715, 719 (1989) ("In instances where the [Child Support] Guidelines are utilized, they must be used properly."); but see RGM v.......
  • Bauckman v. McLeod, Appellate Case No. 2017-000885
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • December 31, 2019
    ...to modify the amount of a child support award upon a showing of a substantial or material change of circumstances." Miller v. Miller , 299 S.C. 307, 310, 384 S.E.2d 715, 716 (1989). "A substantial or material change in circumstances might result from changes in the needs of the children or ......
  • Burch v. Burch , No. 27060.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • December 1, 2011
    ...for the needs of the children and to maintain the children at the standard of living they would have been provided but for the divorce.” 299 S.C. 307, 312, 384 S.E.2d 715, 717 (1989). This may include contributing to private school expenses where appropriate. See Rabon v. Rabon, 288 S.C. 33......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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