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Scott v. Scott

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

January 17, 2018

Michael O. Scott, Appellant,
v.
Karen Scott, and South Carolina Department of Social Services, Respondents, In the Interest of a Minor Child. Appellate Case No. 2015-002496

          Submitted October 5, 2017

         Appeal From Richland County Dale Moore Gable, Family Court Judge

          Laura Puccia Valtorta, of Valtorta Law Office, of Columbia, for Appellant.

          G. Robin Alley, of Isaacs & Alley, LLP, of Columbia, for Respondent Karen Scott.

          Brenda Gayle Watson, of Columbia, for Respondent South Carolina Department of Social Services.

          THOMAS, JUDGE.

         Michael Scott appeals the family court's order dismissing his outstanding child support arrearage that accumulated after the date he was deemed disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and ordering him to pay his outstanding arrearage that accumulated before his disability. On appeal, Scott argues the family court erred because (1) the finding of disability by the SSA constituted a change in circumstances necessary to stop, change, or modify the child support obligation; (2) the money awarded from the SSA should offset his child support obligations; and (3) it failed to properly keep and file documents submitted as evidence. We affirm.[1]

         FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In October 2011, the family court ordered Scott to pay $320 per month in child support. In February 2014, Scott sought a modification of his child support obligation and provided proof of a pending disability case with the SSA. The family court determined Scott's child support obligation would be reduced to approximately $66 per week. The enforcement of Scott's child support obligation was suspended for six months to determine his disability status.

         The SSA concluded Scott became disabled on September 26, 2013. It determined Scott was entitled to benefits of $1, 069.40 per month beginning in March 2014. A cost-of-living adjustment increased Scott's monthly benefits to $1, 087.50 in December 2014. Scott's child was also entitled to Social Security benefits and received a check for approximately $6, 500 in past due benefits and an ongoing monthly check of $543.

         In April 2015, Scott served the child's mother (Mother) and the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) with an amended complaint. Scott argued (1) his child support obligation should be terminated because of a change in circumstances; (2) his child support arrearages should be "terminated in their entirety, or that any arrearage that accumulated after September 26, 2013[, ] be terminated"; and (3) he should be given credit for any "social security payments made to the minor child from September 26, 2013[, ] forward because of [his] disability, and that these payments be subtracted from any money [he] owe[d] in child support, including arrearages." Mother counterclaimed, requesting attorney's fees.

         The family court found that Scott was required to pay the arrearage that accumulated before the date of his disability. The family court's order stated:

[T]he [c]ourt finds that [Scott] owes the outstanding arrearage as of September 26, 2013, that any part of the arrearage that accumulated beyond that date is dismissed as the benefits that the [minor child] is receiving from Social Security are in lieu of [Scott]'s child support going forward and that [Scott] is to pay toward his arrearage that was in place as of September 26, 2013, at a rate of Seventy-Five Dollars ($75) per month due ...

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