SCLS Attorney’s Mission Reflection

At the start of this week, I needed to remind myself how important this job is. (Been there?) So I took some time to reflect on some of the ways we really help change people’s lives for the better. It helped.

Here are a few of the examples that renewed me with a sense of purpose:

  • Because of us, undocumented mothers — survivors of extreme poverty and domestic abuse — get to live and work in peace in the same country where her children were born. They get to drive their kids to soccer practice without the fear of being stopped by police, taken to jail, and deported.
  • Because of us, jealous, angry, unruly parents who want to hire a lawyer and take custody of their children out of spite, or pettiness, or a desire to get out of paying child support (and think they can do it because the other parent is poor), are met with a dose of reality. Those children then get to remain with the only good parent they have, and that parent gets to keep raising the children who are at the center of their universe.
  • Because of us, the Department of Employment and Workforce is made to understand that our client wasn’t actually at fault for being terminated from their job. As a result, that client gets to make their mortgage payment, and car payment, and utility bill with the benefits that would have otherwise been denied to them.

This is a job with serious implications for people who have no other option but us. Sometimes, the weight of that can make you feel overwhelmed, like treading water alone in the middle of a dark ocean. This week, it makes me feel connected to humanity.

This is truly what it means to work as a Staff Attorney with SCLS. Do you want to make a difference in the lives of people who so desperately need someone to be their voice? If you would like to have the same ability to connect to humanity and be a part of our mission, please visit our website at to become a part of our team.

Putting Your Affairs in Order – Advanced Directives Documents You Need Prepared

Given the current pandemic, everyone is trying to make sure that they stay healthy.  You may be wearing a mask or being careful when you leave the house, but have you thought about making sure your loved ones know your wishes about your medical care?  You can communicate your desired treatment by signing certain advance directives: a Living Will; a Health Care Power of Attorney; and a Physician Order for Scope of Treatment (POST).

           A Living Will is a legal document that allows you to make medical decisions ahead of time about life-sustaining procedures in the event you are ever faced with a terminal illness or are in a permanent vegetative state.  You state whether or not you want life-sustaining procedures, such as artificial nutrition or hydration, withheld or used.  This is a statutory form available in South Carolina which means that it is available for free.  However, you should discuss the document with an attorney to make sure that it is properly executed and that you understand the choices you are making in the document.

            A Heath Care Power of Attorney is similar to a Living Will because it also covers decisions if you are terminally ill or in a vegetative state.  However, in a Health Care Power of Attorney you name someone as your agent to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself.  You do not need both a Living Will and a Health Care Power of Attorney.  You should decide which of these documents is best for you.  If you do not know which one you should proceed with or which document works best for your situation you should speak with an attorney to give you advice on the two types of documents.

A Physician Order for Scope of Treatment (POST) is a document that works along with other advance directives.  It is a medical order that you complete with your doctor that addresses key medical decisions about the care that you will receive at the end of your life. You should consider a POST document when you have been diagnosed with a serious illness and may be expected to lose capacity within 12 months.

            You should consider having an advance directive in place so that your family members will know your wishes about your medical care in a situation in which you might not be able to communicate with them.    The attorneys at South Carolina Legal Services can assist you with these documents. To apply for services call 888-346-5592 and speak with one of our In Take Staff.

Client Remains in Home with SCLS’ Help

Good always trumps evil, even in probate court.

Our client Jane lived in her mother’s house and cared for her during the last years of her mother’s life. Unfortunately, after the death of the mother, one of the sisters wanted Jane to get out of the house – even though all siblings were to equally own the house under the mother’s will. The sister filed motions with the Probate Court asking the Court to throw Jane out. Jane won those Court battles. The personal representative, the sister’s son, filed another action to evict Jane and to require her to accept an offer to sell her portion of the home.  Feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, Jane asked SCLS’ attorneys to help her stay in the home. At the hearing, the Probate Judge suggested a settlement to sell the property that included using a real estate agent.

Unfortunately, the personal representative did not abide by the terms of the Court’s approved agreement. SCLS’ staff uncovered that the property had been sold to the sister. The sale had gone forward with a realtor who did not list the property in public listings, ordered no signs to be placed in the yard, no showings, and no photos. Offers, including cash offers, were rejected in favor of the offer made by the sister.

SCLS’ attorneys requested an emergency hearing with the Probate Court because of the unfair way Jane had been treated.  This time the judge allowed Jane to select the realtor and required the home be listed in a manner consistent with real estate principles. Offers flowed in from the minute the listing hit the internet. A legitimate purchaser was sold the home.  Indeed, justice prevailed in that the purchaser agreed to allow Jane to rent the home from him. Our client stayed in the home!

Probate Court proceedings can be difficult as families try to work out issues with family care, property and other matters. This is a stressful time for families and regrettably often the emotions get in the way of reason. If you need help in any Probate matter, please call our Intake Office at 888-346-5592 to apply for free legal services. You may also apply for legal services online at

Bankruptcy Court and COVID-19

Bankruptcy COVID clients that were awaiting hearings and those that have filed since March 2020 are benefiting from the Operating Orders and other changes that occurred in the Bankruptcy Court as Judges addressed safety and the economic hardship of debtors caused by COVID.

Hearings.  The dockets set for 341 Hearings (First Meetings of Creditors) and Confirmation Hearings were converted to telephonic hearings. Prior to COVID-19 SCLS clients traveled as far as 80 miles each way for hearings. The hearings set after March and continuing do not require internet or video, simply a working telephone. Clients and attorneys may dial in from wherever they are at a set time.

Plans. Chapter 13 Plans filed prior to March 13, 2020 can be extended from five to seven-year plans if related in some way to COVID. The Courts are liberally construing the cause of the hardships and approving amended plans.

Other Updates.

  • Chapter 13 Trustees have not filed Motions to Dismiss for Non-Payment since March; although this will resume this week with settlement options.
  • Trustees have not attempted to claim an interest in extra monies distributed during the crisis. In the past no tax refund was safe from their grasp.

To find out if you qualify for free bankruptcy representation, contact our Intake Office at 888-346-5592 or apply online at

School Enrollment

It’s hard to believe that the summer is almost over. In August, most schools in South Carolina will start the process of enrolling students for the new school year. School enrollment can be difficult for many low-income parents and caretakers of children. School fees seem to increase every year and paying these fees can be a struggle to a family with a tight budget. If your family receives SNAP benefits, or your children qualify for free or reduced lunch, you can have your school enrollment fees waived. Some schools do this automatically every year, while other school parents need to ask about the waiver of these fees. Many schools will try to get you to agree to a payment plan, if you can afford that you can agree to it. But if you can not afford a payment plan speak up and tell the school that you can not afford it. Those fees can be waived.

The other big concern facing caretakers and parents this time of year is how to actually get students enrolled. Schools can ask for proof of residency, meaning proof of where you live. This can get complicated if you are staying with friends or maybe living in a motel, or shelter. Schools can not refuse to enroll your child if you live in a motel, shelter, or stay with friends or family. There is a federal law called McKinney Vento that allows children without fixed, adequate nighttime housing to be enrolled in school. Each school district has a McKinney Vento coordinator and you can ask to speak to this person to get your student enrolled.

Schools may also require proof of a child’s age to enroll them in school. The easiest way to do this is a birth certificate, but there are lots of legitimate reasons why a family may not be able to provide a child’s birth certificate. The school can not require you to provide a birth certificate if you have some other proof of the child’s age. Official documents that have a child’s age listed are medical records, or immunization records.

Sometimes children live with people other than their parents. If someone other than a custodial parent tries to enroll a child, they maybe told that the child cannot be enrolled without a custody order. Custody is a complicated and expensive legal process and filing for it may not be the right thing for your situation. You do not need a custody order if a child lives with you because of one of the following reasons:

  1. Parent or legal guardian is seriously ill or in jail.
  2. Parent or legal guardian has completely given up control of the child and does not support them, or visit with them.
  3. Parents have abused or neglected the child.
  4. Parents are mentally or physically ill and cannot care for or supervise the child.
  5. Parent is homeless, or the child is homeless.
  6. Parent has been deployed to military or active duty for more than 60 days and more than 70 miles away from their residence.

Instead of a custody order, you can enroll the child by using a School Enrollment Affidavit. The school can provide you one of these upon your request. Once the school district is presented with the affidavit, they must immediately enroll the child. If you are requesting a school enrollment affidavit, it is best to request them from the district office rather than the individual school. . If you need one of our attorneys to assist you with any of this process you may call our toll free number at 888-346-5592 or go on line at to apply for our services.