Stevens Firm - January 2019

What Matters Most

THE Stevens Firm, P.A. Family Law Center

349 E. Main Street, Suite 200, Spartanburg, SC 29302 • • (864) 598-9172 January 2019

2018 in Review

2. Reading is a superpower. In 2018, our family has, in different ways, rediscovered a love for reading, and we’re enjoying the benefits in many ways. Jenny has always loved books but has focused this year on reading more about a new practice area (estate planning) and also about growing the firm with lots of business book reading. Ben, not a huge fiction reader, has discovered an enjoyment of some great audiobooks this year, which keeps him company in his art studio while painting in his downtime. Nylah, our granddaughter, is growing her library and enjoys finding new books about girls who can do anything they set their minds to. Her mother (our oldest daughter, Tory) has discovered the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace series and is working on implementing some of his wisdom in 2019 to set up

January is always a wonderful time to sit back and take stock of life, make resolutions to improve your life and the lives of those around you, and to start new projects that have long been neglected. In our family, the months of December and January also include big holidays and the majority of our birthdays as well. Jenny’s birthday is Dec. 30, Ben’s birthday is Jan. 13, we have two children whose birthdays are Jan. 10 and Jan. 19, and our granddaughter’s birthday is Jan. 25. To say it’s a busy time of year is a massive understatement, but we still like to take time and think about all the lessons the previous year has taught us in order to make the new year the best it can be. Here are just some of the lessons we’re pondering this new year. 1. Failing is not the problem. How you fail is the problem. Most people know we have six children (and now one granddaughter). That’s a lot of parenting of a lot of different personalities all at once. Some people look at pictures of our family or follow us on Facebook and (wrongly) assume we have perfected the art of parenting and that our family is that “picture perfect” all of the time. It’s not, I assure you! But even in our “failures” as parents, we always try to “fail forward.” We don’t let the big mistakes set us back or discourage us from trying again. We try to figure out what went wrong, apologize for the hurts, and do better next time.

a more prosperous future for herself and her daughter. If you’re interested in starting a new reading habit, you can follow Jenny on to see the list of books she’s currently reading or to read her recommendations of books she’s read in the past. 3. When you choose happy, your life expands exponentially. 2018 presented situations over and over for us that pounded this lesson home. We had health scares and family hospital stays. We watched a close friend deal with his mother’s cancer diagnosis, treatment, and eventual passing in hospice care. We dealt with disappointing treatment and behavior from those we love. At work, we had cases come to us that were unwinnable, and we had cases where we’ve believed the results were unfairly decided. And yet, through it all, when we chose to approach the day with happiness and kindness, despite the circumstances we have no control over, life really was better. Sometimes it feels like the world is full of excuses for why we can’t be happy or grateful or kind, but that’s the biggest lie of them all. You can choose your outlook. You can choose how those outside influences affect your daily disposition. You can choose to smile. We do, and we hope you will, too. What are your biggest or favorite life lessons from 2018? We’d love to hear about them. We hope you’ll connect with us on social media and share with us!

–Ben and Jenny Stevens

Reminder About Our Firm’s Communication Policy Our promise to you is that while we are working on your case, we don’t take inbound phone calls, faxes, or emails. Our senior partner, Ben Stevens, takes no unscheduled inbound phone calls, as we have found this makes him much more productive and enables him to focus on getting your case resolved faster. You can always call our office at (864) 598-9172 and schedule an in-person or phone appointment with any of our attorneys, usually within 24–48 hours. We believe this approach is much better than the endless game of phone tag played by most businesses today. Email is also an efficient way to communicate with us, but please

be advised that emails are not typically checked more than twice per day. If you need something quickly, don’t email — call our office and speak with one of our assistants, who will be happy to help you. Disclaimer: This publication is intended to educate the general public about family law issues. It is not intended to be legal advice. Every case is different. The information in this newsletter may be freely copied and distributed so long as the newsletter is copied in its entirety and proper credit is attributed to “The Stevens Firm, P.A. — Family Law Center (”

1 (864) 598-9172

One ‘Ruff’ Topic

Where Do Pets Live After a Separation?

While finances are often at the forefront of couples’ minds following a recent separation or divorce, custody disputes between former spouses are no longer limited to money, possessions, or even children. They now involve disputes over ownership and sharing of pets as well.

pets in these states are no longer considered the property of the marriage; their owners can now be granted custody over them. Even though there are millions of canine fanatics here in South Carolina, the state has not yet recognized pets as anything

For die-hard animal lovers, a discussion involving pet ownership following a separation or divorce isn’t all that far-fetched. Many dog owners, for example, jokingly claim to treat their canine friends just as well (if not better

other than part of the property of the marital estate. However, this doesn’t mean that our judges don’t take into consideration the best interests of both the owners and the pets when evaluating a case. They will look at which spouse works less, which spouse has better resources, and which spouse has been the primary caretaker of the pet. If there are children involved in the case who are close to the family pet, it’s common to see South Carolina family court judges order that the pet go with the child — assuming both parents have the ability to care for the pet during their visitation time. So while divorces encapsulate a fair amount of emotional trauma for all the humans involved, you can rest assured that when it comes to the dog days of

than) human children. More seriously though, Americans’ love for their pets has grown exponentially in recent years. In fact, a recent survey from SunTrust Mortgage indicated that the housing market has taken a minor hit due to millennials’ inability to afford homes

they feel are adequate to house their pets. Newer generations’ rising focus on pets has subsequently resulted in legal disputes following separation or divorce. In the past year, Alaska and Illinois have amended their state statutes regarding pet ownership in divorce proceedings. These amendments allow a judge to consider the well-being of the pets when determining the custody-related issues of the case. In this way, the

divorce, your pets’ well-being won’t be overlooked.

What our fans are saying

“Ben Stevens is an excellent attorney. I sought Ben’s representation several years ago. My situation was quite complex. It involved issues such as clearly outlining custody/visitation arrangements, child support, and harassment.” – Anonymous “I’ve been able to spend some time with Jenny, and her passion for her work and for helping her clients is evident. She and her firm enjoy a great reputation in the family law field, helping clients with serious and difficult issues. If you have a serious family law need, I recommend contacting Jenny and her firm.” – J. Beck Mr. Jonathan Lounsberry is an attorney you can rely on when faced with a divorce because he tries to protect everyone involved, especially children. He is very thorough, available, caring, and understanding. Most of all, he works diligently to ensure his clients are represented well when they enter the courtroom. I highly recommend The Stevens Firm and Mr. Lounsberry to anyone experiencing this life transition. – A. L.


Citrus and Avocado Salad


• 1 blood, cara cara, or navel orange, sliced 1/8-inch thick and deseeded • 1 Meyer or regular lemon, sliced 1/8-inch thick and deseeded • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced

• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice • 1 bunch arugula • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves • 1 avocado, cut into wedges • Salt and pepper, to taste

What We Can Learn From Fictional Attorneys

Don’t Let Movie Lawyers Write Your Separation Agreement


1. Heat oven to 425 F. 2. In a rimmed baking sheet, toss citrus slices with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast citrus until lightly charred and caramelized, about 10–15 minutes. Let cool. 3. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine onion and lemon juice. Season with salt and let sit for 5 minutes. 4. Add citrus, arugula, and mint to onion mixture. Drizzle with remaining oil, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss thoroughly. 5. Add avocado, combing very gently to not crush avocado.

The only knowledge many people have about lawyers concerns the ones they’ve encountered in movies. When people approach anything in the legal field, they often draw upon iconic TV attorneys, like the serious and socially conscious Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Lt. Daniel Kaffee in “A Few Good Men,” or the more playful but still effective attorney Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde” and Fletcher Reede in “Liar Liar.” While these fictional lawyers are definitely entertaining, the promises they make to the clients and the claims they make in the courtroom shouldn’t be taken literally — in fact, they are often as fictional as the characters themselves. One of the most commonly used, but entirely false, phrases uttered by movie lawyers has to do with marital assets during a divorce. You’ve probably heard the line, “You’re entitled to half of what he or she has,” countless times. In real life, this threat is often used by spouses who either didn’t see a separation coming or who have not yet consulted with a family law attorney about their recent separation. To the layperson, this idea of a straight-down-the-middle division of marital property makes sense and probably seems fair, but in the state of South Carolina, the process is a bit different. South Carolina is what is called an “equitable division” state rather than a “community property” state. States that allocate assets according to community property ensure that everything accumulated during the marriage will be jointly split between both spouses following a divorce. Equitable division, though based on the antiquated notion that the husband is the “breadwinner” in the marriage, is often more favorable for both parties. One of the factors that our state court system takes into account is the initial basis for the divorce. For example, if your spouse committed adultery, they might end up paying for it when it comes to the division of the assets. The court will also look at the duration of your marriage, your earning capacity, the nonmarital property you may have, any vested retirement benefits, and whether you have also been awarded alimony. If you or someone you know is attempting to negotiate their divorce agreement alone, don’t let them fall prey to the advice touted by movie lawyers. Have them give our office a call today!

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3 (864) 598-9172

THE Stevens Firm, P.A. Family Law Center


349 E. Main Street, Suite 200 Spartanburg, SC 29302

PAGE 1 2018 in Review PAGE 2

The Dog Days of Divorce January 2019 Testimonials PAGE 3 Citrus and Avocado Salad What We Can Learn From Attorneys on TV PAGE 4 The Philosophy of Bill Walsh

‘The Score Takes Care of Itself’ Bill Walsh on What It Means to Be a Leader

The term “game changer” gets tossed around so much these days that it no longer seems to hold enough weight to describe a legendary coach like Bill Walsh. But how do you describe someone who quite literally changed the way football is played on the highest level? It takes incredible willpower to defy conventional wisdom and turn a struggling team into a powerhouse. In Walsh’s memoir on leadership, “The Score Takes Care of Itself,” he explores the philosophy that guided him through his coaching career and led him to success. Working with award-winning author Steve Jamison, the two distill Walsh’s decades of experience into a comprehensive guide that can be used by coaches and CEOs alike. One theme throughout the book is the idea that sound fundamentals trump instincts. As Walsh aptly puts it, “Hearing someone described as being able to ‘fly by the seat of his pants’ always suggests to me a leader who hasn’t prepared properly and whose pants may soon fall down.” For long-term success, you have to have a game plan. For Walsh, preparation for leadership begins by bracing yourself for the worst. A mantra repeated throughout the book is “expect defeat.” In business and in football, losses are just a fact of life; how you prepare for and respond to these crises will determine your team’s success.

But the most valuable element of leadership in Walsh’s eyes is how you treat the members of your team. You need to have the courage to let them know you believe in them. Using simple but earnest positive reinforcement, this legendary coach turned the 49ers into an incredible team, and the benefits show. Segments of the book contain anecdotes and reflections from players such as Joe Montana and Randy Cross, whose deep admiration for their former leader speak volumes.

“The Score Takes Care of Itself ” was published posthumously. Walsh’s son, Craig, did much of the legwork to piece this definitive portrait together. What we are left with is a truly insightful read from one of the most innovative, inspiring minds in sports history. It will be a long time before a book like this comes around again.


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