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A family court is in the best position to assess the testimony of the parties and witnesses as well as the evidence presented in determining which ground for divorce is most appropriate under the circumstances.
Coleen Mick-Skaggs filed for divorce in December 2009 on the ground of William Skaggs' adultery. William denied cheating on Coleen, and counterclaimed. William subsequently amended his pleadings to request a divorce based on one year's continuous separation. To support his adultery claim, William introduced certain messages sent from Coleen’s phone. He also called William Russo, his co-worker and friend to support his allegations. At the conclusion of Russo’s testimony, William sought to introduce into evidence several photographs taken by Russo, allegedly showing Coleen’s infidelity. The family court admitted the photographs over Coleen’s objections. During trial, Coleen requested alimony, claiming that she and William both worked their entire marriage until she was forced to retire from her position as a paralegal due to her deteriorating physical condition. William questioned the extent of Coleen’s disability, highlighting how she continued to ride horses and compete in horse shows after quitting work and applying for disability benefits. At the conclusion of all the testimony, the family court granted the parties a divorce based on one year's continuous separation, and stated that uncorroborated evidence of adultery on both sides existed. The family court further denied Coleen’s claim to alimony, holding that she was barred from receiving alimony because of adultery. Coleen appealed, arguing that the family court should have granted her a divorce based on husband's adultery. Coleen further contended that the family court erred in denying her request for alimony because her husband did not sufficiently demonstrate she committed adultery.
Although the parties presented evidence at trial that each spouse engaged in extramarital conduct during the course of their marriage, the Court held that the family court acted within its discretion in awarding the parties a no-fault divorce on the ground of one year's continuous separation. According to the Court, the family court was in best position to assess the parties’ and witness’ testimony as well as the evidence presented in determining which ground for divorce was most appropriate under the circumstances. Further, because the granting of a divorce to Coleen on the ground of adultery would not have dissolved the marriage any more completely, the Court held that it need not alter the family court’s decision on the issue. Anent the second issue, the Court found that William presented a clear preponderance of evidence of Coleen’s adultery to bar the latter from receiving alimony, as the testimony was sufficiently definite to identify the time and place of offense and the circumstances under which the adultery was committed. The Court also held that the family court did not err under S.C. R. Evid. 401 and 403 by admitting photographs into evidence, as they were relevant to William’s claim of adultery against Coleen. The Court further noted that the quality of the photographs was poor and Coleen could not be prejudiced by the admission of the photographs.