While signing a marriage certificate does not take long, ending a marriage can be a lengthy and confusing process. This post is designed to provide general information regarding the divorce process in South Carolina.
GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE IN SOUTH CAROLINA
In South Carolina, under Section 20-3-10, there are five grounds of divorce:
3.) Physical Cruelty
4.) Habitual Drunkenness
The most cited ground for divorce is the “No-Fault” divorce. It means the marriage breaks down typically due to irreconcilable differences. No-Fault requires the parties to live separate and apart for one year before a divorce can be granted. A settlement agreement, however, can be reached prior to the issuance of the final divorce decree.
For the South Carolina Family Court to have the proper jurisdiction over a divorce, either you or your spouse must have lived in South Carolina for more than one year, or both you and your spouse must have lived in the state for at least three months.
Once filed, your spouse must be served with a copy of the Summons and Complaint. Upon receiving the summons, your spouse will have 30 days to file an Answer.
From here, many factors can come into play that could affect timing. For example, if a divorce is considered a fault divorce, it will take a minimum of 90 days to become final. However, if it is a no-fault divorce, then the statute requires separation for 365 days. Another aspect that could affect timing is whether a divorce is contested or uncontested. A divorce is uncontested when the parties agree on all the issues raised. If any disputes arise, it becomes contested. If a fault-based divorce is uncontested, it will generally take three months, but if it is a contested divorce, it can extend to a year or longer.
South Carolina is an “equitable division” state that requires family courts to consider evidence from both sides to determine a fair and equitable division of the assets and debts. It is deemed to be marital property so long as it was at least partially purchased with marital funds during the marriage. Marital debt is debt incurred for the purposes of the marriage or otherwise during the marriage. Learn about how retirement accounts are handled here.
CHILDREN IN A SOUTH CAROLINA DIVORCE
When children are involved in divorce proceedings, there must be a custody agreement between the parties. The court will consider the child’s best interest and will weigh a variety of factors such as age, experience, and maturity to find the best solution for the custody of the child. Often, the court appoints a Guardian Ad Litem to serve as a third-party observer to help represent the child’s best interest.
Alimony is a legal obligation for one spouse to provide financial support to the other spouse before or after divorce. There are several types of alimony that a judge can choose to award under Section 20-3-130
1. “Periodic” Alimony
This type is paid until the spouse getting alimony gets remarried, the spouse moves in with another person and lives as though they are married, or if either spouse dies.
2. “Lump-sum” Alimony
This type is paid in one single payment, or the court may arrange to make the payment in installments.
3. “Rehabilitative” Alimony
This type is either one large payment or through periodic payments and is paid until the spouse can support themselves.
4. “Reimbursement” Alimony
This type can also be one payment or through multiple payments, and the purpose of this form is to reimburse a spouse for support during the marriage.
5. Temporary Support
This type is financial support that is being paid to one spouse while the case is pending.
South Carolina requires parties to mediate issues prior to trial. Mediation is a meeting between spouses facilitated by a third-party mediator to resolve any issues such as custody, alimony, and property disputes. Mediation encourages the parties to come to an agreement to eliminate the need for lengthy and expensive trials. Once an agreement is reached, the agreement is memorialized into a settlement agreement and is presented to the court for final approval.
SHOULD YOU HIRE A SOUTH CAROLINA DIVORCE ATTORNEY?
South Carolina Divorce attorney, Jennifer Shafer, says that ”Family Court can be difficult to navigate. I think it is fair to say that divorce is never easy, even if you want to be divorced. There are both procedural hurdles and emotional aspects that could lead to unintentional errors. These errors could ultimately lead to long delays and more money in court costs. It is best to hire an experienced family law attorney who can navigate through the procedural requirements while you work through the emotional feelings. It will likely save you more time, money, and peace of mind in the long run.”