A SC uncontested divorce is relatively simple. Defining what constitutes an uncontested divorce is much less simple.
South Carolina divorce laws dictate a party must file a complaint for divorce and the other party must respond within 30 days. An uncontested divorce means there are no issues before the court. That means the parties agree on all the following:
- Who was at fault for the breakup of the marriage or in the alternative, the parties have met the no-fault year separation requirements?
- The parties agree on who will have primary custody of the minor children
- The parties agree on a physical custody arrangement for the minor children
- The parties have no joint assets.
- The parties agree on who will get the house.
- The parties agree on no alimony.
- The parties have no financial assets such as stock, bonds, IRAs, 401ks, or any type of money market account to divide.
- And generally the parties agree to go their separate ways with regard to things like cars, clothes, furniture, jewelry, guns, lawnmowers, or anything else.
Example: SC “Uncontested” Divorce in Action
Falling into the trap of thinking you are seeking an uncontested divorce can become a problem later. Let’s take the example of Liz and Bob. They have been married for 22 years and have an 18-year-old child and a 20-year-old child. Liz works at a dentist office and Bob is a contractor. They agree to an uncontested divorce and have been separated for a year. Now they want to file the paperwork for a final divorce.
When Liz sees Bob’s financial declaration, she realizes Bob makes more money than he ever brought home. She also notices his truck is not listed as an asset and his business account is not listed. When she asks him about these items, he becomes defensive. The conversation spirals and suddenly they are talking about who is going to pay for an upcoming elective surgery for their 18-year-old.
Liz consults with a lawyer who advises her they need to engage in informal discovery to figure out how much Bob actually makes. The lawyer also brings up things like who will claim the kids on their taxes and pay their medical expenses. While the children are technically emancipated, they are very much still dependent on their parents. Liz retains the lawyer and then Bob retains a lawyer.
As this example shows, it’s impossible to anticipate all the issues that might arise during a divorce. Liz and Bob will now essentially start the process over and their “uncontested” divorce will become contentious and costly. While technically an SC uncontested divorce is possible, it’s very unlikely. The example of an uncontested divorce would be a couple who were married for a year, had no kids, never joined bank accounts, never changed names, don’t share insurance, and they rented an apartment. Short of that, the divorce is likely a least a minimally contested divorce.
Additionally, SC divorce laws can be tricky because they are different than other states. The grounds for divorce in SC, for instance, include physical abuse, adultery, desertion, and habitual use of drugs or alcohol. Other states might have different at fault ground like emotional abuse or different standards for proving adultery. It’s essential to understand the nuances of divorce grounds in each state.
Lastly, timelines and filings are hard rules. Any delay or deviation will make everything much more difficult. Where the law is concerned, rules are rules and parties must comply or risk having the case tossed out of court.
Do I need a lawyer for my divorce?
The best thing to do if you think you want an uncontested divorce is to hire a lawyer – at least one party – to help ask all the questions and make sure the paperwork is filed correctly. As with Liz and Bob, once a party starts off being misleading, then the negotiation process goes south, and you will end up spending much more money on legal fees than if you had hired a lawyer to usher through the process from the start.
While it is possible to obtain an uncontested divorce in South Carolina, it’s almost never that easy. There is much more to a marriage than most think and divorcing can be complicated. For more information on the SC divorce process, check out this article.