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The Basics of Divorce Laws in South Carolina



Each state has its own set of divorce laws. South Carolina allows spouses to end their marriages if they meet one of five conditions.

In four of these conditions, one spouse can file for divorce by blaming the other for the deterioration of the marriage. These so-called at-fault reasons for divorce in South Carolina are:

  • Adultery
  • Physical cruelty
  • Habitual drunkenness (alcohol or drugs)
  • Desertion

If you want a divorce in South Carolina but cannot meet those divorce law requirements, you may apply for a no-fault divorce, but only after living separately and apart from your spouse for a year.

Whether you blame your spouse or not, you and your spouse will have to hash out agreements regarding the various and important aspects of your post-divorce life. If you cannot come to an agreement, a judge will make the decisions for you, and you will be bound by them.

While the circumstances that surround each divorce is unique, the major issues of every divorce usually fall into these categories:

  • How to divide the property and debts
  • Should one spouse be financially supporting the other with alimony payments
  • Who gets custody of the children
  • How much child support will the non-custodial parent provide

This article will detail how South Carolina divorce law deals with these issues.

How Divorce Laws in South Carolina Divide Property

Family law judges in South Carolina apply the divorce law of equitable distribution when it comes time to divide the property and debts between a divorcing couple. This approach seeks a fair solution, although "fair" does not always mean a 50-50 split.

Property includes personal property (such as cars, furniture and musical instruments) and real property (such as land and houses). Debts include mortgages, car loans, and credit card bills.

It is helpful to arrive at your first meeting with your South Carolina attorney with a list of all your assets, when and how they were acquired, and their current value, along with a list of your debts, according to a pamphlet on South Carolina divorce laws published by the South Carolina Bar Association.

Not all property needs to be divided. If a spouse acquired property, received an inheritance, or gifts outside the marriage, then those items are exempt from equitable distribution.

In negotiating how to fairly divide the property and debts, it is helpful to consider how a judge would decide. Among the many factors a judge would take into consideration are:

  • The financial contributions of each spouse to the marriage
  • The age and health of the spouses
  • Whether one of the spouses is at fault for the failure of the marriage
  • The length of the marriage

South Carolina Alimony

Spousal support, also known as alimony, can be paid by the ex-husband to the ex-wife, or vice versa. It may be paid out in installments or in one lump sum. It may be short-term, to help a spouse upgrade or acquire new job skills that will result in a better-paying position, or it may be permanent.

Some of the factors a judge considers when deciding issues of alimony are:

  • Duration of the marriage
  • Ages of spouses
  • Physical and emotional condition of each spouse
  • Educational background of each spouse together with need of each spouse for additional training or education in order to achieve that spouse's income potential
  • Employment history and earning potential of each spouse
  • Standard of living established during marriage
  • Current and reasonably anticipated earnings of both spouses
  • Current and reasonably anticipated expenses and needs of both spouses
  • Marital misconduct or fault of either spouse
  • Tax consequences of support award

South Carolina divorce law states spouses who commit adultery are not eligible for alimony. However, other "at-fault" behaviors, such as physical cruelty, drunkenness, and abandonment, do not rule out alimony.

A judge can order temporary maintenance while the divorce is pending. Permanent alimony can be modified only upon a showing of a change in circumstances, although that can be difficult in South Carolina. It ends with the death of either spouse or when the recipient spouse remarries or lives with someone for more than 90 days.

South Carolina Custody

Neither parent has an automatic legal right to custody of the children in South Carolina. Divorce law there says a custody arrangement must be crafted in the best interest of the child. Judges may order joint, or shared, custody. If one parent is given primary custody, the other parent usually has a right to regular visitation.

The children may also have a say in which parent they live with, if they have reached an "appropriate level of maturity." A childs preference, however, is not the final say. A judge may appoint a guardian ad litem, which is a neutral third party who represents the children in the courtroom.

Should the parents not be able to work out a custody arrangement on their own, the judge will do it for them. In making the decision, judges will take into consideration:

  • The age and health of the spouses
  • The income and education of the spouses
  • The employment and work schedule of the spouses
  • The spouses parenting styles and religion
  • The age and sex of the children
  • The childs preference, if he or she is mature enough
  • Any evidence of domestic violence
  • Any information provided by the guardian ad litem
  • South Carolina Child Support

    In South Carolina, child support is calculated using specific guidelines that take into consideration the gross income of the divorcing parents. South Carolina offers a child support calculator online.

    The court may order that the child support payments be made to the court clerk, along with a collection fee, to ensure payments are made. In addition, many employers offer an automatic payroll deduction for child support payments.