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How to Get a South Carolina Divorce
If you are seeking a divorce, South Carolina divorce laws offer five different reasons that a judge can acknowledge when granting a divorce. Which one best fits your circumstances will affect how you will navigate the divorce process.
Your legal justification for asking for a divorce is also called your grounds for divorce. In South Carolina, there are five grounds for divorce:
- Physical cruelty
- Habitual drunkenness (alcohol or drugs)
- Living separately for at least a year
In all but the last one, you must show how your spouse is to blame for breaking up the marriage. If you cannot qualify for a divorce based on one of the first four grounds, then you must live separately and apart from your spouse for at least a year in order to qualify for a divorce. Should you go this route, then you do not need to show that anyone is at fault for ruining the marriage.
South Carolina Divorce Process
To be eligible to file for a South Carolina divorce, you need to have lived in the state for a year. However, if your spouse has lived in South Carolina for a year, you can file for divorce after living in South Carolina for just three months.
It is highly advised that you seek the assistance of a South Carolina attorney, who can guide you successfully through the process and explain South Carolina divorce laws in detail.
After filing you complaint for divorce, you must make sure your spouse is served notice of your action. Your spouse will then have 30 days to file a response to the court, which may include counterclaims, a list of terms your spouse wants that differs from your own list.
If you are claiming one of the at-fault grounds for divorce, you must wait two months before you can go to court. Divorcing spouses who have lived separately for a year do not have to sit through this two-month waiting period.
If you are just beginning the divorce process and do not qualify for any of the at-fault reasons for divorce, then you or your spouse must move out and live separately. This separation must be physical. Co-habitation is not allowed.
In addition, you need to apply for the right to live separately in a filing called an action for separate maintenance and support. This is a legal procedure much like a divorce, except that it does not end the marriage, according to a pamphlet on South Carolina divorce laws published by the South Carolina Bar Association.
Before allowing you to legally separate, a judge will consider the major impacts of the split:
- How to equitably divide the marital property
- Who gets to keep living in the marital home
- Whether one spouse should pay alimony to the other and how much
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
Separation officially begins on the day that the spouses no longer live together. The separation order does not allow the spouses to remarry or even have sex with others until a divorce is finalized. After a years time has passed, you may apply for a divorce.
After the Filing
If you are using one of the at-fault grounds for divorce, it is likely you and your spouse have not yet considered and agreed to the major decisions listed above that need to be made in a divorce. Even if you tried out an arrangement during separation, you may seek to alter it.
If divorcing spouses cannot agree on these issues, especially when there are children involved, family law judges in South Carolina are likely to send you to divorce mediation. Mediation is one or more negotiating sessions with your spouse and your lawyers, led by a neutral third-party mediator. The goal is mutual agreement, and the atmosphere is less adversarial than a courtroom setting.
If you and your spouse agree to all the terms of the divorce, you will attend an abbreviated hearing to end the marriage. The judge will review the settlement agreement to ensure that it is fair to both spouses and the children.
If, after mediation, you still cannot agree, then the issues will be brought before a judge, who will consider them at trial. Both spouses will get a chance to present their evidence in support of their case, including testimony from third parties, and a judge will make the final ruling by which the spouses must abide.