Not matter the circumstance, making the painful decision to separate from your spouse isn’t easy. There may be questions regarding where you live, how you’ll divide your belongings, and how any children will be supported. Often times, and for a variety of reasons, a couple will seek to obtain a legal separation. Unfortunately, it’s an avenue that is unavailable; the state of South Carolina doesn’t recognize legal separation. Couples can mutually enter into a separation agreement, but for couples who wish to have an official order from the court, filing a complaint for separate maintenance and support may be a viable option.
Separation Agreements vs. Separate Maintenance and Support
A separation agreement is a legally binding contract, entered into willingly by both parties, and signed by a notary public. Similar to a contract, a separation agreement can often help to outline those issues of concern to the majority of couples, including issues of child custody, visitation, and support, as well as division of marital property, assets and debts. A separation agreement has its strength in laying out the terms of the separation agreement, and if the couple can agree to the terms, and agree to abide by them, it can be a useful tool. While it’s not filed or enforceable through the family court, a properly drafted separation agreement may be the basis for more permanent agreements in the event you decide to proceed with a divorce.
However, when a couple can’t agree on certain issues, say child support or division of assets, or if there is doubt as to whether either party will adhere to the agreement, something stronger may be necessary. An order for separate maintenance and support is a temporary, but legally enforceable document in a court of law, meaning if one party doesn’t adhere to the terms laid out in the order, they can be held in contempt and basically forced to adhere to the order or face legal ramifications, such as jail time.
Obtaining An Order for Separate Maintenance and Support
There are several steps involved in getting an order for separate maintenance and support:
- Both parties must be living separate and apart, or fault grounds must be proven;
- Your attorney will draft a summons and complaint and file it with family court clerk;
- The summons and complaint will need to be served on your spouse;
- Your spouse will have 30 days to provide an answer, or response, to the complaint;
- Your attorney will help you file a financial declaration, outlining your income and expenses; and
- 30 days after your complaint has been served, you can request a hearing
At the hearing, the judge can decide on issues contained within the complaint, such as child support, visitation, and custody, who will pay the mortgage or other costs associated with your home, who gets to keep vehicles, and how you and your spouse will divide debts. Remember, this is a temporary order, meant to last throughout your separation. A permanent order will be entered if and when you get divorced.
Contact an Experienced South Carolina Family Law Attorney
If you are going through a separation, or even contemplating getting a divorce, it’s important to consult with an experienced South Carolina family law attorney. At the office of Lauren M. Taylor, we have experience in handling sensitive matters such as divorce and marital separation. When you’re going through these types of situations, you can’t afford not to have a strong attorney on your side. Reach out to us today for professional help.
South Carolina divorce attorney Lauren Taylor practices family law in Charleston and Greenville. She graduated from the Charlotte School of Law, and has been practicing for more than ten years.
Since the firm’s inception in 2012, Mrs. Taylor has helped hundreds of people navigate the uncertainties surrounding the family and criminal court process.
She has cultivated a team that ensures each case has a strategy crafted specifically to the clients needs and desires.
Her commitment to top notch service has led her to open two additional offices in the low country where she now resides with her husband Michael and her golden retriever, Buster.