South Carolina Divorce and Separation
Filing for divorce
To begin the divorce process in South Carolina, one spouse must file a complaint for divorce in the county where your spouse lives, or where you live if your spouse does not reside in South Carolina. If you both still live in the state, you may also file where you last lived together.
SC residency requirements apply: you or your spouse must have been a resident of South Carolina for at least one year. If both of you live in South Carolina, you must both have lived here for at least three months.
In South Carolina, you can file for divorce based on five grounds. They include either a single no-fault ground that only applies if you and your spouse have been living separate and apart for one year, or four fault grounds:
- Physical cruelty
- Desertion for more than one year
- Habitual drunkenness or habitual use of drugs
Division of Property
You will be asked upon your initial consultation to fill out a client information packet. This packet contains instructions for completing your personal property list as well as financial declaration. It requires substantial detail, so be prepared. But know that all this hard work upfront will help to streamline a process that can often be turbulent.
In South Carolina, the court divides marital property—the assets and debts you jointly acquired and owned during your marriage—equitably when you divorce. Equitable distribution means fair, not necessarily equal, distribution. There are many factors that go into determining equitable distribution such as length of marriage, fault, and number of minor children produced during the marriage,
Some property, however, is considered separate and not marital property, including property acquired prior to the marriage, through a gift or inheritance,
- Judges typically consider several factors when equitably dividing marital property such as: How long you were married, Value of marital property, both spouses’ age at the time of the marriage and at the time of divorce, Any marital misconduct, Each spouse’s physical and emotional health, Each spouse’s income and earning potential, Alimony, Any vested retirement benefits, Non-marital property, Awarding the family home to the spouse with physical custody of any minor children, Tax consequences, Any support obligations that may exist from a prior marriage, Liens or other encumbrances upon marital property, Child custody arrangements and obligations.
If you and/or your spouse seek legal separation, similar rules to divorce apply. However, the grounds are not as strict and the judges do not require as much proof. Although you remain married, the following become legally defined:
- Child support
- Child custody
- Property—including house, car, furnishings, savings accounts, and other assets
- Restraining orders