In even the most amicable of situations, going through the process of a divorce is not easy. The breakup of a marriage affects every aspect of your life, including your relationships with family and friends, and the stress of dealing with future uncertainty and financial instability can take a serious toll on your sense of well-being and your physical health. As an experienced family law and divorce attorney who has helped thousands of clients facing the same types of situations, we know that having a basic understanding of the legal process surrounding a divorce and a clear picture of what lies ahead can help to alleviate any fears or apprehension you may be feeling at this time. Understanding some of the key issues that must be dealt with in a divorce can help you to be ready and emotionally equipped for what lies ahead.
Common Issues Surrounding Divorce
Just as every marriage is different, the issues former partners encounter when going through a divorce vary as well. At the same time, there are some basic, core issues which need to be evaluated in every divorce case. While a client may feel that certain areas do not apply to their particular situation, as an experienced divorce attorney it is our job to guide and lead you through this process. By addressing all potential issues, we can better ensure your rights, as well as your best interests, are protected. The following are common issues which should be considered in any divorce case:
Contested or Uncontested
All divorces fall under one of two categories: contested, or uncontested. In a contested divorce, one of the parties either refuses to go along with the divorce, disagrees on issues surrounding the divorce, such as distribution of property or the payment of alimony or support, or has a dispute under which the grounds for divorce have been filed. Under Section 20-3-10 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, there are four basic fault grounds for divorce in the state:
- Physical cruelty; and
- Habitual drunkenness.
In addition to these grounds which lay fault on one party or another, a divorce may be based on a fifth additional ground, which it commonly based on the notion of irreconcilable differences. In cases where there are no other fault grounds raised, couples may receive a judgment of divorce through the court simply on the basis of being unable to reconcile their differences after having lived separately and apart for a period of one year or more. Even when there are no fault grounds raised, a divorce can be contested if there are disagreements as to other issues.
In an uncontested divorce, a couple agrees both on the grounds of the divorce itself, as well as the issues surrounding it. Before agreeing to a divorce naming you at fault or any financial terms or agreements, it is important to discuss the potential ramifications with your attorney.
Division of Property
Under Article V of the S.C. Code, the court will seek to equitable distribution of any property accumulated or acquired during the marriage. Marital property may include the following:
- Real property, such as land and homes;
- Personal property, such as cars, furniture, and other household furnishings; and
- Financial assets, such as savings and retirement plans.
In attempting to divide this property equally, the court will consider such factors as the value of the property, the income of each partner, and the contributions each partner made in acquiring or maintaining the property. In making its decision, the court will also consider any non-marital property each person owns, which can be items that were owned prior to the marriage, or family gifts, such as heirlooms and inheritances, as well as the amount of debt owned by the parties, factoring these amounts in to any property agreement. This is also an area where fault grounds for divorce may come into play, as the judge is entitled to consider these grounds when distributing property.
Child Support and Custody
Issues regarding children are among the most hotly contested in the family court. The South Carolina Children’s Code provides clear outlines for the court in determining child custody and visiting arrangements. Under Section 63-15-219, there are two types of parental custody:
- Joint custody, in which both parents equally share the rights and responsibilities of raising and making decisions on behalf of their children; and
- Sole custody, in which one parent has primary custody, as well as responsibility for making decisions on how the child is raised.
In making custody determinations, the court will consider the child’s needs and the abilities of each parent to meet those needs. Depending on the type of custody arrangement and the incomes and assets of each parent, child support will be ordered. Parents without joint custody may petition the court for regular visitation, to include weekday visits, overnight stays on weekends, and vacation and holiday time. While fault grounds for your divorce will not impact your ability to get child support on behalf of your children, they could have an impact on the judge’s ruling in terms of custody arrangements.
Alimony is another hotly contested issue in many divorces, and is often one of the most least understood. As outlined under Section 20-3-130 of the SC Code, alimony and awards of separate maintenance and support are largely at the judge’s discretion. Factors the court will consider are the length of the marriage, the incomes of each party, their capacity and potential for gainful employment, and the role each one played in supporting the other’s career. There are three types of alimony that can be awarded by the court:
- Periodic alimony, which may be paid monthly and terminated upon remarriage;
- Lump sum amount, to be paid all at once or stretched out over a period of time; and
- Rehabilitative alimony, meant to provide financial support while the person receiving it acquires the education or training they need in order to support themselves.
Again, this is an area in which fault grounds for divorce come into play, with alimony being barred from a party who is found guilty of committing adultery.
Contact Our Experienced South Carolina Family Law and Divorce Attorney
If you or someone you care about is going through a divorce, contact our experienced South Carolina family law and divorce attorney today. At Lauren Taylor Law, we can help provide the aggressive legal representation you need to ensure your rights and interests are protected. Before making any decisions you could regret in the future, call or contact our Greenville office online today to schedule an initial consultation.
South Carolina divorce attorney Lauren Taylor is an authority on family law in Charleston and Greenville. Lauren Taylor Law is an authority on divorce, child support, and alimony in South Carolina. She graduated from the Charlotte School of Law, and has been practicing for several years now. Lauren Taylor relies on her experience and passion to fight for you during this stressful time. Learn more about her experience here.