Ending a marriage is challenging. You may feel frustrated, regretful and sad. Once you and your spouse decide you are no longer compatible, getting your divorce taken care of quickly and with as little drama as possible is often your top priority. It’s crucial to understand the steps to getting a divorce in South Carolina before you file.
This article will help you prepare for this significant life change and ensure you get what you deserve during this challenging period.
Initial Requirements and Considerations
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Before filing for your divorce, there are four essential things to consider. These are the court, residency, property division and grounds for divorce. Proceeding without carefully evaluating these factors may impact the success of your case. What should you know about them?
1. The Court
Jurisdiction is an essential aspect of all legal proceedings, including divorces. In South Carolina, the family court has jurisdiction over matrimonial matters such as divorces, separation, child support, child custody and visitation, alimony and spousal support and distribution of marital property. You must file all processes concerning these matters with the family court. Otherwise, the court may be unable to entertain your case and may lack the power to grant the order.
Residency is another essential consideration when determining jurisdiction. For divorce cases and other ancillary matters in SC, the person filing must have lived in the state or at least one year before they commence the action. For non-residents of South Carolina, the other party must have been in the state for at least one year before filing. Alternatively, both spouses must have been state residents for at least three months before filing for divorce.
3. Property Division
A vital part of the divorce process involves splitting up your assets or properties. In South Carolina, the court distributes the property equitably, though not necessarily equally. For instance, the court may give one person 70% of the property, while their former partner receives the remaining 30% depending on their contribution level. The properties may include houses, vehicles, household items, shared bank accounts and debts.
4. Grounds for Divorce
Judges do not automatically grant divorces. You must have a justifiable reason. In South Carolina, the grounds for divorce fall into two categories — fault and no-fault. Fault-based divorces require you to prove your spouse did something wrong. On the other hand, the parties mutually agree to end the marriage for no-fault divorces in South Carolina because they cannot reconcile their differences.
The grounds for at-fault divorces in SC include:
- Physical cruelty
- Habitual drunkenness
Qualifications for a Divorce in South Carolina
As earlier indicated, to file for divorce, you must satisfy one of these requirements:
- You or your spouse have lived in the state for at least one year before your court filing.
- You have both lived in the state for at least three months before your court filing.
SC offers no-fault divorces that simplify legal proceedings. To qualify, you must meet these three requirements:
- You may not have any shared marital property or debt. If you do, you agree on how to divide these things.
- You don’t have any children and aren’t expecting any children — or you have already reached a custody, child support and visitation agreement.
- You haven’t lived with your spouse in at least one year.
Preparing and Filing the South Carolina Divorce Forms
You can file for divorce in SC online on the judicial branch website. The necessary documents include the following:
- Complaint for Divorce
- Summons for Divorce
- Family Court Cover Sheet
- Certificate of Exemption
When you fill out your forms, use the person requesting the divorce as the plaintiff’s name and the other person as the defendant. Sign the forms that require a notary public when you are with that person and make three copies of each document — one for each spouse and one for the court.
To file your forms, you can go to the county where you and your spouse last lived, the county your spouse currently lives in or your county if your spouse no longer lives in SC. You will need to pay a fee when you file your papers, though you can file a motion to waive it if you can’t afford it.
Giving Your Spouse the Papers
You must “serve” or give your spouse the divorce papers after you file them. If you are on good terms, your spouse may agree to take service of the documents. If you aren’t on good terms, you can ask anyone over age 18 to give them to your spouse. You can also request a process server or sheriff to provide them, though you may have to pay.
Respond and Court Hearing
Your spouse has 30 days to answer or contest your divorce request and counterclaim. If they agree to everything, you will finalize the divorce at a hearing. If they don’t, you will go to trial, where a judge will help you hammer out agreements on the disputes.
Will the Divorce Be Contested or Uncontested?
The divorce may either be contested or uncontested. Uncontested divorce — also called “simple divorce” — is where both parties agree on all the issues. These cases proceed more quickly than contested divorces, where the parties go through various proceedings to argue their claims.
However, you must still meet the requirements for separation and file the necessary paperwork in uncontested divorces. Both parties will submit financial declarations and provide their agreements in writing, which you then file with the court. The court conducts a hearing and makes an order.
Alimony Laws and Considerations in South Carolina
The court may order the payment of alimony in divorce proceedings. In SC, the court may grant six types of alimony after the divorce finalizes. These are:
- Lump sum
- Separate maintenance and support
- Other alimony
In the absence of an agreement, the court may determine the alimony after considering several factors, such as:
- The duration of the marriage.
- The standard of living during the marriage.
- The parties’ reasonably anticipated earnings.
- The parties’ employment history.
- The parties’ educational background.
- Each party’s emotional and physical condition.
- The parties’ non-marital and marital properties.
- A party’s conduct during the marriage that may have affected the economic situation.
When it comes to divorces in SC involving a child, the court considers the child’s best interest — not their parties. In the absence of a custody agreement, the court will consider factors like:
- The proposed guardian’s past and current relationship with the child in question.
- Whether either of the parents or guardians has maligned the other in the child’s presence or involved the child in their disputes.
- The guardian’s encouragement for the child to maintain a relationship with the other.
If a judge determines that one parent caused the child’s alienation from the other, they may decide to limit that parent’s custody rights.
Contact a Trusted Divorce Attorney Today!
Filing a divorce requires you to comply with various aspects of the law before receiving a satisfactory order. It helps to assess issues of jurisdiction, child custody, alimony, property distribution and the grounds for divorce before initiating an action. Also, ensure that you follow the required processes diligently to avoid frustrations or possibly harming your case.
A lawyer can help you through every step of this process. Contact Lauren Taylor Law today to schedule a free initial consultation and discuss your divorce proceedings.
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.