You had every intention of spending the rest of your life with your spouse when you got married. Going through a divorce can be a challenging and emotionally complex time regardless of the reason for your separation.
When you decide to end your marriage in South Carolina, you can file a no-fault divorce or one founded on specific grounds. Grounds for a divorce in South Carolina include alcohol abuse, infidelity, drug abuse and physical abuse. In these situations, you can avoid proving an extended physical separation. For a no-fault divorce in South Carolina, you and your spouse will need to be living apart for at least one year to file.
Understanding Uncontested Divorces
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A divorce may be either no-fault or based on specific grounds in addition to being contested or uncontested. An uncontested or “simple” divorce in South Carolina is one where both parties agree on the basics of divorce. This means they can reach a consensus on:
- Division of property
- Child support
Usually, uncontested divorce happens after a couple has been separated for at least a year. Both parties are ready to leave the marriage, are willing to move forward and agree on the basic terms of how post-marriage life will work.
Since so much is agreed upon, uncontested divorces can take as little as two or three months to resolve after the separation requirements are fulfilled.
How an Uncontested Divorce Works
Even if you agree and are ready to proceed with dissolving your marriage, an uncontested divorce still requires some work. You must meet the requirements for separation and you must file the paperwork. Both you and your spouse must submit financial declarations to be put on file. Your agreement has to be in writing and approved by a family court. The court will examine the document to ensure it is fair to any children and both parties.
Once the agreement is ready, the divorce case has to be filed with the courts. You must request a hearing and show up for your court date. After the hearing, you can start your new life as an unmarried person.
The Uncontested Divorce Process
Here are the steps to the uncontested divorce process in South Carolina:
1. File a Complaint
The first step is filing a packet of divorce forms with the Family Court Division. Where exactly you file the forms depends on where you and your spouse are living and have lived:
- If you both currently live in South Carolina and shared a residence before separating, you can either file in the county where you lived together or in the county where your spouse currently resides.
- If your spouse lives outside of South Carolina but you’re still a resident, you can file in your county.
- If you currently live outside of South Carolina, but your spouse does live in the state, you must file in the county where your spouse lives.
You must sign all forms in front of a public notary to validate them. In most cases, the clerk of court will charge a fee to file the papers. If you can’t afford the filing fee, you may be able to avoid it by filing a Motion and Affidavit to Proceed in Forma Pauperis.
2. Serve Forms to Your Spouse
After filing, you must deliver a copy of your forms to your spouse. You can serve papers by:
- Personal service: You can hand-deliver the forms. Your spouse must sign the Acceptance of Service form, and then you file the form with the clerk of court.
- Sheriff’s office: Instead of delivering the forms yourself, the Sheriff can deliver them in your stead. After delivering the papers, the Sheriff’s office completes the Affidavit of Service form.
- Certified mail: If you complete and file an Affidavit of Mailing, you can serve the papers by mail. You must deliver the forms by certified mail with a return receipt requested.
3. Request a Hearing
You can proceed with the final divorce if:
- Your spouse has provided a formal response that agrees with the terms of your divorce complaint.
- Your spouse neglects to provide a formal response within 35 days.
After one of these occurs, you should file a Request for Hearing with the court. After this, you’ll receive a Notice of Hearing in the mail with the court date. You must then mail a copy of the Notice to your spouse with a return receipt requested.
4. Finalize the Divorce
The final step is to complete a Final Order of Divorce and a Report of Divorce or Annulment and bring them to court with you along with a witness who can testify that you and your spouse have lived separately for at least a year. At the hearing, the judge will ask questions about your marriage and separation. If the judge decides to grant your divorce, they’ll sign the Final Order of Divorce and file it with the clerk of court.
Frequently Asked Questions About Uncontested Divorces in South Carolina
If you’re going through an uncontested divorce, you probably have a lot on your mind. It’s best to get in touch with an attorney to discuss the specific details of your unique case. Here are the answers to a few of the most common questions about uncontested divorces in South Carolina.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Simple Divorce?
It’s possible to file for an uncontested divorce in South Carolina without a lawyer, provided you and your spouse meet the general requirements. However, working with an attorney is the better option for most people.
Even if you agree on most things, marriage involves many legal and financial rights. Understand any that apply to your situation. For example, you may need to ensure the marital home is refinanced and the deed is changed to reflect new ownership if the property is left unsold. If you have a visitation schedule for children, you may need to update that schedule as your child gets older and as circumstances change.
When creating your agreement, you also need to remember your circumstances may evolve and your agreement could have far-reaching consequences. For example, child support and the division of assets can impact both parties’ taxes. If one partner goes on to meet someone else or gets a new job, this can affect everything from visitation to the financial lives of both parties.
Coming up with a functional agreement is a challenge, and you will want to ensure all the paperwork is in order. In many cases, it is advisable to seek the advice of a knowledgeable attorney.
Do I Need to Wait a Year to Get an Uncontested Divorce?
The simple answer to this question is yes. In South Carolina, you and your spouse will need to have lived apart for at least a year before you can file for an uncontested divorce. This requirement means you must live in entirely separate households, without even spending a single night under the same roof during the one-year separation period.
If you and your spouse began living separately before agreeing to file for divorce, you could consider the day you stopped sharing a household as the first day of this one-year period.
How Long Must I Live in South Carolina to File for an Uncontested Divorce?
The answer to this question depends on whether your spouse also lives in South Carolina. Are you living in the state while your spouse lives elsewhere? To file for an uncontested divorce, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least one year.
The residency requirement is a bit different if both spouses live in South Carolina. You must have both lived in the state for a minimum of three months.
Do I Need to Be in the Same Place as My Spouse to Sign the Divorce Paperwork?
In South Carolina, you can avoid seeing your spouse in person to sign the paperwork for your divorce. You have a few options, including sending the forms through the U.S. mail or a Private Process Server.
You can also finalize the divorce in court without your spouse present, although you will need to present the documents they signed or proof that they were appropriately served and notified of the hearing date.
Schedule a Consultation With Lauren Taylor Law
Involving an attorney in your uncontested divorce can make the process much easier. The right attorney will help guide you through this complex legal process and ensure you and your spouse reach the best possible agreement. If you’re looking for an attorney with knowledge, experience and compassion, consider Lauren Taylor Law.
Lauren Taylor offers legal representation in complex divorce cases and will protect your interests and those of any children in the relationship. If you’re getting a divorce in South Carolina, contact Lauren Taylor Law and make sure you have all your bases covered.
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.