What should you expect at your final divorce hearing in an uncontested divorce, and what can you do to make the process go as smoothly as possible?
In this article, we will hopefully set your mind at ease by covering the basics of uncontested final divorce hearings, including:
- The issues the court will address at your final divorce hearing,
- What you should expect at the hearing, and
- How your settlement agreement can be used to obtain a final divorce decree without a long, drawn-out court process.
The Basics of an Uncontested Final Divorce Hearing in South Carolina
If your divorce case is truly uncontested, there may be just one hearing in your case – the final divorce hearing.
In an uncontested divorce, the court will schedule only 15 minutes of court time for your final divorce hearing, which gives the court enough time to review the terms of the divorce, confirm that there is sufficient evidence of the grounds for divorce, and determine that there are no issues that would prevent the court from granting your divorce.
Although the final divorce hearing will not be a long, drawn-out trial with multiple witnesses and evidence presented, a third-party witness is required to corroborate the parties’ claims that there are legal grounds for divorce.
Once the court has confirmed that there are grounds for divorce, the court will approve or reject your settlement agreement and incorporate it into the final divorce decree.
What to Expect at a South Carolina Final Divorce Hearing
Walking into the courthouse for your final divorce hearing can be a stressful and confusing experience – what is the procedure and what should you expect?
First, you will wait for your case to be called. When the court is ready to hear your case, you will enter the courtroom, walk past the spectator benches to the “well” of the courtroom, and take a seat at one of the tables next to your attorney facing the judge’s bench.
Your former spouse and their attorney will sit at the other table, and your witness will sit on one of the benches behind you.
Your attorney will provide a copy of your settlement agreement, any required financial declarations, and a proposed Order to the judge. The judge will announce the case, and the attorneys will inform the court that you are ready to proceed.
If you are the “moving party,” or the person who filed the divorce proceedings, you will then be called to the witness stand, placed under oath, and asked a series of questions about the relief you are requesting from the court and the terms of your settlement agreement. The other side or the judge may ask questions as well.
If it is an uncontested divorce based on a one-year continuous separation, your attorney will then call your second witness – someone who can confirm from personal knowledge that you have been separated from your spouse for at least one year and that you have not resumed living with your spouse during that year.
The judge will ask both parties if anything can be done to reconcile your marriage – the court is looking for a simple, “No,” and does not usually want an explanation. If your answer is “Yes,” your divorce may not be granted.
If all goes well, the judge will then make findings of fact that the court has jurisdiction, that the grounds for divorce have been met, that reconciliation is not possible, and grant your divorce.
The court will sign the proposed Order prepared by your attorney, your attorney will file the Order with the Clerk of Court, and you are now divorced.
Settlement Agreements and the Final Divorce Hearing
In many cases, your settlement agreement with your spouse is what makes an uncontested final divorce hearing possible – if all issues are not resolved before your final divorce hearing, it is not an uncontested divorce.
Your attorney can help you to negotiate the terms of your separation agreement, put the agreement in writing, and avoid the time and costs of litigation and mandatory mediation before your final divorce hearing.
The Settlement Agreement will be Incorporated into Your Final Divorce Decree
During your final divorce hearing, we will put your settlement agreement on the record and ask the court to approve it. Once it is approved and the judge signs your proposed Order incorporating the terms of the settlement agreement, it becomes an enforceable court order.
When your attorney (or the judge) is questioning you on the witness stand, they will ask questions about the settlement agreement – remember that the court is looking for simple “yes” or “no” answers, and, if you have questions about how you should respond, you should discuss this with your attorney before the hearing whenever possible.
You should be prepared to answer questions like:
- Is this your agreement?
- Has anyone forced, threatened, or coerced you into making this agreement?
- Has anyone promised you anything to get you to enter this agreement?
In most cases, this is a routine and painless process. The attorneys and the judge do not “grill” the witnesses, all parties are working together to get the information needed for a divorce final decree into the record, and the court only wants to help you move on with your life with the least amount of pain possible.
Questions About Final Divorce Hearings in South Carolina?
Even an uncontested divorce can be incredibly stressful and confusing for the parties – your Moncks Corner, South Carolina divorce lawyer at Seaton Law can help.
If you believe you have an uncontested divorce and need help getting to your final divorce hearing, call an experienced South Carolina divorce attorney now who can answer your questions and help to protect your rights during the process.
Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.
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