What is an uncontested divorce in South Carolina?
Most people who are ready to divorce want to complete the process as quickly as possible – in many cases, an uncontested divorce is the fastest way to make that happen.
If your goal is to finalize your divorce as quickly as possible, that is also your divorce attorney’s goal at the Seaton Law Office. There are many things that you will need to consider, however, including whether your divorce is truly uncontested.
In this article, we will try to provide the information you need to understand what an uncontested divorce is and how long it will take, including:
- When a divorce is contested and when it is uncontested,
- The process for getting an uncontested divorce in South Carolina,
- What a no-fault divorce means,
- How long an uncontested divorce will take, and
- What your divorce attorney can do for you when your divorce is uncontested.
The Basics: Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
An uncontested divorce is always the better option when it is possible – if both parties can agree about the important issues in their divorce proceedings, the divorce is likely to be finalized more quickly and it is likely to cost less because your attorney will not be spending time litigating issues like discovery, child custody, child support, alimony, and the division of marital assets.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is when both parties agree on everything – if there are unresolved disputes over spousal support, child custody, or other issues, you do not have an uncontested divorce.
Most uncontested divorces are obtained on the ground of one year’s continuous separation – you and your spouse can put your agreement into a separation agreement that the family court can later incorporate into your final divorce decree, wait for one year after the date of your separation, and then ask the court to approve the terms of your divorce.
Although it is not as common, an “uncontested” divorce can be based on fault grounds as well – if your former spouse 1) agrees to the fault ground or 2) does not appear to contest the fault ground, your divorce is not “contested” and is likely to move forward quickly.
An uncontested divorce may be the right answer for you if:
- There is nothing to dispute – there are no children, no assets, and neither side is asking for spousal support,
- You and your spouse have agreed to all issues like child support, child custody, alimony, and division of assets, or
- Your spouse does not respond to your divorce complaint or doesn’t contest any of your claims.
What is a Contested Divorce?
If you and your spouse do not agree to all issues in your divorce, your divorce is not uncontested.
Your divorce may become uncontested when your divorce lawyer helps you resolve the issues through negotiations with your spouse or your spouse’s attorney or when the issues are resolved in mediation, or the family court may have to decide the issues for you after litigation.
When litigation is required, there may be additional hearings, discovery (where each side produces their evidence for the other side), and a contested final divorce hearing where each side presents their evidence to the court for a decision.
In addition to unresolved issues that must be decided by the family court, your grounds for divorce may also be contested by your spouse. In addition to one year’s continuous separation (a no-fault divorce), the possible grounds for divorce in South Carolina (fault divorce) include:
- Physical cruelty,
- Habitual drunkenness or drug abuse, and
Even a divorce based on one year’s continuous separation can be a contested divorce unless both sides agree to all issues that would otherwise be presented to the family court for a decision.
What’s the Process for Getting an Uncontested Divorce in South Carolina?
In the best-case scenario, where there are no contested issues, you should be able to get an uncontested divorce by:
- Filing a divorce complaint in the appropriate county,
- Serving your spouse with the complaint and summons,
- Requesting a hearing in the family court (after the one-year continuous separation), and
- Asking the family court to finalize your divorce and issue a final order.
Common Questions About Uncontested Divorces in South Carolina
If you are considering an uncontested divorce in South Carolina, you may have questions. We will try to answer some of these below, but you should contact a local divorce lawyer immediately who can answer your questions based on your unique circumstances.
Can I Get an Uncontested Divorce on My Own in South Carolina?
You can get a no-fault or uncontested divorce on your own in South Carolina, but it is not recommended. Your divorce lawyer will ensure that your rights are protected, that you or your children are not being taken advantage of, that your spouse is disclosing all their assets, and work to get your divorce resolved as quickly as possible.
What is a “Simple Divorce?”
A simple divorce means an uncontested divorce or a no-fault divorce, as opposed to a “complex” divorce which involves substantial assets, businesses, children, and issues that must be litigated in the family court.
What is a No-Fault Divorce in South Carolina?
A no-fault divorce is a divorce based on one year’s continuous separation, as opposed to the four “fault grounds” listed above.
You must live “separate and apart” for one year – continuously. If you reconcile during that time, the clock will start over again.
Do You Always Have to Wait a Year Before Getting a No-Fault Divorce in South Carolina?
If you are getting a divorce on the grounds of one year’s continuous separation (a no-fault divorce), you must wait one year after the date you separated before the court will finalize your divorce.
You do not have to wait one year after filing your divorce complaint, however – if you have been separated for some time before filing for divorce, if there are no unresolved issues in your case, and if the court’s docket permits, you could get a divorce in a matter of months after you file your divorce complaint.
How Long Do Uncontested Divorces Take?
A divorce based on one year’s continuous separation cannot be finalized until one year after the date you and your spouse separated.
On the other hand, if you are asking for a divorce on fault grounds and your spouse is not contesting the fault grounds or any other issues in your case, you may be able to schedule a final hearing as soon as 90 days after your complaint was filed, the court’s docket permitting.
What is an Order of Separate Support and Maintenance? Do I need one?
An Order of Separate Support and Maintenance is not required in divorce cases, but they can be very helpful. These orders can lay the foundation while you are living separate and apart from your spouse awaiting the clock to run on your one year separation. They are designed to resolve issues that need immediate attention, such as child custody, child support, alimony, division of marital property, and more.
While they are temporary, they are often incorporated into the final divorce decree. They do have to be approved by the court, so it is important to contact a divorce attorney as soon as possible to give the most amount of time to prepare your case.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me in an Uncontested Divorce?
Even an uncontested divorce can be difficult for someone who is unrepresented. Your divorce lawyer will help you to:
- Resolve any outstanding issues before you get to court,
- Ensure that your agreement with your spouse is fair and you are not being taken advantage of,
- Prepare all paperwork, including your divorce complaint and summons, financial declarations, and other documents, and properly file them with the court so that your proceedings are not delayed, and
- Identify and resolve any issues that might have otherwise delayed your proceedings or caused problems.
Questions About Uncontested Divorce in South Carolina?
If you are considering separation or divorce, or if you are not sure whether you qualify for an uncontested divorce in South Carolina, call an experienced Charleston, 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.
Maybe we should put in a paragraph about an Order of Separate Support and Maintenance which allows the parties to live freely from one another as if they are unmarried. This must be approved by the court so they need to contact their local attorney immediate.
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