If you are considering separation or divorce, you will need to understand how South Carolina divorce laws work and how they might affect your case.
South Carolina’s divorce laws provide guidelines – sometimes inflexible guidelines – for when you can get a divorce in South Carolina, the procedure for getting a divorce, and the potential outcomes of a divorce including how any property is distributed and who will care for the children.
In this article, we will briefly review South Carolina divorce laws and the impact they will have on your case, including:
- The procedure for getting a divorce in South Carolina,
- The types of divorce available,
- The impact of South Carolina divorce laws on children including child custody and child support, and
- The financial considerations in divorce proceedings like the distribution of marital property and alimony or spousal support.
South Carolina Divorce Laws
There are many considerations when getting a divorce in South Carolina. How do you get a divorce? Are there different kinds? Do you share children? What happens to them? Who takes care of them? Who pays for their needs? Do you share assets with your spouse? Who keeps them? How do you decide?
Keep reading to get the answers you need!
Getting Divorced in South Carolina
Your first step in getting a divorce in South Carolina will depend on the specifics of your situation – an experienced divorce lawyer in your area will be able to answer your questions, help you to negotiate a separation agreement when appropriate, or help you to draft and file the formal paperwork that begins your divorce proceedings.
South Carolina divorce laws include very specific requirements for how and where your pleadings must be filed and the facts that must be included in your divorce complaint, including:
- Residency requirements found in South Carolina Code § 20-3-30,
- The venue requirements found in South Carolina Code § 20-3-60,
- The relief you can request in your pleadings like child custody, visitation, child support, alimony or spousal support, and division of marital assets and debts,
- How to serve the pleadings on the defendant,
- When you should file an action for separate support and maintenance instead of a divorce complaint, and
- When you should request a temporary hearing or an emergency hearing in the family court.
You may need to file motions to resolve substantive or procedural issues, and you may be required to participate in mandatory mediation if all issues in your case have not been resolved before your final hearing.
Types of Divorce in South Carolina
- Desertion for one year or longer,
- Physical cruelty,
- Habitual drunkenness (including drug use), and
- One year’s continuous separation, or a no-fault divorce.
Keep in mind that no-fault divorce is not the same as an uncontested divorce.
If your ground for divorce is one year’s continuous separation, you do not have to prove a fault-based ground for divorce like adultery, desertion, physical cruelty, or habitual drunkenness, which may streamline the process and do away with some unnecessary litigation.
You don’t have an uncontested, or “simple” divorce, however, unless all issues are resolved before you file your case – including issues like child custody, child support, alimony, and division of marital property.
Division of Marital Property
Apart from child support, the family court must decide other financial issues like the division of marital property and spousal support.
Marital property is defined in South Carolina Code § 20-3-630 as “all real and personal property which has been acquired by the parties during the marriage and which is owned as of the date of filing or commencement of marital litigation,” although there are important exceptions.
Any marital property that has not been divided in a separation agreement will be apportioned by the court using the factors found in South Carolina Code 20-3-620.
In some cases, the court will also order that one spouse pay alimony to the other spouse. In deciding 1) whether to award alimony and 2) how much alimony to order, the court must “consider and give weight in such proportion as it finds appropriate” to the factors found in South Carolina Code § 21-3-130(C).
Note that adultery is a complete bar to alimony in South Carolina, under South Carolina Code § 21-3-130(A), and there are multiple types of alimony that the court could order depending on the circumstances, including:
- Periodic alimony,
- Lump-sum alimony,
- Rehabilitative alimony,
- Reimbursement alimony,
- Separate support and maintenance when the parties are not seeking a divorce, or
- Any other form of spousal support that the court finds appropriate under the circumstances.
Divorce Concerns Pertaining to Shared Children
If you have children, you may have questions about how South Carolina’s divorce laws will affect them. The main issues here are child custody and child support. Who will take care of them and when? Who will pay for them?
South Carolina law on child custody permits different types of custody arrangements including:
- Sole custody,
- Joint custody,
- Physical custody,
- Legal custody, and
- Various combinations based on the child’s best interest.
When one parent is awarded sole custody, the non-custodial parent usually has visitation rights and will spend time with the child based on a preset schedule that is approved by the court.
How does the court decide who will have custody?
The court’s decision as to child custody is always based on the best interests of the child, with guidelines contained in South Carolina’s divorce laws and a list of factors found in South Carolina Code § 63-15-240.
The non-custodial parent is also required to pay child support to the custodial parent. How much child support will be ordered?
Child support is determined by the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines, South Carolina DSS has an online child support calculator that can help by providing an estimate, and South Carolina Code § 63-17-470 contains a list of factors that the court can consider to deviate from the guidelines.
Questions About South Carolina Divorce Laws?
If you have questions about divorce laws in South Carolina, 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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