Overview of Divorce in South Carolina
Overview of Divorce in South Carolina

Divorces and dissolutions of marriage are governed by state law. Therefore, if you are contemplating a divorce in South Carolina, seeking help from an experienced South Carolina family lawyer is wise. 

An attorney can provide personalized legal advice based on your specific situation. However, this overview of divorce in South Carolina covers some basic information that may answer some of your questions.


What Are the Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina?

Many states allow no-fault divorces in which couples don’t have to prove any grounds for the termination of their marriage. 

South Carolina’s no-fault ground for divorce is one year of continuous separation. The spouses must live “separate and apart” for one year to obtain a divorce on these grounds. If the couple reconciles briefly, the clock begins again when they separate.

In addition to one year of continuous separation, South Carolina has four fault grounds, including:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion for at least one year
  • Physical cruelty
  • Habitual drunkenness

The spouse filing for divorce must prove their grounds. In other words, there must be evidence that the other spouse is guilty of the wrongdoing alleged in the complaint. 

For example, you cannot merely claim your spouse is cheating on you. There must be evidence of adultery. If you prove fault grounds, you can obtain a divorce without waiting one year.

South Carolina Has Residency Requirements for Divorces 

A couple must meet the residency requirements to file for divorce in South Carolina. The state requires that either spouse is a state resident for at least one year before filing a divorce petition. However, if both spouses are South Carolina residents, the waiting period is shortened to three months. 

South Carolina Is an Equitable Distribution State

South Carolina is not a community property state. Therefore, a spouse does not automatically have a 50% interest in marital assets. Instead, the state uses equitable distribution to determine how to divide marital assets in a divorce.

Spouses can negotiate a property settlement agreement to present to the court. However, if the parties disagree about property division, the judge decides for them.

Equitable division requires that the court divide property “fairly” between the parties. Therefore, a judge may decide that a fair property division is a 60-40 split or a 30-70 split. In some cases, marital misconduct is a factor that can affect the distribution of assets.

Child Custody Is Based on the Best Interests of the Child in South Carolina 

Child custody cases are decided based on what is in the best interests of the child. Parents are encouraged to negotiate a child custody and visitation agreement that works best for the family and is in their children’s best interests. 

However, when parents disagree about custody arrangements, judges decide what is in a child’s best interest. State law lists numerous factors to consider, but judges may also consider any factor they deem relevant to determining what’s best for the child. 

The amount of child support is based on standard child support guidelines. However, the court may deviate from this amount for several reasons. 

South Carolina Recognizes Alimony and Spousal Support 

Judges may grant alimony in a divorce case, but it is not a right. The court must find a need for support payments and the ability to pay support payments. 

If a judge determines spousal support or alimony is justified in a case, they may grant it based on:

  • Lump sum alimony to be paid in one single payment
  • Periodic alimony to be paid monthly for an indefinite period
  • Reimbursement alimony to repay a spouse for events that occurred during the marriage
  • Separate support and maintenance to be paid during a separation
  • Rehabilitative alimony allows a spouse time to obtain the necessary training, education, and/or skills to support themselves 

Alimony is often thought of as payments to a wife from a husband. However, it can be paid by either spouse. Therefore, husbands can receive alimony payments in a South Carolina divorce.

When Should I Hire a South Carolina Divorce Lawyer?

If you’re considering leaving your spouse, you should talk with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible. The best way to protect your future and your children’s best interests is to have sound legal advice. Understanding your options is the first step in assessing your goals and devising a strategy for obtaining the terms you desire in a divorce settlement.


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