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South Carolina Divorce Laws

In South Carolina, state law governs divorce (dissolution of marriage). These laws dictate everything from how a person files for divorce to the division of marital property. They also control things like alimony, child support, and child custody.

Here, we’ll highlight the divorce laws in South Carolina. We’ll also explain the differences between a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce.

Residency Requirements and Separation

To file for divorce in South Carolina, you must be a state resident for at least one year. If both spouses live in-state, the residency requirement is only three months. You must certify that you meet this requirement when you file your divorce petition.

The family courts in South Carolina also require a waiting period. For no-fault divorces, you must wait one year before you file for divorce. For fault-based divorce, there is no waiting period before filing. However, once the divorce is filed, a final decree of divorce may be entered only after 90 days have passed.

Your divorce lawyer can prove you have been separated for a year by submitting evidence showing a continuous separation for that period. One way to do this is by showing you have different mailing addresses. For example, you can submit a copy of your driver’s license with your current address.

State divorce laws also determine which fault grounds for divorce are available.

Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina

Most states have done away with the requirement that you cite grounds for divorce in your divorce case. They only require that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences. In Florida, for example, you must confirm that your marriage is irretrievably broken to file for divorce.

South Carolina divorce laws offer five grounds for divorce. These include:

  • Habitual drunkenness or drug abuse
  • Physical cruelty or domestic violence
  • Desertion of at least one year
  • Adultery and marital misconduct
  • One-year separation without cohabitation

If you cite the fifth ground for divorce - separation without cohabitation - you may have to prove that you and your spouse didn’t live together during the year before your divorce filing. In an uncontested divorce, this often isn’t an issue.

When your spouse is challenging the divorce, this can become a problem. They may argue that you’ve been living together the entire time or claim that you got back together several times in the year before the filing of your divorce petition. It is important to keep documentation of the place(s) where you resided if you anticipate that your spouse will contest the fact that you've been separated for a year.

No-Fault Divorce in South Carolina

You can get a no-fault divorce in every state. In a no-fault divorce, the parties agree that neither is responsible for the divorce. Fault is not a factor when the judge determines spousal support or equitable distribution of marital property in these cases.

Alimony and Separate Maintenance

You can demand alimony, also referred to as spousal support, in South Carolina. There is no guarantee that either party will receive spousal support. You must request alimony in your divorce petition for it to be considered.

South Carolina offers several types of alimony or spousal support. South Carolina Code Annotated section 20-3-120 outlines the types of available alimony as follows:

  • Separate maintenance: If you and your spouse don’t want a divorce but want to live separately, the courts may award you separate maintenance. It is paid in periodic installments. The judge will determine the amount of maintenance using the same factors that are used when calculating alimony.
  • Periodic alimony: One spouse pays the other spouse periodic support monthly, biweekly, etc. The amount is subject to be reviewed as circumstances may change over time.
  • Lump sum alimony: One spouse may offer the other a lump sum rather than pay alimony for years. However, even lump sum alimony may be paid in installments. The defining characteristic of this type of support is that the total amount to be paid is calculated at the time it is ordered.
  • Rehabilitative alimony: The courts may award one party alimony so they can improve their financial position through education or retraining. It may be periodic or lump sum. This support is short-term and typically ends when the receiving spouse becomes self-sufficient or a specific event occurs.
  • Reimbursement alimony: If one spouse supports the other while in school or setting up a business, they can demand this alimony. The purpose is to reimburse the supported spouse for expenditures made during the marriage based on the anticipated future earnings of the payor spouse.

Spousal support may be temporary (pendente lite) or permanent depending on the situation. Each type of support may have events that automatically trigger the end of spousal support, such as the death of a spouse or the remarriage or cohabitation by the receiving spouse. These events are detailed in the South Carolina Code (20-3-130).

The court will consider several factors when determining alimony, including:

  • Duration of marriage
  • Age of parties at the time of marriage and divorce
  • Current and anticipated income of both spouses
  • Current and anticipated expenses of both parties
  • Marital assets each party receives in the divorce as well as non-marital assets
  • Educational background and opportunities for the parties
  • Employment history and income potential
  • Marital misconduct
  • Tax consequences
  • Whether either party is paying child support or other obligations from a prior marriage
  • Custody of minor children where employment may be affected by childcare obligations
  • The standard of living that the parties were accustomed to before the end of the marriage

Ideally, your attorney will negotiate alimony with your spouse’s lawyer. If so, they will include the terms of alimony in your marital settlement agreement.

Get Help From a South Carolina Divorce Lawyer

If you want a divorce, speak with an experienced South Carolina divorce attorney. You can represent yourself in your divorce, but you’ll be at a severe disadvantage if your spouse has a family law attorney and you don’t. The judge won’t take pity on you simply because you don’t have an attorney.

The divorce process in South Carolina is complex and it's challenging to navigate the court system. It starts when you file your complaint for divorce and doesn’t end until your final divorce hearing.

If you hire an attorney, there’s a good chance they’re familiar with the local family court judges. An attorney with experience in the local family court will have an idea of how the judge may rule on specific issues in your divorce.

Get started today and contact a local divorce attorney. Get the legal advice you need before moving forward with your divorce action.

Research the Law

(Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct legal research to verify the accuracy of the state law(s) you are researching.)

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